Chesterville going for local food ordinance

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CHESTERVILLE — Selectmen agreed Thursday night to appoint a special committee to review an ordinance that would allow residents to sell food they’ve grown, produced or processed directly to consumers.

Budget Committee member Kim Lessard asked the board to consider enacting a Food Sovereignty Ordinance, now that Gov. Paul LePage has signed a law giving municipalities authority to regulate local food systems. The new law pertains to any food or food products grown, produced or processed by individuals within that municipality who sell directly to consumers.

Lessard and her husband, Allan Maki, own Chesterville Farm Mercantile.

“We as a town are bound by state and federal regulations,” Kim Lessard said. “Enacting this ordinance says we don’t want to be regulated by state and federal governments. As a consumer, farmer and retailer, there is no downside to this.”

“Does this mean if grandma makes jam in her kitchen that everybody loves, she can sell it from her home?” Maki asked.

“That’s exactly what it means,” Lessard said.

She said the ordinance would make it easier for the town’s farmers and consumers.

Lessard raises pigs and uses Hemlock Ridge Game Processing, owned by Rian Hinkley of New Sharon, to slaughter them for her own use.

Because meat is highly regulated, to sell pork chops in her farm store she must take the pig to a state-inspected facility an hour and a half away, she said.

“I’ve added $125 to the cost of that pig so I can sell you a pork chop,” Lessard said.

Board of Selectman Vice Chairman Tiffany Estabrook said the ordinance would solve issues within the town, but consumers couldn’t buy products from other towns unless they had similar ordinances.

“If we have this ordinance, anyone can come to Chesterville and buy food here,” board Chairman Tyler Jenness said.

Lessard said she can’t buy food items and resell them in her farm store. 

Selectmen agreed to form an ad hoc committee to review a draft ordinance Lessard provided. The committee will meet in the fall so an article can be placed on the town meeting warrant for March 2018.

Selectman Matt Welch said the town is overregulated and that all town ordinances should be reviewed.

“Go back to the minimum state regulations. This town would be fine,” Welch said.

Selectman Ross Clair said $1 building permit fees were established 2o years ago to inform the town’s assessor and save time. The fee was the same for all building types. 

Selectman Edward Hastings IV said there were many permits and fees needed when he built his house.

“It seems like they get you everywhere. Make it as easy as possible,” Hastings said.

Estabrook suggested having Ruth Cushman, former Jay town manager and Wilton selectman, review Chesterville’s ordinances.

A committee formed to review them includes Ann Lambert, Allan Maki and Kim Lessard, so far. Others interested in working with the committee should contact the Town Office at 778-2433.

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Thursday night, Chesterville selectmen agreed to place an article on the next town meeting warrant that would ask voters to enact a food sovereignty ordinance. Pictured during the discussion are seated from left Selectpersons Matt Welch, Ross Clair, Chairman Tyler Jenness, Vice Chairman Tiffany Estabrook and Edward Hastings IV. Kim Lessard, who requested the agenda item, is at right.
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