I’ve never worried about my local farmers poisoning me, but you can’t be sure of the items you buy at a supermarket. That’s why I am so pleased with Maine’s first in the nation food sovereignty law, championed by Rep. Craig Hickman of Winthrop.

The law allows towns to enact ordinances regulating local food distribution, freeing those producers from state controls, including licensing and inspections. Twenty municipalities already enacted food sovereignty ordinances ahead of state action. If your town is not one of those, get to work on it.

I admire and support the work of the Maine Farm Bureau, which lobbies at the State House for our farmers, and which was an important supporter of this new law.

Betsy Garrold of Food for Maine’s Future said it best: “We believe face-to-face transactions with your neighbors is safe and beneficial to both parties. They know you, you know them, and frankly, poisoning your neighbors is a very bad business plan.” Indeed.

Rep. Hickman noted, “Today we import 90 percent of the food that we consume and too much of it is processed junk.” He hopes many communities will enact food sovereignty ordinances.

My wife Linda and I recently visited Nezinscott Farm in Turner, an amazing place with a large farm, a great store, and a wonderful and popular restaurant. We loved it, and were reminded of how much we appreciate Maine farmers and farm markets. Nezinscott welcomes school students for farm tours, and is very engaged in its community.


We are also very lucky to have the Maine Farmland Trust here in our state. Their spring/summer newsletter was full of good news.

In 2015, a generous donor pledged $16 million to the Trust to protect farms and help farmers thrive, but to receive the entire amount, they must match it with other donations. You can help them do that.

The newsletter profiled some of the 17 additional farms the organization protected recently. Since its founding in 1999, the trust has protected more than 53,000 acres of farmland throughout the state. Often, that means they purchased the farm, kept an easement, and then sold the farm at a reduced price to young farmers who otherwise couldn’t afford to purchase a farm. Sometimes a local land trust participates in the project.

The Farmland Trust also awards Farming for Wholesale grants, most recently to Fishbowl Farm in Bowdoinham and Circle B Farms in Caribou, to help them implement wholesale business expansion. The program includes technical assistance to evaluate ways for the farms to grow their businesses, focusing on wholesale markets.

In 2015, the trust received a USDA grant to help low-income families access local foods at 20 retail stores and food hubs across the state. Seven hundred SNAP, or food stamp, customers were able to obtain $70,000 worth of local fruits and vegetables, creating additional sales for 500 Maine farms.

The trust also got a grant from the Maine Arts Commission to hire a writer to research and write the history of the farm that includes the Fiore Art Center in Jefferson, and to award residency grants to a half dozen artists in 2016 and 2017. The trust got started down this road when it was given more than 100 pieces of valuable artwork by the late artist and conservationist Joseph Fiore. They’ve gifted many of those pieces to environmental groups and art galleries.


Not all the news in the trust’s newsletter was good. Great challenges face Maine’s farming community. More than 400,000 acres of Maine farmland, representing nearly one-third of our state total, will change hands this decade as many of Maine’s farmland owners age and retire. According to American Farmland Trust, 92 percent of Maine farmers over the age of 65 have not identified successors. Much of our state’s farmland is at risk, making the work of Maine Farmland Trust all that more important.

A program called Maine Fare was a trust project in June — a month of tasting and learning about Maine’s diverse, abundant food system, past and present, with six major events. On Aug. 10 they’ll host a Forever Farm Party at Balfour Farm in Pittsfield, on Aug. 25 the Agrarian Acts: Farm Concert with the Mallett Brothers in Sebec, and on Aug. 26, Open Studio Day at Fiore Art Center in Jefferson.

You can learn more about these events and all the wonderful programs and projects at the Maine Farmland Trust on their website, www.mainefarmlandtrust.org. You can — and should — become a member, which costs just $20 a year, a real bargain and an important investment in the future of our farms and farmers.

And please, buy some great food today from your local farmer.

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or georgesmithmaine@gmail.com. Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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