March 23, 2011

Natural Foodie: Welcome to Maine – the way farming should be

By Avery Yale Kamila
Staff Writer

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The growing number of shoppers at farmers markets, including this one in Monument Square in Portland, are one way Mainers are supporting small-scale, sustainable farms.

Avery Yale Kamila photo

Maine, too, still has a way to go in cultivating a sustainable and resilient local food system. Like the rest of the country, the state has lost its once-extensive network of food processing plants and distribution companies. However, unlike other parts of the nation, Maine is beginning to see the first signs of a revival in this sector.

"If we could bring back more processing, distributing and growing, we'd see a significant increase in jobs in rural Maine," said Mark Lapping, executive director of USM's Muskie School of Public Policy and a distinguished USM professor.

This is where you and I come in.

"Ultimately, it's up to the consumer," Whitcomb said. "It's not by government edict that the consolidation of these processors happened. The consumer is king."

If low price is the goal, consolidation and factory farms are the answer. But if supporting the local economy, creating jobs, eating fresh food and enjoying a clean environment is the goal, then a sustainable local food system is the answer.

"Something has happened over the last 10 years," Lapping said. "Very quickly and without a lot of policy impetus, the local food movement arose. It's become very diverse and very robust."

"If you support the people who are farming at the family scale, they have a chance to survive," Libby said. "But if everyone is buying the lowest-cost product, there's push to the bottom."

Except here in Maine, where farming is rising to the top.


Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be reached at 791-6297 or at:


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