By Ramona du Houx
A law to encourage food self-sufficiency in the state goes into effect Oct. 15.
“It is the policy of the state to be food self-sufficient. This law strengthens that policy by encouraging people to grow, process and preserve their own food to feed themselves, their families and their communities,” said Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop (photo right), sponsor of the measure. “It also addresses the current shortage of available farm workers for the many new and expanding small-scale family farms that are taking advantage of the growing local foods movement.”
The law directs the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to develop and administer an agricultural jobs network. It links farms and facilities that process agricultural products grown in Maine with available workers who are involved in farming or a local food industry, or who are required to perform community service.
It also directs the department to develop an educational marketing campaign to promote food self-sufficiency by encouraging the public to grow gardens, raise farm animals and preserve garden-grown food.
The new law also requires the Department of Agriculture to purchase food that is grown, harvested, prepared, processed and produced in Maine when purchasing food for an emergency or supplemental food program for elderly or low-income people whenever possible.
Hickman is an organic farmer and House chair of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee. He is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents Readfield, Winthrop and part of Monmouth.
(boy admires a watermelon at the Common Ground Fair. Photo by Ramona du Houx)