Vote With Your Fork. What If You Actually Did? Part Cutler of 3

Anyone who knows me well understands that I’m too jaded by my experiences in the belly of the beast to endorse or even put my faith in any candidate for governor (or any office above those at the local level really).  So if it seems to you, after reading my critiques of candidates Michaud and LePage and then this of Cutler, that I’m endorsing Mr. Cutler I’ll put that out of the way.  I’m not.  I’ve lived long enough to know too much to think any candidate for a statewide office is going to live up to his or her promises and sound bites once elected.

But whoever ends up winning the governorship should flat out adopt many of the promises Mr. Cutler makes on his agriculture and forestry webpage.  Of the three candidates he puts forth the most ambitious and progressive set of policies which really reflect knowledge of the serious challenges we face in the coming decades.  While he, like his counterparts, probably has little clue about the nuts and bolts of his agriculture policy, his Ag page hints that he has hired some very good advisers on the subject.  Take, for instance, his idea about introducing young people to agricultural and food sciences at the high school level.  On a personal note, I give a lot of talks and presentations to school children of all ages and these kids are hungry for this knowledge.  It’s very gratifying.

Children are inherently drawn to farm life.

Children are inherently drawn to farm life.

This is one of the most logical things I’ve ever heard proposed by any candidate to date.  Do you know that the average age of farmers in this country is over 50?  More alarming than that is the fact that the vast majority of farmland belongs to farmers over 60.  Why is that alarming?  When you reach that age what do you begin to think about?  Retirement.  If you’ve spent the last several decades putting sweat equity into your land you probably won’t have much to show for it in terms of liquidity…unless you sell your farm.  Now if you sell your farm you probably want to reap the biggest return on investment.  That means you’re not going to sell it to some young, up-in-coming farmer who has zero capital.  You’re going to sell it to some developer.  Boom!  Our farmland disappears with our farmers.  When young people are introduced to agriculture and food science in schools they will place a higher value on food and by extension farming when they grow up to become breadwinners and taxpayers.  Higher value placed on food and agriculture means more aging farmers will be able to sell their farms (or pass them on within the family) while keeping the land in production.  When more people begin placing value on their food and the farms that produce it, farming will return to the status of viable economic endeavor and it will be easier for young farmers to obtain credit to purchase a farm (something that is nearly impossible currently).  Of course, this is only important if you like eating food that didn’t come from China or Argentina.  And while Mr. Cutler’s idea of preserving farmland through groups like the Maine Farmland Trust is a valid one we need to understand that farmland is inherently valuable for what it, and those that work it, provide.  Once people are made aware of the value of locally produced food, be it nutritional, taste, environmental or economic value, farmland can preserve itself.

CSA Picnic

While many of the other ideas Mr. Cutler proposes are worth mention and worth supporting no matter who is in the Blaine House, the one I want to address here is his support of labeling.  This actually seems like a political no-brainer to  me.  If you remember a couple years back Maine passed a GMO labeling bill.  While the bill is sort of a joke (if you worked on its passage sorry if that offends you but we still don’t have labeling of GMO’s…watered down much?) one thing that was noteworthy about it was the amount of bipartisan support it garnered throughout the lawmaking process.  The numbers were overwhelming.  Not since the ‘Patriot Act’ have I seen such lock step support by politicians.  (And hey, this time it wasn’t even out of jingoistic fear).  This isn’t hard to understand.  Over 93% of the country supports labeling food that contains GMO’s (vitually the same percentage in Maine).  There is NOTHING else that garners this much popular support.  Nothing.  Not even people’s hatred of congress, though that’s getting pretty close.  Mr. Cutler claims to support this.  Neither Mr. Michaud nor Mr. LePage even mention it.  While I don’t put much faith in the pie crust promises of politicians (easily made, easily broken {whoever came up with that saying obviously never made pie crust]) Mr. Cutler does deserve praise for at least surrounding himself with people who put forth appropriate solutions for some of the terrifying problems that face us in one of the most important, if not the most important, aspects of our lives…our food.  Local food.  Eat well – be well.


Ryan Parker

About Ryan Parker

Ryan Parker is a farmer, writer, artist and musician. He currently lives in Central Maine with his wife, two children, a golden retriever, some pigs and chickens. He raises pastured and forested animals and grows a diverse range of vegetables without synthetic chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or taxpayer subsidies.