Today, I had a conversation with Bob St. Peter from Sedgwick Maine, to discuss the local food ordinance passed there. I wanted to know more about their process to activate their town on this issue, as well as see the viability of this type of rule-making. Bob told me that before the item was brought to town meeting, he and other ordinance draughters met with a variety of groups in the town: chamber of commerce, other local officials, town clubs, etc.. From there, the authors of the ordinance worked to connect with towns-people about the ordinance, in preparation for the vote. The ordinance passed unanimously in Sedgwick and Penobscot. Upon inquiring as to Sedgwick's interactions with the agency, Bob told me that as of yet they have seen no push back. Despite home bakeries, unregulated raw milk and meat production, the agency has yet to step in. Of course, State agencies do have the right to fine or penalize these towns, but would it be worth their time?
Bob has had hundreds of phone calls and emails, regarding the ordinance. People from all over the country want to get involved. The ordinance appears to cross boundaries and appeal to people across the board: Glenn Beck even featured the ordinance on his show. Although we can not let the libertarians or tea party activists take this state's rights issue away from us, we can be glad to see that this appeals to the masses. Bob reminded me gently that this was not a party issue. He quoted Wendell Berry's idea of the "Local Community Party," in arguing that his interests lay in sustaining communities in a time of ecological and economic crisis.
What if 50 towns in Vermont passed ordinances like these? What a radical push-back to the state/ federal food system that would be! We need to bring this idea home. Vermont is the perfect place for ideas like this to come to fruition. We have the right farmers, the right land, the right consumers and the right close-knit communities to make this happen.
Div III? I think so.