2. Sustainable Practices and Decision-Making Across Diverse Food Systems in Maine

Morning Session (Sagadahoc Room, 2nd Floor)

* 2 credits are available for this session through APA AICP

Sara Velardi, School of Forest Resources, University of Maine

The development of sustainable food systems in a changing climate and evolving globalized society is an ever more critical challenge. Food systems of production, distribution and consumption are embedded within issues of access, equality, sovereignty and justice that affect producers and consumers alike. Food producers attempt to harvest and distribute their products sustainably while trying to remain competitive within their markets, as consumers strive to purchase more locally-sourced foods in affordable and convenient ways. Across food systems in Maine, work is being done to better understand these systems and address current challenges. Drawing upon diverse disciplines, industries, and stakeholders, this session will look at the intersection of scale and sustainability as well as highlight some of the present work, progress, and applied solutions within the broader local food movement in Maine to achieve a more sustainable food system.

Session Presentations

  • 8:30AM – 8:55AM: Climate Change and Regional Food Security, Scott Vlaun
  • 9:00AM – 9:25AM: Alternative treatment for a chronic disease of small ruminants, Caseous lymphadenitis (CL), Cassandra Miller (student)
  • 9:30AM – 9:55AM: Sustainability in the Maine maple sugaring industry: how alternative forms of wealth are conceptualized by producers, Skye Siladi (student)
  • 10:00AM – 10:25AM: Community Food Councils as Vessels for Coordinated Food System Change, Brianna Bowman, Jim Hanna, Scott Vlaun, Kelly Davis, Ken Morse

Presenters are indicated in bold.

8:30AM – 8:55AM

Climate Change and Regional Food Security

Scott Vlaun
Executive Director, Center for an Ecology-Based Economy


With its deep reliance on fossil fuels, ongoing tillage, and continuing deforestation, the International food system is one of the main drivers of global warming, contributing up to one third of global greenhouse gas emissions. This food system is also extremely vulnerable to the climate instability caused by global warming, especially extreme weather events and protracted drought which exacerbate soil erosion, aquifer depletion, pollution of waterways, and ecosystem degradation. All this while failing to feed a hungry world.

The food system also holds the promise to help mitigate global warming while adapting to a changing climate through transitioning to agricultural practices that sequester carbon in soils and tree crops, with the bonus of producing healthier, more nutrient dense food in a more biodiverse, localized system. This slide presentation represents extensive research into the environmental and climate impacts of the industrial food system in the United States as well as its vulnerabilities. More importantly, it features working examples of cold-climate food production, mostly from the upper midwestern U.S., that demonstrate regenerative agriculture practices at a commercial scale that can be adapted to Maine’s landscapes and climate.

The presenter makes the case for bio-regionally based research into appropriate regenerative agricultural practices that can increase regional food security, be replicable within limits, and address the climate crisis, while decreasing our dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels to feed a growing population.

9:00AM – 9:25AM

Alternative treatment for a chronic disease of small ruminants, Caseous lymphadenitis (CL)

Anne Lichtenwalner1,2, Ann Bryant1, Cassandra Miller (student)1, Sarah Paluso1
1 University of Maine School of Food and Agriculture, Orono, ME
2 University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Orono, ME


Caseous lymphadenitis (CL) is a chronic bacterial infection of small ruminants (sheep, goats and camelids) caused by Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis (C.psTB). Maine has a many small ruminant flocks, most of which consist of fewer than 100 animals. During 2008 in Maine, multiple cases of abscesses in small ruminants, including internal abscesses in alpacas, were found; these were consistent with the clinical presentation of CL. This organism is persistent both in the environment and in the host immune system, and may cause superficial or internal abscesses. Due to the persistent nature of this pathogen, small farm owners may need to use treatments of animals and environmental surfaces to eradicate this organism from the farm, as well as culling infected animals. Due to changes in availability of antibiotics for farm use, increasing awareness of curtailing antibiotic use to reduce the incidence of antibiotic resistance in microbial pathogens, and a general movement toward organic methods in farming, finding alternative ways of eradicating C.psTB is of interest. Our lab utilized rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) oil emulsions to evaluate C.psTB sensitivity in vitro.  Preliminary results indicate that this essential oil is effective against C.psTB at relatively low concentrations. Utilization of a spray emulsion in agricultural settings (feeders, barns) where small ruminants are housed may be a feasible means of disinfecting using organic methods. Alternatively, compounds that are found to be effective in vitro will be tested using cell culture and in vivo to assess safety and efficacy against this common threat to small ruminant health.

9:30AM – 9:55AM

Sustainability in the Maine maple sugaring industry: how alternative forms of wealth are conceptualized by producers

Skye Siladi (student)1, Cynthia Isenhour2, Jessica Leahy3, Sara Velardi3, Kourtney Collum4, Melissa Ladenheim5, Julia McGuire6
1 Dept. of Anthropology, University of Maine, Orono, ME
2 Dept. of Anthropology & Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, ME
3 School of Forest Resources, University of Maine, Orono, ME
4 College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME
5 Honors College, University of Maine, Orono, ME
6 School of Biology & Ecology, University of Maine, Orono, ME


Why do people farm? The answers are increasingly unclear given the heightened pressure of agricultural consolidation among small family farms. Understanding the sustainability of this industry requires looking beyond monetary factors– particularly the social and cultural ties within and among communities that inspire people to remain in a profession which may not be as lucrative as it once was. This paper explores conceptualizations of social, cultural, and natural wealth as rationales for continuing in agricultural work, by focusing on maple syrup producers in Maine. At the small and medium-scale, maple syrup production cannot provide substantial income and yet people continue to participate in a time- and labor-intensive activity with marginal returns. We therefore argue that maple sugaring makes an interesting case study through which to explore the sustainability of small-scale agricultural endeavors with minimal financial benefits. Drawing on 10 semi-structured interviews with both multigenerational and first-generation maple syrup producers in Maine this paper explores the reasons these producers have chosen to continue or begin maple syrup production, focusing on how the social connections, family history, cultural influence, and ecological factors have influenced their decisions surrounding their business. We argue that monetary considerations are not the primary factor in maple producers’ decisions, rather that there is an array of motivations which suggest that their gains are linked to the intrinsic value in people, human relationships, and connections to culture and place, and that the sustainability of maple sugaring is linked to these alternative forms of wealth.

10:00AM – 10:25AM

Community Food Councils as Vessels for Coordinated Food System Change

Brianna Bowman1, Jim Hanna2, Scott Vlaun3, Kelly Davis4, Ken Morse5
1 Coordinator, Maine Network of Community Food Councils
2 Director, Cumberland County Food Security Council
3 Executive Director, Center for Ecology-Based Economy
4 Gleaning Coordinator, Merrymeeting Gleaners
5 Network Resource Advisor, Maine Network of Community Food Councils


Throughout Maine, Community Food Councils are advancing locally responsive food systems change that prioritizes some of the most critical aspects of a just and sustainable food future for our state. This session will highlight three Community Food Councils and their work on racial equity, regenerative agriculture, and waste reduction. Participants will learn about these individual efforts and how they are woven together into a coordinated and mutually supportive movement by the Maine Network of Community Food Councils (MNCFC).

The Center for Ecology Based Economy will share about intersections of agriculture and climate change, and their work to bring regenerative agricultural practices to Norway, Maine through the establishment of a permaculture food forest and community composting program at the Alan Day Memorial Garden.

The Cumberland County Food Security Council will discuss how their work addresses anti-racism, and the efforts they have taken to raise awareness about structural racism by facilitating the Racial Wealth Gap Learning Simulation. The Simulation is an interactive tool developed by Bread for the World that helps people understand the connections among racial equity, hunger, poverty, and wealth.

The Merrymeeting Gleaners, a project of the Merrymeeting Food Council, will share their work to redirect over 40,000 lbs of surplus and “ugly” food products to food security organizations, by working with local farms and food producers to take excess food from the fields or farmers’ markets and delivering that food to local food pantries, soup kitchens, Head Start and WIC programs, and low-income housing communities.