I had the good fortune to be assigned a sales call to the Cross Cafe at the Maine State Capitol Building this week. First, hat’s off to Richard Desjardin who can be quoted saying, “We really shouldn’t need a law to get us to buy local – it’s common sense.” And for ordering 3 cases of Northern Girl products. If you happen to be beating doors at the legislature in the near future please be sure to go on down to the cafe in the Cross Building and go looking for Northern Girl salad bar beets, Aroostook Roots roasting medley, and carrot sticks.
My 3 year old daughter Ivyn Annie calls the Capitol Building her, ‘Dancing Place’. I thought the sales call would be my golden opportunity to be both a good mom, responsible citizen, and COM sales contributor of the week, so I brought both Eli (5) and Ivyn with me on the trip. They were sufficiently adorable and bored at the sales meeting to keep things snappy and effective, so we headed off into the buzzing Capitol Building to look up the rotunda, wonder how we get VIP passes to go all the way up, and climbed 3 or 4 flights of marble stairs in the attempt. I think Ivyn was a little intimidated by the 30-odd jump ropers from Camden/Rockland who were part of a Healthy Hearts initiative going on that day. We didn’t quite get her to do any dance routines.
And I didn’t necessarily do any dance routines, either, I suppose. There is upcoming legislation on GMO labeling in Maine (here is a LINK to the initiative’s facebook page). This is an important issue that will need folks like you and me to sit down and explain why labeling GMO’s isn’t just about protecting consumers, but its also about fostering a better climate for the kinds of food businesses we know and love. Consider that the opening few steps of my dance routine.
I got a chance today (just getting back from Fredericton now, in fact) to speak at the ACORN Grower’s 2013 Strategy Meeting on the subject of distribution and building local markets. I’ll take almost any excuse to go to Fredericton (and I would definitely settle for a PEI or Nova Scotia offer someday) but it was most enlightening to me to hear that in NB, use of the word ORGANIC is not regulated on the local level. That means, if you are selling inter-province you must certify to call your products organic, but for local farmers markets anyone can claim their products are organic without being certified. Here in Maine certification is a must to call your wares organic, and although growers often use the term ‘organically grown but not certified’ the federal regulation is such that that is a false claim.
Learning from the NB growers (this group was, by and large, the certified growers) what this dual standard means on the ground really opened my eyes in a new way to the certification standard here in Maine. In Maine, if a grower claims their product is organic, that claim is verified through certification. In NB (remember we are only talking about in-province sales, here) the claim can be made falsely all day long with no reprecussion or education unless a fellow farmer chooses to make a point of it in front of the party making false claims. Think about it.
Everything labeled ‘CERT OG’ on the COM list is, indeed, certified organic by MOFGA or by another 3rd party certifying body. Items listed as CONV, ME GROWN, or any nomenclature that does not say CERT OG – is not certified organic and cannot be called organic under state and federal law. Verification of practices is a cornerstone of the program of organic. Going to NB today helped me see what the road looks like with out that piece in place…and gave me another reason to appreciate all that noise at the Capitol Building.