We recently received word from forward-thinking community members in Penobscot, Maine, about their decision to pass a Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance. After feeling frustrated with the lack of progress with the state and federal governments, they decided to take the matter into their own hands and play a part in how their local food system develops. Below is a summary of the information they shared with us. We hope it is as inspiring to other communities as it has been to us here at MOTHER EARTH NEWS.
Hello MOTHER EARTH NEWS,
We, the good people of Penobscot, Maine, passed a Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance on March 7, 2011. Because farms and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) have been trying to change state law with little success, we decided it was time to take back the control of food safety and on-farm processing into our own hands and take up a grassroots community movement. We are very proud of our town, the first to vote, and wanted to share with you all the good things happening here in Maine. We all had tears in our eyes when the organic farmers stood to speak. The applause was loud and clear when the ordinance was passed. Although we know it doesn’t really have legal standing — as state law trumps our community laws — we still feel this is a step in the right direction and the beginning of a change for the better. Here are some of the basic tenets of the ordinance:
- We claim our right to produce, process, sell, purchase and consume local foods, thus promoting self-reliance, the preservation of family farms, and local food traditions. As such, our right to a local food system requires us to assert our inherent right to self-government.
- We hold that federal and state regulations impede local food production and constitute a usurpation of our citizens’ right to foods of their choice.
- We claim Authority to enact this ordinance under, among other laws, part of Title 7 of the Maine Revised Statutes which states: “It is the policy of the State to encourage food self-sufficiency for the State.”
- As such, we claim that producers and processors of local foods are exempt from licensure and inspection when the producer is selling directly to a consumer intending to use the product for home consumption, or if the foods are sold at a community social event. Citizens have the right to produce, process, purchase and consume local foods of their choosing, and it shall be unlawful for any law or regulation adopted by the state or federal government to interfere with these rights.
We of Penobscot hope this ordinance can be an inspiration to everyone across the country working to maintain their rights to access local foods, and for everyone who works to make a living producing and processing foods to feed their community.
Rick and Linda Freimuth