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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]



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  1. Well done, Cathy well done.

    Your words evoked a kindred energy of motivation and joy, “oneness”.

    “A teacher affects eternity,
    he can never tell where his influence ends.”

    Henry Brooks Adam

  2. Inspiring story, gives us all some hope!

    It’s time to flip that pyramid on its head and work from the ground up so everyone benifits.

    Lovely story Cathy/Zen.

  3. I wish you would have published the actual petition language so those of us willing could submit it to our local councils as well. Thanks for you efforts

  4. Hello. I too would love to find out details of what to present to local Council if necessary. I am from Canada but we have problems too. Here is highlight and to a story about a community that fought Monsanto corporation:

    Best Way To Start A Revolution:

    Invite Monsanto to your party! This staple of CropLife Canada’s diet is at the cutting edge of controversy, dipping its genetically modified kernels into whatever vat of flammable chemicals it can find. Genetically modified food? Sure. Pesticides? You got ’em!

    So when the community got word a CropLife spokesperson was set to defend genetic engineering—ahead of a council vote to ban its spirit here — hundreds jammed into council chambers for the meeting. So packed that some had to resort to watching a tiny TV alongside the Shaw cameraman (he’s really nice).

    The meeting’s result? A unanimous vote from elected officials, who approved a council resolution banning genetically modified crops here, while exempting three existing dairy farms already growing genetically modified corn.


    I have also recently learned about a documentary coming out that I believe addresses other important issues:


    The link gives a preview of the video. Release of full length version sometime in August 2012.

    I strongly promote “grow your own” chemical-free, safe and healthy food, with hopes and belief that activities such as what Cathy has done will also help support and/or pave the way for people to create their own employment growing/selling truly safe, healthy food to others that are not capable – even somehow offering community garden efforts that would help feed the hungry/needy in local communities.

    There are so many things I believe we can do – it’s just a matter of finding the shortest most practical and beneficial routes safely and peacefully.

    Seeing articles such as this is encouraging and motivational. Take care. Have a great day.

  5. For a number of years now I have been working in my own town of Bloomington, Indiana to allow for urban agriculture and to expand the chicken ordinance. Although they seem to be big gains in some ways, I still see how much more their is to accomplish.

    Being co-chair of the advocacy group and steering committee member of the forming local food policy council, I have this weighing heavily on my mind… and if an organizational structure is needed for education and advocacy as the other accomplishments had no such structure in place to be debated and passed by city council. I see that food issues are VERY important to our democracy, especially at the local level.

    This is a wonderful article. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! It has buoyed my spirit as I contemplate how to move forward for a local Food Charter and at the state level in regard to sales of raw milk.

    If you would care to share your resources, facts & figures & resources that were most enlightening to the local populace and council members, I would be very grateful. I think myself and others whom are working on these same issues in North America would find them to be extremely helpful to the cause.

    In solidarity,

    ps. you can find some of my stories about my own endeavors regarding food policy on my website and on GoodVeg’s A Subversive Plot.

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