The Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance passed unanimously at the annual Greenwood town meeting in May — one of 20 towns adopting the ordinance since 2010.

The concept of food sovereignty began in Spain in the 1990s. In Maine, the work began in 2009, to address rules changes by the Department of Agriculture — a crisis for small farmers. Heather and Phil Retberg of Quills End Farm in Penobscot, drafted the original ordinance. The first food sovereignty ordinances passed in some Hancock County towns.

A 2011 statewide bill to protect local food sovereignty failed in the Maine Legislature. Following Greenwood approving the ordinance, the Maine Legislature passed LD 725 — an Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems — which was signed into law by Gov. LePage on June 18, 2017. This new law goes hand-in-hand with the LFCSGO. Municipalities must adopt the ordinance in order to take advantage of the law.

Excerpts follow from details (adapted) about the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance, in relation to the new law (LD 725), by Local Food Rules, Community Water and by Richard King, who, together with his wife, Maria, championed the LFCSGO in their town of Liberty:

Food sovereignty means that people who grow food and people who eat food have control over their lands, water, seeds, and livelihoods.

The local food ordinances enacted and local policies have created a positive reputation for Maine’s support of small-scale, ecologically sound, diversified farms. People are moving to Maine because they know they will be in a supportive community. Local food ordinances, in concert with the new law, specifically address local food systems and define such as “…a community food system within a municipality that integrates food grown, produced or processed by individuals in that municipality who sell directly to consumers and other traditional foodways.”


Any food products intended for wholesale or retail distribution must be grown, produced or processed in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws, rules and regulations.

The ordinance does not exclude any local food product (e.g.: includes meat, poultry, milk, cheese, vegetables, value-added goods, etc.).

A local food ordinance does not limit liability for a producer of a food product. It is up to producers to protect themselves with insurance, agreements, understandings, etc.

The LFCSGO is not intended to create a retail market that simply circumvents food safety rules. It aims to rejuvenate traditional local foodways where communities provide for themselves in an atmosphere of trust — not unlike having friends over to share a meal.

The new law recognizes the home-rule authority granted to municipalities in the Maine Constitution. It provides communities leverage against the overwhelming monetary advantage possessed by international corporations with lobbying power in state and federal legislatures. It puts decision-making power in the hands of people, not corporations, over who is controlling the global food system, and ensuring stewardship and community self-determination, health and dignity of Maine people. Being part of rule-making, policies and laws, citizens must take part in crafting them, representing a shift in the power structure away from the corporate-bureaucratic control of food.

State recognition of local authority will enable more resilient, flexible, adaptable policy to flourish without the threat of state preemption (ensuring that communities have a means of protection and production). People need to protect the value of their land and determine what is necessary for their local economy to grow in the ways that will best fit their way of life.


The ordinance template can be found at It is being revised to include the new law, and a section outlining that a farmer from an ordinance-protected farm has the same rights in all other ordinance-protected towns. Extensive resources can be found on that site. The template has been used by all 20 towns thus far with minor modifications to suit each town’s needs.

Maine towns are progressing, town-by-town, to strengthen and ensure local control of their food and water — seed to table. (Bulk water extraction was removed from the final version of LD 725, and is not in the current LFCSGO.)

Proposing and adopting the LFCSGO in Greenwood began one year ago. There are many to thank: Greenwood town manager Kim Sparks; selectboard members Fred Henderson, Arnie Jordan and Amy Wight-Chapman;  Bonnie Preston, Heather Retberg and Cathy Lee, who provided invaluable information from their experience and hard work as advocates for local food sovereignty.

Suzanne and Brian Dunham own Dunham Farm and Velvet Hollow Sugar Works in Greenwood. They co-manage the Greenwood Farmers’ Market, are maple producers, beekeepers and operate a dedicated gluten-free commercial kitchen.

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