By Sylvia Fagin
Does an individual really have the right to eat whatever he or she wants to eat? This is the fundamental question behind Rural Vermont’s food sovereignty campaign.
Rural Vermont, the statewide group dedicated to advancing economic justice for Vermont farmers through advocacy and education, is ramping up a campaign to encourage towns and villages to consider the issue of food sovereignty at their 2012 town meetings, according to Robb Kidd, an organizer with the group.
Sovereignty means supreme authority. Considering the issue of food sovereignty, Rural Vermont takes this position:
“We declare the right of communities to produce, process, sell and purchase local foods. In recognition of Vermont’s traditional agricultural systems, we assert these vital principles as the foundation of local Food Sovereignty.”
This current effort stems from Rural Vermont’s past statewide advocacy work on issues including meat-processing regulation and the right to buy and sell raw milk. Much of Rural Vermont’s work focuses on ways consumers can purchase food directly from farmers.
“In a lot of our work, we’re running into legislative dead ends and federal rules and regulations that don’t allow any more growth in the market,” Kidd said.
He noted that the recently released Farm-to-Plate plan reports that only 5 percent of the food consumed in Vermont is produced in Vermont. “How are we going to change that?” Kidd asked. “Big food trucks still rumble into Montpelier daily.”
In order for Vermonters to be able to buy more food from their farmer-neighbors, some regulations, both state and federal, will have to change, Kidd said. The first step is educating more people about the issues.
“Even though there’s a lot of support from Vermont politicians, we feel there needs to be a vast culture change,” Kidd said. “One way to do this is in communities themselves. This campaign is about bringing the message to town halls, to get this issue talked about on a greater level.”
Town Meeting Day discussions serve to inform a greater number of Vermonters on the details of a particular issue, Kidd said, citing past Town Meeting Day topics such as nuclear power.
Rural Vermont is encouraging towns and villages to consider a food sovereignty resolution at their town meeting in 2012 and to adopt resolution language that speaks specifically to the individual community’s history and direction regarding food and agriculture.
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