Farmer Labor Gubernatorial Forum on tap today

Posted April 30, 2010, at 10:09 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — The Eastern Maine Labor Council and Food AND Medicine are teaming up to present a Farmer Labor Gubernatorial Forum today at the council’s Solidarity Center at 20 Ivers St.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Rosa Scarcelli, Libby Mitchell, Pat McGowan, Steve Rowe and Republican hopefuls Peter Mills and Paul LePage are slated to take part in the forum, which will run from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

The forum will be preceded by a 12:30 p.m. lunch of shepherd’s pie made from locally raised meat and locally grown vegetables, Jack McKay, director of Food AND Medicine, said Friday.

According to McKay, today’s Farmer Labor Gubernatorial Forum is among the first of its kind to be held since the Grange movement of the 19th century.

During the forum, the candidates will discuss issues important to Maine’s workers and farmers. As many as 100 union members, laid-off workers and others are expected to attend.

“The regional economy is in such transition,” he said, noting that the manufacturing jobs that once sustained Maine families “are being replaced by jobs of inferior quality.”

“The next governor of Maine will have a major impact on issues that are important to workers and to farmers,” he said.

For workers, issues include quality of jobs, health care, the ability to form unions and the future of the social safety net, he said.

“A lot of young people want to get into farming but it’s a challenge,” he said. “It’s a real labor of love, and you don’t get rich.” State agricultural rules and programs can make or break small farmers.

He said Food AND Medicine has been organizing farmer-labor initiatives since 2003. Among those initiatives are the Solidarity Harvest project, which provides more than 1,000 locally grown Thanksgiving meals to laid-off workers, and the Union Supported Agriculture program.

The suggested donation for the event is $10, McKay said. He said proceeds would go toward the large community greenhouse the labor council plans to build at its center this summer. The structure will be used to grow vegetables and fruit for the council’s events and for local families in need.

For information, contact McKay at 989-4141.

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