State or feds?
You don’t want your first thought upon entering a grocery store to be “Oh, they must have gotten a shipment of fish today.” When the fish counter is all the way in the back of the store and all the fish is packed in ice, if your nose knows, you probably just lost your appetite for fish.
Slovenly attired clerks, even if they are just stocking cans on shelves, can make you anxious about the quality of the food you take home. If the counterperson assembling your sandwich has dirty nails, you are likely to choose another fast-food option in future. If your sit-down lunch is continuously interrupted by persistent flies buzzing around your table, you may skip dessert and just go back to work.
The point is that consumers are well versed in voting with their feet. It is completely unnecessary for most people to have guidance or instruction about how to find and enjoy well made, safe, flavorful food. If an establishment seems a little sketchy, customers rarely stick around to see if it gets better with time.
In general, farmers and growers understand this and do everything in their power to present themselves and their products in a positive light, taking every precaution and following all safe-food recommendations. They do these things with pride. Producing food is not just what they do; it is who they are. Farmers farm. Growers grow. Bakers bake.
As a result of this close identity between person and profession, it is with a bemused attitude that we read about the push-me/pull-you between the federal government and local authorities regarding the concept of food sovereignty. Who earned the right to tell us our business? The Feds do not show up in the middle of the night to help pull a calf. They do not hop on a tractor during harvest. They are not on hand to lend a hand when the plastic on a high tunnel needs to be replaced. Why are they suddenly so concerned about the last, easiest step when we bring our product to market? It seems like locally grown, locally supervised, and locally regulated should work out. Aroostook County people have been watching out for each other for a really long time.
If you stop by the Presque Isle Farmers Market in the Aroostook Centre Mall parking lot on Saturday mornings, you can talk directly to the producers of the food you purchase. You can investigate how it was grown, harvested or prepared. You can ask as many questions as you wish about handling practices. While you are listening, you can hold those fresh, crisp vegetables in your hands and use your eyes and nose to evaluate the natural goodness you will find in products from local vendors.
We are betting that you will agree that it is not all that necessary to have some fellow in button-down shirt and tie show up to declare, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help.”
Thanks, but we got this.
The Presque Isle Farmer’s market’s chair/president for the remainder of the season is Deena Albert-Parks of Chops Ahoy farm in Woodland. For information about participating or visiting the market, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.