Mainewhile: Food for Thought – Portland Press Herald
Agriculture and food have been on my mind a lot lately. I guess it’s just that time of year. Once the mornings get chilly, I devote myself entirely to apple picking, pumpkin pie, hot cider, and soup making. It is the time of harvest fairs and replenishment.
Coincidentally, some really interesting stories about emerging food systems have recently crossed my path.
In Montreal, Canada, an IGA grocery store is doing something really wild: growing its own organic produce on the roof.
The store grows more than 30 varieties of plants, including lettuce, kale, garlic and tomatoes, which can be grown in shallow soil. They are sprayed with water from the store’s dehumidification system, which otherwise would have been wasted. Instead of pesticides, the garden uses plants to repel unwanted insects while creating a welcoming habitat for pollinators such as bees (the rooftop garden is home to several active beehives), butterflies, and birds.
Here in the United States, another really exciting initiative is taking shape: the urban agrihoods. Surprisingly, Detroit is leading the way. In an all-out move to tackle food insecurity, the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative has created a multi-acre, downtown, multi-plot farm that produces food for both resale and for the community. which surrounds it. The project also hosts community gatherings and events. The farm offers a renewed sense of belonging, practical skills, access to resources and hope.
Here in Maine, we have our own food safety measure right at our fingertips.
Question 3 on the November ballot reads: “Are you in favor of amending the Constitution of Maine to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and inalienable right to cultivate, cultivate, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their choice for their own diet, sustenance, bodily health and well-being? “
Sounds awesome to me. Knowing that Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology company with a long history of suing farmers in other states and around the world for its seed licenses, I wondered if this bill was preventative protection for farmers. from Maine. In his sponsorship of the bill, Representative William Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, said, “In 25 or 50 years, could we see our government create roadblocks and restrictions on people’s right to food? Will the government tell people what they are allowed to eat and where they can grow it? Will Monsanto have all the seeds, and will we have gone so far from our roots that we won’t even have natural seeds? Will people even be allowed to cultivate gardens? Or will gardening become a luxury for the rich? … Will we need it in 25, 33 or 50 years? If we wait until then to find out, it will be too late.
I liked the wording of this bill. In fact, I love her so much that I couldn’t imagine why no one would. Being curious by nature, I decided to investigate the opposition. I was surprised to learn that the bill is being challenged by a respected entity, the Maine Veterinary Medical Association.
I read further, and there it was, a small but critical loophole in the bill. The language of the legislation not only protects the right to grow and share seeds, it also opens the door for food animals to be kept in inhumane conditions. Shit !
I did not consider animal welfare when I first read the bill, and I choose to believe that those who drafted it did not either. It is certainly a linguistic oversight. I urge the drafters of the bill to draft an amendment to maintain the existing protections for livestock.
Food is a basic human right. Farmers in Maine deserve legal protection, and we all deserve the right to grow our own food, whether on a farm or in a garden plant, and to be protected as well. Let us close the loophole in this bill and build our food security future.
Here’s something: The Amazing County of Aroostook