Maine Legislature to Consider Home Kitchen Bill

home-kitchen-water-kefir

Wouldn't it Be Lovely to See the Farmer's Daughter Selling Homemade Lemon Water Kefir at the Farmers Market?

Please Unshackle the Farm Economy, Vote Yes for HP0263

a Commentary by Kimberly Hartke

A bill to promote agritourism, home kitchen entrepreneurship, and direct commerce between friends and neighbors is now before the Maine State legislature. Recently, the town of Sedgewick, Maine voted unanimously to allow unregulated direct sales between townspeople (here is a blog Dave Gumpert wrote about this food sovereignty initiative). Since then, several towns in Maine have voted on, and two have passed, food sovereignty acts. It seems there is a mini food revolution going on up there in the high Northeast.

This bill facilitates direct sales between Maine farmers and consumers. It allows people preparing food in their own homes to sell directly to consumers or to offer homemade food at certain events without being licensed as food establishments.

I heard yesterday that the Maine Cheesemakers Guild is wary of this bill and may not support it. Here is something that they should know, a quote sent to me from a Maine farmer through facebook:

” Please note that this Act is not for those who want to sell commercially, but for those who sell to informed end users. It recognizes that people are capable of making their own decisions about what they put into their bodies, and don’t need government (other people) making those decisions for them. ”

Here is a link to the bill:

http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_125th/billtexts/HP026301.asp

What the cheese makers of Maine need to understand is that this bill could mean the difference in the survival of a farm. If you can’t can and sell the overripe tomatoes that don’t sell from your farmstand, that is all wastage; a loss to the farm. The farmer’s family can only eat so much of the farm’s surplus. But, if they are able to cook up a batch of spaghetti sauce or tomato paste or make a lacto-fermented salsa, there is a certain market for those products! It is a great way of preserving the harvest and making money from every last bushel of beans!

Much of modern commerce in food is done through supermarkets, where the source of the food is obscured, the producer unknown to the buyer. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is founded on the premise that the inherent transparency in direct sales offers a great deal of protection and even recourse between the trading parties.

I would encourage the residents of Maine to support this bill and actively defend all the farmers in their state, and even the charitable ladies who cook and bake for church suppers! A farmer in Sedgewick wept with joy with the overwhelming support of the town for his right to free trade. Just think of all the joy you can spread, statewide.

Food regulation in America has come to the point of ridiculousness, when mom’s can’t offer their home baked goods for sale, to benefit their local parish or school band uniform drive!

Kimberly Hartke is the publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education non-profit that encourages consumers to seek  farm fresh foods for their nutritional value.

Comments

  1. This is a great idea. Every state and community should pass a bill like this. It will create jobs, increase the consumption of local food products, and improve the health of the American people.

  2. R Macheski says:

    I wish we here in Florida had the same movement! I’d love to sell my home made’s at the Farmer Market without all the RED tape. Having to get a Food Manager/Kitchen certification, then rent a Certified kitchen to do all my work (which entails me to haul everything, raw materials, pots and pans, utensils, etc.), then have a Mobile Vendor licenses to transport the product to the Farmer Market! Total cost- Mobile Vendor $130/yr, Kitchen $30/hr, gas for the truck to haul it all, Certification $100/good for 5 yrs. This makes the home made in product a bit pricey for some!

  3. I have to add some comments as a person who owns a licensed creamery in the State of Maine.

    Our dairy became certified almost 3 years ago. The Department of Agriculture, the Milk Inspector and State Lab were extremely supportive and helpful. If you look at regulations in Maine compared to many other states, you will see that our state is completely reasonable. Our dairy regulations are well thought out and help us, the farmers, as well as keep the public safe.

    Our yearly cost for our licensing is less than $50. State inspectors for all licenses are reasonable and helpful. We are inspected once a year in person, and have pick ups for cheese and milk testing at least monthly at our farm. The Department of Ag is readily available to answer questions. We do not pay any additional fees for these services.

    I understand completely the idea of selling to an “informed end customer,” but unfortunately, I do not believe this idealized notion will always be the case. I heard a story about this legislation on MPBN several weeks ago, and one of the “informed end customers” talked about how if there were an issue with the product, she would be able to go directly to the farmer/producer to “seek recourse.” Is the unlicensed and likely, uninsured, farmer ready to pay out thousands of dollars in medical bills because their product was not tested and not safe? Somehow I think that farmer who was crying tears of joy would be crying for another reason should their tomato sauce turn out to be contaminated with botulism bacteria…

    We talk to individuals regularly at farmers’ markets and other venues about the process of making our products and the hazards as well as the benefits of consuming a product that is raw or “not pasteurized.” Much of our learning about these safety issues and legal health definitions was accumulated during the process of becoming licensed. Without this experience, we certainly wouldn’t have the understanding that we do about our product and its value.

    We have plans to go Grade A within the next several years in order to sell across state lines. We have no plans to stop testing our milk or let our license lapse.

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