Joel Salatin’s Great Maine Adventure in His Own Words

May 3, 2015


Craig Hickman, Joel Salatin and Heather Retberg at Thursday’s Hearing

 Here is what Joel Salatin wrote and shared on the Polyface Farm Facebook page about his time in Maine on Thursday April 30th, 2015, heretics all!

“Today was yet another confirmation that the tension between the orthodoxy and heresy is alive and well.
I was asked by the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund’s head litigator, Pete Kennedy, to help an effort in Maine that looks at least hopeful for food freedom. By the way, anyone and everyone who cares about food choice and direct producer-consumer options should join the FTCLDF–it’s doing more for the integrity food movement than any organization in the world.
Craig Hickman and his partner operate a small farm in Maine. Both come from professional backgrounds but find the farm both therapeutic and deeply satisfying. Their little farm was cooking right along until they got a couple of goats and began milking and making cheese. A little sign by the road letting neighbors know about their milk and cheese seemed like a good way to launch.
Within 48 hours the food police arrived and told them this was illegal. To say Craig got fired up would be an understatement. He ran and won as a delegate in the Maine legislature–becoming Representative Craig Hickman and now in his second term. A dashingly handsome, articulate man, Hickman describes himself as a Libertarian Democrat. Now how about that?
He put in a constitutional amendment that reads as follows: Right to Food. Every Individual has a natural and unalienable right to food and to acquire food for that individual’s own nourishment and sustenance by hunting, gathering, foraging, farming, fishing, or gardening or by barter, trade or purchase from sources of that individual’s own choosing, and every individual is fully responsible for the exercise of this right, which may not be infringed.
Hickman and many others in Maine are now capturing the attention of the entire country as they sail into freedom waters. This amendment, which must first pass a super majority in both houses and then go before the citizens of Maine in a referendum, gives standing to individuals who find government regulators standing between them and the free exercise of acquiring their food.
The hearing started promptly at 1 p.m. and went until a few minutes after 3, with about 30 people speaking in favor and two speaking against. As you can imagine, those speaking in favor were farmers wanting to sell, eaters wanting to buy, Indians wanting to extend to the white man the same food acquisition privileges (hunting) given to natives by right through treaties, and a host of articulate liberty-loving attorneys and local food advocates.
My comments, limited to 3 minutes, are as follows:
Maine is rich in resources, but imports 90 percent of its food and suffers the highest food insecurity rate (15 percent) of any New England state. Seeing these numbers, you’d think it was a desert, but Maine is far from a desert.

Now to the orthodoxy vs. heresy. The two dissenters, true to form, were the Maine Farm Bureau Federation and the director of the Maine Department of Agriculture. Sometimes predictability is almost humorous.
The farm bureau gentleman began his remarks by saying he was an ordained minister and volunteered at the food bank and believed that this food freedom proposal would not help the hungry. In fact, he advocated more giving through the food bank as the best alternative to help the hungry.

Farm bureau is labeled geopolitically as conservative, but there is nothing conservative about this testimony. It plays right into the hands of the disempowering forces of programs rather than self-help responsible liberty. The fact is that more food choice, more food producers, more community-imbedded food options increase food production, food availability, food price competition, and ultimately benefit everyone, including the hungry.  To assume that the most efficacious way to help the hungry is with more food banks places the farm bureau squarely in the camp of the most helpless victim-oriented top-down policies bandied about by the liberals. The farm bureau is so beholden to the industrial food system that it feels compelled to obfuscate its own consistency whenever food liberty rears its ugly head.
The other detractor, of course, was the director of the Maine department of agriculture. The galley gasped as he asserted that anybody has access to all the food they want. During questions following my comments, I pointed out that the supermarket, for all its apparent choice, actually has an extremely narrow type of product. You won’t  find Aunt Hilda’s home made quiche there; you won’t find raw milk there; you won’t find non-chlorinated chicken dressed in the back yard. The insurance, slotting fees, and Good Agricultural Practice certifications required to get on a supermarket shelf preclude the good stuff.  
It reminds me of the condescension that an Australian farmer told me last week when her sausages were condemned by Primesafe (the Australian counterpart of the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service). She quoted the inspector as saying “I don’t understand your kind of people.” In fact, it brought me back to about 5 years ago when I did a presentation to a roomful of about 100 food inspectors in Northern California, asking them if anyone had ever heard of the book OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA–not a single hand went up. Then I asked if anyone had ever heard of the film FOOD INC.–not a single hand went up.  Indeed, the orthodoxy of the industrial food system has no clue what our food freedom tribe thinks and can’t imagine why we can’t be satisfied with pasteurized milk, Hot Pockets, and microwavable frozen dinners. They see this as choice; we see it as poison.
The good director went on to say that he was concerned about the consequences this constitutional amendment would have on the food safety system. For a man of his stature to be blind to the consequences of food safety with the current bureaucratic top-down regulatory system is either naive or deliberately misleading.  I pointed out during questioning that our side did not guarantee perfection. Nobody can guarantee perfection.
The question is not whether somebody will get sick or if we can design a fail-proof system. The question is whether or not we can abide people who want to exercise their personal food choice for the fuel of their internal bacterial community to make that choice. If not, why not. If so, pass the amendment and let’s go.  His other concern was that it might impair commercial farming. Obviously he thinks Polyface is not a commercial farm. This condescending spirit certainly reveals a holier-than-though attitude and an aggressive prejudice against drug-free compost-based people-centric direct marketing farms.
It was a distinct honor and privilege to be surrounded by such positive food liberty advocates. I wanted to put them all in my briefcase and bring them to Virginia. If they can get this passed, it will be a huge shot across the bow of the entrenched orthodoxy that the heretics have not only survived the inquisition, but have thrived and the reformation is on its way. It’s time.”