BLUE HILL, Maine, November 18, 2011 – If you’re a government agency with a lot of extra time and money, why not sue a small farmer?
When farmer Dan Brown began selling raw milk five years ago, the response was tremendous. Residents in and around Blue Hill, Maine loved the vegetables and milk he sold at the farmers market. But when he was told he needed a license or his own farmstand to legally sell his wares, he took out a loan and built a farmstand at his Gravelwood Farm.
Now Brown is facing a lawsuit from Maine Department of Agriculture for selling milk and operating a food establishment without the required licenses. Brown said he would fight an injunction and will continue to sell milk because a Blue Hill town ordinance, passed in spring 2011, exempts local farmers who sell directly to consumers from state and federal licensing and inspection requirements. Four other towns in Maine have passed similar ordinances.
As far as Brown can tell, his operation is perfectly legal, and his food is safe for consumption. The state of Maine disagrees, asserting its right to enforce laws on the sale of milk and processed foods regardless of local ordinances like Blue Hill’s.
Supporters of Brown met earlier this week to plan a rally outside the selectmen’s meeting, and they’ve been asking for letters to call on Governor Paul LePage and state Agricultural Commissioner Walter Whitcomb to drop the lawsuit.
Today’s noontime rally drew over 200 supporters of Farmer Brown. Among them was Heather Retberg of Quills End Farm, who called out the FDA for its corporate food agenda. Local resident Charlotte Clews, who grew up in Blue Hill, shared her experience that the “Food Industrial Complex” made her family sick. “I depend on whole, local, raw foods to keep my family and our environment healthy,” rejecting the notion that the Department of Agriculture’s actions against Farmer Brown had anything to do with “food safety.”
In the end, the three Blue Hill Selectmen voted unanimously to ask the state to discard the summons and also to ask the state to support the local food ordinance. However, those who have written to support the position of Blue Hill received an email reply from Whitcomb that his department will “continue to inspect in accordance with the state law and will assist individuals with recommendations to become compliant.”
For more on this story, see at The Complete Patient by Raw Milk Revolution: America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights author David Gumpert
Photo courtesy of We Are All Farmer Brown Facebook Page
Jessica Claire Haney is a freelance writer, editor and tutor. Her writing has appeared in parenting publications and poetry journals. A former high school English teacher, Jessica is mother to a five-year-old son and a baby girl. She is passionate about holistic health and well-being and is a leader of a chapter of Holistic Moms Network.
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