A profile of farmer and food activist Bob St. Peter as part of the “Food Voices” series.
WhyHunger is pleased to be partnering with Andrianna Natsoulas, longtime food sovereignty activist and author of the forthcoming book Food Voices: Stories of the Food Sovereignty Movement. In 2010, Andrianna began a journey across the Americas to capture the stories of people working towards and living a just and sustainable food system. As she continues her journey, spanning from Nova Scotia to Ecuador to Brazil and beyond, we will feature highlights of the stories she gathers.
Bob St. Peter is a farmer in Segdwick, ME, Hancock County. He is it is cofounder and member of the Board of Directors of Food For Maine’s Future, a board member of National Family Farm Coalition, and a member of La Via Campesina. Bob balances his ability to organize his community with his ability to farm. Below are Bob’s statements.
Through the organizing work — local farm, local food organizing work — this moment has arisen where people are being presented with a choice of the future for our community. There are enough of us now openly talking about it in that context. We’re going to have to do something collectively about it. So, we have people from across a political spectrum getting together and saying that we want to preserve this way of life. A group of us have crafted a local ordinance that would exempt direct farm sales from the people who are producing the food to the people who are eating it from many state or federal licensing and inspection regulations. Basically, regulations that are usurping our self governance, our right to govern our own local food supply and to not have any undue burdens placed upon that. We are asserting our food sovereignty and saying that we have it under control and we can do a better job than the state department of agriculture and certainly the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
If people are on the land and able to support themselves and their community, then they are less susceptible to tyranny. A survey of the history of conquest reveals that the conquerors always go after the food supply first. If you are going to colonize or conquer people, you take away their ability to feed themselves, and that has been shown time and again. And coincidentally or not, that pretty much has happened in this country for the last 70 years. Rural communities have been stripped of their ability to feed themselves because of very specific policy choices at the highest levels of government. If you say we are subject to tyranny, then you usually get lumped in with the Tea Party. It’s not so much tyranny of the government per se, as it is tyranny of the corporations who are aided and abetted by the government. And that’s what’s undermined our ability to feed ourselves.
The more we attach ourselves to the cash economy, the more dependent we are on the people who control the cash economy and we have to play by their rules. In terms of maintaining our way of life here, as rural people, as people of the land, we understand there is a need to generate cash so we can pay our bills. But if the direction of our movement is to commercialize and market and make that the priority, then we are going to be missing a lot of the security that comes with being able to make our own decisions in our own community about what gets produced, for whom, and at what price.