This week I would like to start a discussion of the history Maine has with the organic food industry as that will likely be the key topic for my research paper.
The simple fact that Maine is such a large and traditionalist state creates a problem for this industry as I have previously mentioned in other posts because there is no real drive to sustain the industry when the general opinion of the food industry itself in Maine is typically a positive one. Ignorance is bliss essentially.
However, though some people may not realize this, Maine has had a supportive role in the organic foods industry for a long time. This is shown in the widespread tradition of farmers’ markets throughout the state.
Most of these farmers that sell their produce directly from the ground or their own personal slaughterhouses bypass many of the harmful steps of production that are associated with typical big food companies. There are obviously still some risks associated with the consumption of these goods as they may still have some form of harmful agent incorporated into their growth, however, the chances are much less likely.
Originally, support of these farmers’ markets were viewed more as a way to keep the economy local and support local producers rather than big industries that were located in a different state or sometimes even, different country. Now though, people are realizing that by choosing to shop there, you are choosing a product that you are more confident in as far as the production of it is concerned.
It is much easier to trust your neighbors who you know and have at least some relationship with, particularly in a friendly state like Maine, than it is to trust a label on a bag at a supermarket.
This change in consumption methods has been notice and encouraged throughout the state and can be seen from the work of farmers’ market advocacy groups. Some of these groups include the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and Food AND Medicine in the area.
There also has been a recent effort to change the way that people on welfare in the state do their grocery shopping. There recently was an initiative by Food AND Medicine to provide a 50% discount on all food bought from farmers markets in the Bangor area with EBT cards from people who are on the SNAP food program.
The article in the Bangor Daily News that covered this change reported that there was a 50% increase in the use of EBT cards at farmers markets since the introduction of the program. This was a tremendous success for Food AND Medicine and the people of the state. As anyone who does their own grocery shopping could attest, eating healthier is not always the easiest, and is most definitely not the cheapest method.
Organic foods are typically more expensive and are harder pressed to find in grocery stores. However, with this emphasis put on farmers markets, at least during the realistic summer months, Maine people now have access to healthy produce that is produced locally, but most importantly, is cheaper than the unhealthier alternatives.
I think that if we are going to have a serious discussion of the welfare system in the state of Maine, we cannot leave out this experiment and the success that it has clearly had. This program also eliminated a portion of the fraud that is also typically associated with EBT cards because it provided the card-holder with wooden tokens rather than cash after the card was used at the market. These tokens were then traded in for produce from the farmers there at the discounted price.
I believe that we need to strive to increase this method of shopping, in particular with people on the welfare system, and that it would greatly increase the overall health of the state and decrease the amount of abuse of the welfare system in Maine.