“For our business interests we desire to bring producer and consumer into the most direct and friendly relations possible, remembering that, ‘individual happiness depends upon general prosperity.”
–Declaration of Purposes of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry
Grangers are connecting the dots to support small farms, access to farm-raised food and growing the zone of food sovereignty across the state of Maine. Madison Granger, Sonia Acevedo of Hide and Go Peep Farm invited fellow farmer, food sovereignty advocate, and Halcyon Grange Master, Heather Retberg to be on a panel at an informational potluck and music night at the Kennebec Valley Grange. Halcyon member Bonnie Preston, also instrumental in working toward food sovereignty at the local and state levels, will participate in the panel informational session as well.
This is a great example of Grange grassroots advocacy at its finest. The Maine State Grange passed a resolution called Community-Based Food Production in 2015 which resolved that: “The Maine State Grange will use its influence to urge the passage of legislation recognizing municipalities’ authority to regulate by ordinance the direct producer-to-customer exchange of all food grown, harvested, prepared, processed or produced in the municipality.”
In 2016, the Maine State Grange drew on its roots laid out in our Declaration of Purposes and our Constitution to adopt a further resolution to grow the Grange as a relevant farming organization for this century and to support our small-scale, ecological farms in Maine. We resolved then that: “The Maine State Grange shall work proactively with elected local, state, and federal officials to further the shared interests of small-scale, ecological farms and their communities; and… shall work in concert with Subordinate/Community Granges to educate the general public about ecological farming principles and the relation of soil health to community wealth;…”
Just last year, the Maine State Grange followed up on our resolves and supported a bill that was signed into law first in June of 2017, and later amended and signed into law again by Governor LePage in October of 2017. This bill has now become Chaptered Law 314 known as the Maine Food Sovereignty Act. It recognizes municipal authority to adopt local food ordinances regarding “direct producer-to-consumer” sales and requires the State to recognize those ordinances. In other words, the law requires the state to honor community-based food production systems just as we outlined in our 2015 resolution!
The law moved the power out of the bureaucracies and back into our town governments, that is to say, back to us at our own town meetings! This has the potential to be a monumental shift that can lay the groundwork for stronger local economies in our towns based on farming and food production once again.
But we have to get involved in town government. We have to work to adopt the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance (LFCSG), passed in 21 towns and one city across Maine, on which the Maine Food Sovereignty Act is based. An ordinance template can be found here:http://localfoodrules.org/ordinance-template/
Now, it’s time to act on our resolve from 2016 and work with our local Granges to educate the general public about ecological farming principles and how we can “work proactively with elected local, state and federal officials to further the interests of small-scale ecological farms in Maine.”
Hide and Go Peep Farm’s Sonia Acevedo in Madison, Maine is showing us how to do just that. She’s working with her local Grange to bring townspeople together over food and music to talk about food sovereignty and food freedom. The Grange becomes again the center of spreading information and education on the efforts the Maine State Grange has been supporting since 2015. Halcyon Grange in Blue Hill gained new members when they supported food sovereignty efforts in 2011. Since then, farmer Heather Retberg and farm patron Bonnie Preston, both Halcyon Grangers, have been traveling around the state meeting people in Grange halls, church fellowship halls, school gyms and town halls to share their experience with local government and adopting the LFCSG Ordinance and helping other towns do just that. They can come to your Grange, too.
Since the state of Maine recognized local control of food in 2017, the time is ripe to use local Granges across the state for informational potlucks like this upcoming one at Kennebec Valley Grange!
You can contact Heather by email (quillsendfarmgmailcom) or contact Bonnie by email (bonnieprestonearthlinknet) to invite them to your Grange hall.
Town meeting time is high time for potluckin’ and politickin’. Music helps keep it all merry. Let’s get back to our roots and go forward into a farming future!
“The soil is the source from whence we derive all that constitutes wealth; without it, we would have no agriculture, no manufacturers, no commerce. Of all the material gifts of the Creator, the various productions of the vegetable world are of the first importance. The art of agriculture is the parent and precursor of all arts, and its products, the foundation of all wealth.”
–Preamble of the Constitution of the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry