Farming and food have been much on my mind of late. I suppose it is just that time of year. Once the mornings get crisp, I am all about apple picking, pumpkin pie, hot cider and making soup. This is the time of harvest fairs and stocking up.

Coincidentally, some really cool stories about emerging food systems have crossed my path recently.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at

Up in Montreal, Canada, one IGA grocery store is doing something really wild: growing their own organic produce on the roof.

The store grows over 30 varieties of plants, including lettuce, kale, garlic and tomatoes, that can be grown in shallow soil. They are watered using water from the store’s dehumidifying system, which otherwise would have gone to waste. In lieu of pesticides, the garden uses plants to repel unwanted insects while simultaneously establishing a welcoming habitat for pollinators such as bees (the rooftop garden hosts several active hives), butterflies and birds.

Here in the U.S., there’s another really exciting initiative taking shape: urban “agrihoods.” Leading the way, surprisingly, is Detroit. In an all-out measure to combat food insecurity, the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative has created a multi-acre, inner-city, multi-plot farm that grows food both for resale and for the community that surrounds it. The project also hosts community gatherings and events. The farm provides a renewed sense of place, practical skills, access to resources and hope.

Here in Maine, we have our own food security measure at hand.


Question 3 on the November ballot reads “Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to declare that all individuals have a natural, inherent and unalienable right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being?”

This looks great to me. Knowing that Monsanto, an agricultural biotechnology corporation that has a long track record of legal action against farmers in other states and around the world over its seed licensing, I wondered if this bill was a preemptive protection for Maine farmers. In his sponsorship of the bill, Rep. William Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor, said, “Jumping ahead 25 or 50 years into the future, could we see our government creating roadblocks and restrictions to the people’s right to food? Will the government be telling people what they are allowed to eat and where they can grow it? Will Monsanto own all the seeds, and will we have gotten so far from our roots that we won’t even have natural seeds anymore? Will people even be allowed to grow gardens? Or will gardening become a luxury reserved for the rich? … Will we need it, 25, 33, or 50 years from now? If we wait until then to find out, it will be too late.”

I liked the wording of this bill. In fact, I like it so very much I could not envision why anyone would not. Being of a curious nature, I decided to investigate the opposition. I was surprised to learn the bill is opposed by a respected entity, the Maine Veterinary Medical Association.


I read further, and there it was, a small but critical flaw in the bill. The language of the legislation not only protects the right to grow crops and share seeds, it also opens the door for animals intended for food to be kept in conditions that are inhumane. Drat!

I had not considered animal welfare in my initial read of the bill, and I’m choosing to believe those who drafted it hadn’t either. Surely this is a linguistic oversight. I urge the drafters of the bill to craft an amendment to maintain existing protections for livestock.

Food is a basic human right. Maine farmers deserve legal protection, and all of us deserve to have the right to grow our own food, be it on a farm or in a window box, and be protected as well. Let’s close the loophole on this bill and establish our food security future.

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