May 6, 2011

Food Sovereignty in Maine


I recently learned of a promising initiative in Maine combining principles of Food Sovereignty and relocalization.
In April Blue Hill, Maine, became the third Maine town to enact (by unanimous voice vote at a town hall meeting) a pioneering law asserting the people’s sovereignty over our food. (The law was narrowly defeated in a fourth town where the local government resisted it and engaged in actions at least skirting the line of fraud). Here we see democratic citizens recognizing their fundamental right to self-government, and the particular criticality of Food Sovereignty as a practical and democratic necessity. (Principles and concept of Food Sovereignty.)
The Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance of 2011 is a law which declares localized food production, processing, distribution, and consumption to within the sole purview of the locality. As stated in the Preamble and Purpose: 

We the People of the Town of (name of town) ,
(name of county) County, Maine have the right to produce, process, sell, purchase and
consume local foods thus promoting self-reliance, the preservation of family farms, and local
food traditions. We recognize that family farms, sustainable agricultural practices, and food
processing by individuals, families and non-corporate entities offers stability to our rural way of
life by enhancing the economic, environmental and social wealth of our community. As such,
our right to a local food system requires us to assert our inherent right to self-government. We
recognize the authority to protect that right as belonging to the Town of (name of town) .

We have faith in our citizens’ ability to educate themselves and make informed decisions. 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 support food that fundamentally respects
human dignity and health, nourishes individuals and the community, and sustains producers,
processors and the environment. We are therefore duty bound under the Constitution of the State
of Maine to protect and promote unimpeded access to local foods.

The purpose of the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance is to:

(i) Provide citizens with unimpeded access to local food;
(ii) Enhance the local economy by promoting the production and purchase of local
agricultural products;
(iii) Protect access to farmers’ markets, roadside stands, farm based sales and direct
producer to patron sales;
(iv) Support the economic viability of local food producers and processors;
(v) Preserve community social events where local foods are served or sold;
(vi) Preserve local knowledge and traditional foodways. 

The law derives its authority from the Declaration of Independence, the Maine Constitution, and Maine statutes. It exempts local food activities from various licensure and inspection requirements and overrides state and federal law where these are in conflict. It asserts the citizens’ rights to Access and Produce Food, to Self-Governance, and to Enforce these rights. The local government is directed to take any feasible enforcement measures.
This democratic project is similar to the anti-corporate local ordinances pioneered and supported by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. (We briefly discussed them here.)
All the basic principles of this are excellent. (A few details are questionable.) In particular, it’s explicitly anti-corporate: “It shall be unlawful for any corporation to interfere with the rights recognized by this ordinance.” That’s purposefully open-ended and inclusive, and rightly so.
This law was drafted in accordance with the conditions of Maine, but the blueprint could be applied anywhere. Scoffers might suppose this won’t be able to resist applications of force from above, and that’s true in the short run.
But the real purpose of this is to codify democracy, Food Sovereignty, and relocalization as explicit legal principles. The more we go on record as wishing to redeem our democratic sovereignty, and the more the kleptocracy has to resort to brute lawlessness to assert its prerogatives, the more its true barbaric thug essence will be clear in the eyes of the people.
On a more general level, all pro-democracy grassroots action is a tonic. Citizens are taking action, however small to begin with, directly against corporate and central government power. We’re answering “federal” arrogation and usurpation through its anti-democratic pre-emption of lower-level authority with our own version of pre-emption. We’re declaring that our people’s law supersedes, overrides, overthrows their illegitimate might-makes-right. We’re declaring the principles of true federalism, which is a vector directly opposed to all the processes of centralization and concentration. This is a value in itself. 


  1. Russ,

    I just copied this post and sent it to headquarters:

    American Community Gardening Association
    1777 East Broad Street
    Columbus OH 43203

    Here is a link to their data base of community gardens. I urge others to send a copy of this post to their local (or nearest) community gardens.


    You might even consider an article on them if you have not done one already. ‘Cross pollination’ is a good thing, especially with a receptive audience.

    Thanks for all your hard work! Keep hammering!

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    Comment by i on the ball patriot — May 6, 2011 @ 8:27 am

    • Thanks, i ball. I’ll check it out.

      Comment by Russ — May 6, 2011 @ 11:21 am

  2. Hey, Russ, I have just come back from a trip to VT, where we tried to make the rounds of a number of “farm stays” and see what the locals were up to.

    It turns out, of course, that no-one offering a farm-stay had actually been born in VT, but nonetheless I learned a few interesting things.

    I would like to report on them eventually, but in the meantime I would like to introduce you (if you have not been introduced already) to someone working on post-industrial scenarios in as positive a vein as possible:


    Comment by Lidia — May 7, 2011 @ 10:12 pm

    • Sounds interesting, Lidia. I look forward to hearing about it.

      Yes, I used to read Greer regularly and sometimes still do. I also have his book The Long Descent. I find especially interesting his ideas on knowledge preservation.

      Comment by Russ — May 8, 2011 @ 4:50 am

  3. Russ/All,

    I was just wondering if you or anyone here is familiar with a book entitled “The Coming Insurrection”? The English translation of a slim volume that was used as evidence in an anti-terrorism trial in France, against a group that came to be known as the Tarnac 9.

    Here’s an excerpt from an article about them:

    “The Tarnac 9 were once just nine individuals who had withdrawn from the capitalist paradigm to live a quiet, communal life in an isolated French mountain village. They grew their own food, opened a small grocery store and started a movie club where they screened films for their rural neighbors. The group, nearly all of whom hailed from affluent Paris suburbs, were highly educated and, by all accounts, friendly, helpful and generous. It was an idyllic existence, far from the consumer spectacle of modern urban existence.

    But then someone – it has yet to be determined who – sabotaged railways in the surrounding countryside, injuring no one but delaying thousands of passengers for several hours.

    Suddenly the commune became a cell. The isolated farmhouse became a base, the store became a front and the absence of mobile phones became evidence of an effort to avoid detection. Tarnac’s native population became unwitting accomplices to terrorism. Nine became 9.

    In a terrifying show of force, French authorities raided the farmhouse in the predawn hours of November 11, 2008 and tore its sleeping inhabitants from their beds. The balaclava-clad police handled their wards not as alleged vandals or even saboteurs but as high-level enemies of the state: terrorists.”


    I haven’t read the book, (the authors call themselves The Invisible Committee), and I’d never even heard of them before this weekend. I read somewhere that their book has had an influence on anarchists in North America, but then I also found a pretty negative review of it below:


    And so far I haven’t found time to read this either, but the libcom website has a very long excerpt from the book for anyone who might be interested:


    Comment by Frank Lavarre — May 8, 2011 @ 10:51 am

    • No, I haven’t heard of the book or the incident. But I’ll check it out. Thanks.

      Comment by Russ — May 8, 2011 @ 11:25 am

  4. […] which is being embraced by communities is the passage of model ordinances on subjects like local food sovereignty and rejection of corporate personhood. These are not only vigorous declarations of local power, […]

    Pingback by Basic Movement Strategy « Volatility — May 23, 2011 @ 5:57 am

  5. […] within city limits. As I write Vermont is on the verge of banning fracking in the state. The Local Food Sovereignty ordinances passed in several Maine towns comprise a similar campaign. Meanwhile the movement of counties and […]

    Pingback by The CELDF Strategy, and Similar Actions « Volatility — May 19, 2012 @ 3:01 am

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