Effort Gaining Attention Nationwide
April 4, 2011
BLUE HILL, MAINE – On Saturday, April 2, Blue Hill became the third town in Maine to adopt the Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance. The Ordinance was passed at Blue Hill’s town meeting by a near unanimous vote. This comes on the heels of the unanimous passage of the Ordinance in the neighboring towns of Sedgwick and Penobscot on March 5 and March 7, respectively. The Ordinance asserts that towns can determine their own food and farming policies locally, and exempts direct food sales from state and federal license and inspection requirements.
Blue Hill resident John Gandy said the passage of the Blue Hill ordinance “is a huge milestone in the struggle to protect the rights, not only of farmers to sell their products, but also of all citizens to eat the food of their choice.” Gandy serves as the Master for the Halcyon Grange in North Blue Hill, which passed a Resolution for Food Sovereignty in February of this year. “It is time citizens start defending our rights against big government and big business.”
Dan Brown, farmer from Blue Hill, noted during the discussion on the Ordinance that this comes down to whether or not small-scale food producers can earn a livelihood. “They come to me, close my doors, and I’m back to driving truck.” And losing even more farms and food producers, says Brown, means local people have less access to local food. “Shut me down, then people don’t get their tomatoes, their milk.”
When Brown asked if only selling dairy products to his customers who have signed a contract would satisfy the Maine Department of Agriculture he was told that such contracts were not legal, despite at least one other Maine farm operating in this manner. Five years of frustration and worry from not knowing whether he will be in business tomorrow has taken it’s toll on Brown, yet he is not giving up. “Either arrest me, prove what I’m doing is wrong in a court of law, or leave me alone.”
The Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance has drawn national attention, with emails and phone calls pouring into Western Hancock County from around the U.S., Canada, and as far away as New Zealand. Farmers, ranchers, and artisan food producers have contacted local residents wanting to know how and why this ordinance came to be, and whether or not it could happen where they live.
As of press time the Maine Department of Agriculture had not returned requests for comment.
The Local Food & Self-Governance Ordinance can be viewed at www.localfoodlocalrules.wordpress.com.