Maine town affirms local food rights

This is the first of many columns where the Right and Left stare across the great divide and debate the issue of the day.  Today it is

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.”

The Facebook page for Farmer Brown, which has over 1400 fans, thanked supporters and announced, “We’re just getting started!”

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.

Jessica’s blog is Crunchy-Chewy Mama,, and her writer’s site is

“Like” Crunchy-Chewy Mama on Facebook, and follow Jessica on Twitter @crunchychewy

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Jessica Claire Haney


This holistic mom dreams of a day when all kids -- and adults -- eat foods with only recognizable ingredients. Paying attention is not an option for me; it's a necessity.

A few years ago, my body started breaking down and let me know I wasn’t like all those other Jessicas who were still in their twenties. I began making the rounds of alternative health practitioners and nutritionists to deal with stomach problems, thyroid problems, chronic grumpiness, and infertility, issues that my doctors weren't addressing with any success. With a lot of help and a bunch of lifestyle changes, I managed to work my way back to healthy and happy. And pregnant!

Now a full-on convert to natural family living and a mom to a three-year-old, I’m on a mission to share my insights -- and my persistent questions -- about nutrition and holistic health with other moms and with anyone else looking for something that will work and feel good when other stuff doesn’t. As a leader of a local chapter of Holistic Moms Network, I've tried to build a community that supports other parents in making healthy decisions for their families.

My writing has appeared in parenting publications and poetry journals. I blog about life on the alternative/mainstream divide at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, and I'm a contributor for DC Metro Moms.

Contact Jessica Claire Haney


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