One of the things that most impressed me about the Tuesday Maine Supreme Court hearing for Dan Brown was the happenings outside the courtroom.
Before the hearing, Dan Brown supporters gathered on the steps of the Portland courthouse to hear not only from his customers and neighbors, but from several local politicians and political candidates who showed up on Browns behalf. There was Dave Marshall, a member of the Portland City Council. There was Brian Jones and Craig Hickman, a both members of the Maine House of Representatives and both members of its Agriculture Committee. And there was a candidate for the Maine House, Will Neals.
They spoke passionately on behalf of Brown and food rights. This is a deplorable situation for the state of Maine, council member Marshall said. We want to buy our food from the farmers who make it.
Not coincidentally, a gaggle of media representatives showed up for the festivities. They included reportersd from a local NPR station, the New York Times, the Associated Press, and a variety of local television stations. Politicians are drawn to the media like bears to honey .though Im not suggesting these pols were there entirely for the media. The fact is that the food rights movement has begun to attract media attention and at the same time has begun to attract food rights activists and farmers to run for office.
After the demonstration, I got to spend some time with Hickman, who has been perhaps the most passionately outspoken Maine politician on behalf of food rights. He told me about how his first-hand experience with the challenges of farming and running a bed-and-breakfast in Winthrop led him to appreciate the political challenges facing small farms. He won a House seat in 2012.
All this activity Tuesday came on the heels of news that Michigan farmer Mark Baker of feral pork fame is running for sheriff in his home county. The decision to run grew out of his own frustration in getting what he considered to be reasonable support and protection from the local sheriff in his conflict with Michigan regulators, who tried to shut down his farm and fine him $700,000 for selling pigs deemed genetically inappropriate under its invasive species order. What better way to let the power that be know you are dissatisfied than to go after his job, so local farmers get better protection from wild-eyed government enforcers.
If there is one thing politicians respect it is competition, as in competition for their jobs. Given the expanding and onerous regulations on food, there may be more farmers seeking out elective office.