PORTLAND, Maine --- On the day Americans celebrate the land of the free, a Maine man wants governors to feel free to live off the land.
A sustainable food advocate who campaigned for the Obamas to plant a garden at the White House has now received pledges from several governor's offices to feature local foods on their Fourth of July menus, from Maine lobster to South Dakota pheasant jerky to milkshakes made with Montana huckleberries.
Roger Doiron said he was inspired to lobby governors to promote locally grown food after a patch of White House lawn was turned into an organic vegetable garden this spring.
"I said to myself, 'Maybe we should try to look to other first families to eat by example and use their Fourth of July to make that happen,'" said Doiron, who wants to brand the holiday "Food Independence Day."
Doiron is founder of Kitchen Gardeners International, a nonprofit that promotes food self-reliance through kitchen gardens and sustainable local food systems. Local foods are good for the palate, the health, local economies, the environment and your wallet, he said.
For the "Food Independence Day" effort, he teamed up with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Food and Society Fellows Program and the Mother Nature Network.
After setting up a Facebook page to promote the idea, they heard from more than 6,000 people who vowed to build their July Fourth menus around local and home-grown ingredients.
The governors' offices in Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia pledged to do the same, Doiron said. The office of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said the family would be out of state on July Fourth but would make efforts to eat locally through the year.
In Maine, the family of Gov. John Baldacci is planning a reunion this weekend that will include Maine lobsters, clams, mussels, potato salad and blueberry pie.
The menu in Maryland will have local crab cakes. South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds will be serving up pheasant jerky (the state bird) and walleye (the state fish) along with hamburgers and hot dogs.
Montana first lady Nancy Schweitzer is planning a meal that includes Montana-raised beef, milkshakes made with local huckleberries, and huckleberry crisp. In West Virginia, the produce is coming from a local farmers market, and tomatoes and herbs were grown at the governor's mansion.
In North Dakota, the meal will feature hamburgers made from North Dakota beef, along with hamburger buns made from local wheat, potato salad from local potatoes, and baked beans with bacon using local beans and North Dakota-raised pork.
Agriculture is North Dakota's No. 1 industry, said Donald Caton, spokesman for Gov. John Hoeven. "It wasn't difficult to put together a home-grown menu," he said.
For his part, Doiron's Fourth of July menu will include potatoes, dill, peas, salad makings and strawberries from his home garden in Scarborough. He also plans to dig clams from a local flat.
"This is an opportunity to celebrate our food culture," he said.
Food Independence Day: http://www.foodindependenceday.org
Kitchen Gardeners International: http://www.kitchengardeners.org