Food Sovereignty Activism Pays!
The “Feel Good” Ordinance? You Bet It Is!
by Cathy L
Food Freedom, Free Choice, Private Contract, Food Sovereignty, Local Foods – call it what you will but something big is growing in Maine!
In 2011 five Maine towns passed the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance and two more passed Local Food Resolutions. A sixth town passed the same Ordinance in early March of 2012. Then on June 13th of this year two more towns, Appleton and Livermore passed Local Food Ordinances. This brings it to a total of ten towns spanning four counties or 1/4th of Maine’s sixteen counties with towns that have put in place some form of legislation regarding Food Sovereignty. Currently, as many as twenty-five additional towns are looking at placing the Ordinance on their warrants which, if passed, would involve almost 2/3 of the counties in Maine.
Last year I closely followed the movement and felt this should be in every town. I discovered it was actually presented in my town to the select board and denied. At the time that was all the information I had.
This year through a series of events I found out what happened. I took it and ran. I read the Food Safety Modernization Act (UG), studied Maine law and regulations, concluding a petition was in order for it to be brought to the people to vote on.
My research led me to get in contact with my mentors. Three of the most incredible, beautiful souls from the area where the ordinance originated; two of them who helped create this ordinance. These women (only one I met in person) educated me, encouraged me, held my hand and very closely guided me through this entire journey. I am indebted to them for all that they unselfishly gave of themselves. I am grateful and honored to have come to know them.
On April 7th I presented the ordinance to the select board along with the petition containing 149 names (127 required). Signatures collected in 12 short days by myself and three dear friends (including my spouse) who believed in the cause and me. It was to be put on the warrant for a vote at town meeting in June.
From that moment on I talked with anyone and everyone who would listen about what was happening due to the Food “Safety” Act.
I have said all along and believe more than ever that this town of Livermore has enormous potential. (But that is true everywhere). This was made abundantly clear to me at the town meeting. A meeting that lasted 3 hours; where almost everyone (70-80 people) stayed to the end. A very high energy, heated, contentious meeting. This on the heels of a vote that brought 3 new people to long held municipal positions the night before.
This community, with all of the differing points of view, age, education, understanding, beliefs, wants and desires worked through thirty plus debated, difficult articles before they voted on the food ordinance. Here is a bit of what I said when the article came up:
“The FDA says …”consumers do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish. There is no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food.”
January 2011 The Food Safety Modernization Act passed by the federal government which will take away our freedom to private contract between those who produce food and patrons. It requires farms to increase paperwork, inspections and expensive upgrades that are geared towards big farms and corporations effectively putting the small farmer right out of business. The bake sales, road side stands, fundraisers, pancake breakfasts, church dinners, hunters breakfast, scout sales, lemonade stands, pot luck suppers and if I want to bake you a loaf of bread to give you for Christmas will become a thing of the past. This ordinance is a result of such restrictions…”
“There is an appropriate need for “food safety” for big corporations. This is self evident in the food recalls most recently seen with the meat recall for E. coli and salmonella problems. These recalls are from fully licensed and inspected facilities. These recalls are consistently seen, NOT in small farms, but in big agriculture and feed lots. Laws have been put in place to restrict us from seeing the abuses that take place in these facilities. They have become as transparent as mud.
Are you willing to give up your rights to a broken system that neither protects us nor allows us to see where our food comes from?
What will you say to your children and grandchildren when they ask how did our freedoms become lost? What did you do?”
When the time came for the vote it was awe inspiring. While I cannot say that everyone there voted “Yes” verbally I can say that absolutely no one said “NO”! And the ordinance passed. I looked at my friend beside me and said “These people have no idea what they just did!”
This community, for one wonderful moment dropped all of their differences to see one common issue that no matter what, effects each and every one of us! They stood on one common ground, united, and with a loud voice said “enough” and made a stand for what was/is right and just. And whether they realize it or not they sent an energy out to each other, together, united, unspoken but understood to support one another.
I have only lived here a short time but these are people who grew up here, have generations of family history here and know each other.
It has been called a “Feel Good” ordinance said with the most derogatory intention and repeatedly chirped by those in “authority”. But I think it backfired! It has become just that – feel good! Divide and conquer has always worked and standing united has too! Through this experience I have personally witnessed people who wouldn’t give each other the time of day join together for a bigger cause.
Such a profound exhibition of the hope for humanity. I do feel good about it and am encouraged by such a display of a diverse group coming together. I did not do this! An opportunity presented itself and was accepted. I take no credit. I am grateful to have been part of something important for the benefit of others. But, I am, above all, humbled by the experience.
“BE the change you want to see in the world.” – Gandhi
-Painting at top by Cheryl Bartley.
[PS from Zen: Cathy wrote me about this experience in response to an article. It so inspired me I asked her to write it up as I thought it would encourage and inspire others with what one motivated person can do. And here it is..terrific job all around! Tx Cathy! Way to go! Love, Zen]