Two weeks ago the State of Maine offered up the first official challenge to the growing Food Sovereignty movement by filing suit against a local farmer for selling milk without a permit and jam and homemade pickles without a licensed kitchen.
You’ll remember that when a town declares “Food Sovereignty”, it’s giving its citizens the right “to produce, process, sell, purchase, and consume local foods of their choosing.” This includes everything from raw milk to locally slaughtered meats. Since the town of Sedgwick, Maine declared Food Sovereignty last spring, dozens of towns across the country have followed suit, including Blue Hill, Maine. Thanks to a push by the FDA, the state of Maine has finally pushed back.
Farmer Dan Brown of Blue Hill, Maine has one pasture-raised dairy cow. One. This cow produces all the milk for his own family, and any extra milk they don’t consume gets sold to his customers. He is not running a dairy operation, but rather farms vegetables and other produce and offers it for sale at an on-farm farm stand. In other words, he is the exact type of farmer that the Food Sovereignty ordinances have in mind when they offer up protection for small-scale, cottage-industry producers to be allowed to bypass expensive, debilitating state and federal laws in order to provide their neighbors with quality, farm-fresh foods in face-to-face transactions.
Watch the brief local news coverage of the events of the past two weeks:
Here’s Dan Brown’s complete 5 minute speech made at the rally featured in the above local news coverage:
David Gumpert of The Complete Patient believes the FDA is behind the aggressive and swift action taken against Farmer Dan:
The bootprint of the FDA is all over the state’s rapid and aggressive move against Blue Hill. The fact that the letter to the town, followed by the court suit, have happened at lightning speed (for a state bureaucracy), is an indication of how concerned the FDA is. It is pushing the state, holding the carrot of lucrative cooperative agreements, and the sweet federal cash behind them, supplied by FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as incentive for the state to do the agency’s bidding.
According to this press release:
The charges [against Mr. Brown] relate to selling food without licenses, specifically milk, assorted dairy products like ice cream and cheese, and processed items like pickles and jams. He is also charged with failure to label his milk “Not Pasteurized.” The safety or quality of Farmer Dan Brown’s food is not in question. It is the right of the citizens of Blue Hill to operate under the town’s Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance that is being challenged.
How the public responds to this challenge will directly affect the Food Sovereignty movement nationwide.
People are rallying behind Dan Brown and the Town of Blue Hill under the “We Are All Farmer Brown” effort. The Family Farm Defense Committee of Hancock County believes if Dan loses, a chilling affect will ripple through Maine towns that already have or are considering passing the Local Food & Community Self-Governance Ordinance. They contend the loss would impede the successful growth of small farms, our cottage food businesses, and put at risk the tradition of sharing meals at our churches, granges, potlucks, and bake sales. But most importantly, states the committee, it would say to all the people around Maine, the U.S., and globe that, “No, you do not have the right to the food of your choice.” and “No, you do not have democracy in the food system.”
This is a critical time.
As the first shots against the Food Sovereignty movement are being fired, it is up to those of us who support this movement to hear the call to action and respond.
Is it fair that giant food corporations produce unsafe, infected food that causes thousands to become sick and hundreds to die without facing any real consequences while farmers like Dan Brown produce safe, nutrient dense foods and get treated like criminals?
People like you in cities and towns across the nation are standing up against such corporate behemoths and the laws that insulate and protect them, taking matters into their own hands by creating local Food Sovereignty ordinances. These rules “reflect the needs of farmers, food producers, and communities who are building healthy, resilient local food systems.” (source)
If we let Dan Brown down without a fight, this movement will be crippled from the very start. Now is the time to rally behind Farmer Dan and give him our support.
What you can do.
The Family Farm Defense Committee of Hancock County is asking you to take a moment today to contact the Maine Agricultural Commissioner and Governor Paul LePage and tell them to drop the lawsuit against Dan Brown and respect the authority of the Town of Blue Hill that was granted by the townspeople under the Local Food & Community Self-Governance Ordinance.
Walter Whitcomb, Agricultural Commissioner, State of Maine
Governor Paul LePage
Also, you may stay abreast of the latest in this struggle by joining the We Are All Farmer Brown Facebook page.