I am writing to encourage all Mainers who eat food to vote “yes” on Question 3, the referendum question to secure the right to grow food and save seed in the constitution of Maine. The question reads as follows: “Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being?”

State Sen. Craig Hickman gathers lambs quarters, an edible weed, to feed to his goats at his organic farm in Winthrop. Hickman cosponsored Question 3 in the Maine Legislature. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

When passed by the voters of Maine, Question 3 will amend the Maine Constitution to include the right to food. All individuals have a natural, inherent and inalienable right to food, including the right to save and exchange seeds, and the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being, as long as an individual does not commit trespassing, theft, poaching or other abuses of private property rights, public lands or natural resources in the harvesting, production or acquisition of food.

This is a common-sense question, and it’s not that hard to think through. It secures a right to food and protects private property and natural resources all at once. This is an extension of the food sovereignty work I’ve been a part of since 2016 and the permaculture homestead design work I’ve been a part of since 2009. This amendment to the state constitution enshrines the right to grow our own food. It does not mean the government needs to grow food for us. It secures the right to food for individuals, not corporations.

This is a deeply traditional concept for us Mainers. When I talk to people about Question 3, people often reply, “You mean I don’t already have that right?” The complicated answer is that this is unsettled legal territory, and our rights to grow food and save seed have been alarmingly eroded since the onset of industrial agriculture. Two hundred and forty-five years ago, the framers of the U.S. Constitution were all farmers who fed themselves. It never occurred to them to enunciate the right to food because most of society was still agrarian, and the right to grow your own food was assumed.

Centuries later we find ourselves in a situation where most people live in cities and are often disconnected from the source of their food. Meanwhile, large corporations own land, produce food (often unethically) and think about food as a commodity, not an essential human need or a human right. Rights-based laws are a different animal from regulatory laws, and this will settle the question once and for all. The right to food will stand next to the freedoms of speech, religion and assembly and the right to bear arms.

Who opposes such a common-sense effort? Government agencies that are captured by corporate interests. Big agribusiness corporations (like Monsanto) that believe food is a commodity to be controlled. These business models hinge on the idea that food is a commodity, and they are naturally opposed to the idea that food is a right, even though it makes all the sense in the world to natural human people. It shows you how alienated we are from the source of our food that someone would even try to articulate opposition to this common-sense right. Those who are opposed to this right to grow our own food are hostile to the concept of a food-sovereign people.

I know that some big nonprofit (corporate) animal welfare advocates are opposing this question because they think it will lead to animal cruelty, as if people will start keeping cows and chickens in their closets or something. I think they are misguided, misinformed and don’t understand the wordsmithing that has gone into the crafting of this rights-based law. They are flatly wrong that this law would lead to animal cruelty and it goes to show you that even well-meaning folks can be duped (or bought) into serving the interests of corporate agribusiness like Monsanto.

Securing a right to food is a different legal instrument from a statute or an ordinance, and it does not conflict with or supersede any existing regulatory statutes or ordinances. If you want a more ecologically sound and economically free and just food system, vote “yes” on Question 3!

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