Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

By Russell Libby,
MOFGA Executive Director

Like many of you, I sometimes stop and look at what's happening in the big world around us and wonder whether I make a difference – whether there's really any chance of changing the big trends moving us towards centralization and consolidation. That line of questioning rarely lasts more than 30 minutes before the next idea pops in my head.

At a Legislative hearing in early February, a group of fishermen and lobstermen testified about the need to maintain access to saltwater for commercial boats and related services. While they talked, they also revealed the frustration of feeling insignificant in the big picture. One fisherman said that if your community was seen as attractive by those who had made money elsewhere, there was no chance of retaining what had made it attractive in the first place. His comments reminded me of a statement in Caroline Chute's Merry Men. A farmer asked what happens to the rest of us when the economy has been taken over by the multinationals. That question has yet to be answered by any of our political leaders.

Even though we seem to be heading down that path every day, with mergers in the billions of dollars now seen as commonplace, I sense a countercurrent emerging. The stalled WTO trade talks in Seattle are a piece. So is the preliminary agreement at the Montreal talks on a biosafety protocol that would allow some country-by-country decision making on whether to permit genetically engineered foods.

That countercurrent is the topic of the April 28 conference in Unity, on Maine's New Food System, organized by the Maine Coalition for Food Security. But it's also part of MOFGA’s everyday discussions and conversations.

Just this morning three more dairy farmers indicated an interest in converting to organic production. Yesterday, the Blaine House called, wondering where it could get Maine-produced salad greens for an upcoming dinner. A woman from Portland called, interested in CSA options for herself and five other households. Chefs, retailers – they're all calling.

The challenge for all of us is to build solid enough relationships so that we can survive, and thrive, even in a world where most of what happens is impersonal. It means hard work, in our families, our neighborhoods, and our communities. But it's essentially the only way to respond to that farmer's question in a way that leaves a place for the rest of us who don't see global solutions as the answer.
MOF&G Cover Spring 2000