I’m not sure why it took so long for the mystic oracle that is my Facebook news feed to inform me about Sedgwick, Maine (a town where you can pop by the town clerk’s house between 7 and 8:30 any Wednesday to get a license for your dog or take out a hunting/fishing permit), but it did.
Back in March of 2011, Sedgwick passed a food sovereignty law that asserted the rights of the citizens of Sedgwick to produce, sell, and consume locally produced food (including raw milk, cheese made from raw milk, and locally slaughtered meat) without the interference of the state of Maine or the US Government. The law read, in part:
We … have the right to produce, process, sell, purchase and consume local foods thus promoting self-reliance, the preservation of family farms, and local food traditions. We recognize that family farms, sustainable agricultural practices, and food processing by individuals, families and non-corporate entities offers stability to our rural way of life by enhancing the economic, environmental and social wealth of our community. As such, our right to a local food system requires us to assert our inherent right to self-government. We recognize the authority to protect that right as belonging to the Town.
And it went on to argue that the town of Sedgwick has, “faith in our citizens’ ability to educate themselves and make informed decisions. We hold that federal and state regulations impede local food production and constitute a usurpation of our citizens’ right to foods of their choice.” The town’s faith in its citizens is such that the law goes on to explicitly state that people who buy and sell locally produced, unlicensed food have the right to enter into private agreements with one another to waive liability.
In support of their right to pass this law, they cite the Declaration of Independence and the State Constitution of Maine. And to back it up, they add section 6.1, which declares “It shall be unlawful for any law or regulation adopted by the state or federal government to interfere with the rights recognized by this Ordinance. It shall be unlawful for any corporation to interfere with the rights recognized by this Ordinance.”
Other towns in Maine and other states have followed suit, and just as rapidly, the state governments have leapt in to protect us all from the dangers of cheese and other local products.
For some people what happened in Sedgwick will read only as an easily dismissed story about the annoying persistence of the locavore movement that was so handily demolished in Desrochers and Shimizu’s Locavore’s Dilemma. For me, though, it’s a story that’s well worth watching and that’s well worth talking about, because it combines some of the best artillery that Bleeding Heart Libertarians have. First, you have the State being oppressive and intrusive about something small and petty. We’re not talking terrorist threats here. We’re talking raw milk. Second, you have the most local, small group kind of response. Third, you have the citizenry boldly insisting on their right to truck, barter, and exchange in the face of government interference.
Sedgwick isn’t a big town. What happened in Sedgwick isn’t a big story. But some of our best stories, and some of our biggest triumphs for liberty happen in the smallest places, spurred by the smallest things, when small groups of people reach the end of their patience with the State.