The farm is a way of life Heather Retberg said needs to be protected from an aggressive regulatory structure that keeps small farms from getting food to local people. State legislators' pushback against "food sovereignty" advocates like Retberg, in Maine and elsewhere in the country, has only emboldened her. "It's my right, as an individual, to grow the food I eat, she said."
The Retbergs, like the food sovereignty movement they are a part of, aren't going anywhere. The movement consists of a loose collection of farmers and activists who want to exempt local food producers from federal and state regulations, arguing they work in favor of big food producers and trample on the little guy.
Sedgwick was the first town in Maine to approve an ordinance declaring local control of food production, and supporters believe it was the first of its kind in the country. Sixteen other Maine towns have followed.
A bill calling for the amendment, proposed by organic farmer and Democratic state Rep.Craig Hickman, would have declared the right to food as "inalienable" in Maine. The amendment, if also approved by state voters, would have made it impossible to infringe upon residents' ability to hunt, gather or farm for whatever food they choose, or to prevent them from buying from others who produce food they want.
Backers saw it as a way to prevent government from intruding in local farm production and sales, and to take food production back from corporate control. But the Maine Senate shot down the proposed amendment, after the House approved it by a two-thirds majority.