Food sovereignty close to home


photo courtesy of Soul Food Farm

One example of an organic pasture.

Last semester, at the Harvest Keepers Community Potluck, I picked up a few informational handouts provided by Edmund Harris on local food sovereignty in Vermont. It was a subject touched on by organic meat, egg, and milk producer John Clark, “Farmer John,” of Applecheek Farm in Hyde Park.

By itself, sovereignty means the authority of state to govern itself. In this case, supporting local food sovereignty in Vermont would mean supporting the rejection of an industry-run agricultural system that has forced us into reliance on corporations who are loyal to shareholders instead of the communities they provide for. These are companies who ship produce from across the country, outside the country, and across the Atlantic. It wasn’t always this way.

Local agriculture has been a long run tradition in Vermont since its founding in 1777. It has supported communities for generations, allowing them to prosper on individuals’ ability to obtain nourishment through local harvests. Since the materialization of modern industry, this tightly knit food system has been repressed and has almost vanished.

We are lucky to have people like Farmer John still fighting for local food sovereignty. John Clark does everything right in raising his cattle and poultry on organic pasture, but once it’s time for slaughter he is forced to transport to an industry approved slaughterhouse. It’s just another expense that drives the price of his product up, which is already high because of the lack of government subsidies that are, instead, spent on conventional foods.

Clark hopes to see food sovereignty in Vermont, which would allow him to process his meats on site, thus creating a greater trust between himself and his customers. As Clark pointed out at the Harvest Keepers Potluck, you can put more trust in a community member than a corporation operating across the country or especially across the world. Your farmer is going to do all he can to provide a safe, healthy product for his neighbor because this benefits him as well.

Local food sovereignty in Vermont would unify farmers and communities thus resurrecting our traditional agricultural system. It would allow us to resume the right to produce, process, sell, and purchase the local foods of our communities on our own terms.

The way toward local food sovereignty in Vermont lies at Town Meeting Day this year. Passing resolutions for food sovereignty at the grassroots level is a crucial step in making it a reality.

To discuss issues like these, join the Eco-Reps and Green Solutions page on Facebook, or join us at one of our meetings; Wednesdays at 6pm in the Stearns Fireplace Lounge or Thursdays at 4:30pm in WLLC 215.