Friday, November 6, 2009

Weekly Food Roundup - Tom's of Maine, Keeping Mum and State Issue 2

*Weekly Food Roundup is a weekly recap of local, national and global food issues as they play out online, in print and in our everyday lives. Check back every Friday for new installments.*

Last Friday was the end of our month-long voting campaign to win a $20,000 grant from Tom's of Maine, and we are still crossing our fingers. We haven't received word one way or another about the outcome of the voting, and, as far as we know, neither has anyone else. Today is supposed to be the last day for Tom's to announce the winners, so hopefully this post will be followed with some excellent news. Cross your fingers, too.

However the news plays out, though, we are extremely grateful for the amount of support we received from our local community, from our farmers and families, and from our growing network of supporters around the country. We would be nothing without that support.


The buzz around town this week is centered on a certain television celebrity, who is doing something charitable for some local aid organization during a certain holiday. We're supposed to remain mum on the details, obviously, though the news is already widely known. We're excited about those details, and the good it could bring to our community. (If you somehow don't know, we apologize for that confusing paragraph. And no, it's not Nick Lachey again.)

On Wednesday the VISTA group helped other volunteers unpack and set-up hundreds of pounds of displaced food, to be distributed for the weekly Wednesday grocery give-out. The food came from a certain aid organization which is temporarily out-of-commission for undisclosed reasons, but people are still hungry and the food still needs to be distributed. Noah Campbell, the pastor of Wilmington First Baptist Church, graciously offered his church's basement for the day to distribute the food and everything seemed to flow smoothly given the new location. Noah told us Wednesday evening that more than 200 people came for groceries and box lunches provided by Kerry at Generations Pizza: yet another example of this community rallying and reaching out to those in need.


The first Tuesday after the first Monday in November (read: Election Day) came this past Tuesday, and one statewide ballot measure that divided the Ohio agriculture community passed overwhelmingly. That measure, of course, was State Issue 2, which amended the Ohio constitution to create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. Made up of 13 state-appointed members, the board will "set standards for livestock and poultry care that take into account issues of food safety, local availability and affordability of food and best farm management practices for animal well-being," according to the Political Action Committee that bankrolled the pro-Issue 2 campaign, Ohioans for Livestock Care.

While we'd rather remain apolitical, even we VISTAs were split on Issue 2. Some of us argued that creating a standards board in Ohio to set policy for Ohio farmers is a good idea, but the Ohio constitution is not the place for it. The Columbus Dispatch, the Akron Beacon Journal, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Toledo Blade and the Dayton Daily News all agreed with that and argued against the issue in editorials. Others of us argued that the board was necessary to make sure Ohioans are responsible for setting and enforcing those standards, and Governor Strickland, Agriculture Director Boggs, the Ohio Farm Bureau and a number of other organizations took that side as well. Here's what Director Boggs had to say about the matter:
"With the passage of Issue 2, Ohioans have proven their support of keeping the state’s number one industry—food and agriculture—vibrant and strong. The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board will serve Ohio’s citizens in a way that will be transparent and open. Ohioans who desire to have their voices heard will have an opportunity to do so during this public process."
In the end, we're not farmers, and we don't intend to tell farmers how to do their job. Let's hope the standards board will be as transparent as Director Boggs maintain.


Becca said...

you can't write about political views as a VISTA! Isn't that against the Hatch Act?

Grow Food, Grow Hope said...

The Hatch Act, as we read it, prohibits VISTAs from "engaging in political activity" while on-duty. We made sure not to declare a position on the Issue, and not to even talk about it until after election day. I wouldn't consider objective commentary about an issue that directly impacts Ohio agriculture, and could impact our organization, as "political activity."

Then again, "political activity" is pretty vague, and could be stretched either way. We erred on not taking sides, and rather just stated the arguments from both sides and the bodies that endorsed those sides.

You can read the full Hatch Act here.

Thanks for the comment and for reading!