PORTLAND, Maine — Vendors at Portland’s Farmers’ Market are lobbying the city for the right to sell raw milk and hard cider.

The issue of unpasteurized milk in particular being allowed at the popular public markets came to a head as many who set up stands didn’t know the product was prohibited.

Doug Donahue of the Pittsfield-based Balfour Farm said it came as a surprise to him when he was taken to task for carrying raw milk just last week.

“As of last Wednesday, a city inspector came and told us we could no longer sell it,” Donahue told the Bangor Daily News on Tuesday.

John Golden, a food writer for Down East magazine who attended a Tuesday night meeting of the city’s Health and Recreation Committee, said Portland is the only municipality in Maine that doesn’t allow unpasteurized milk at its farmers markets.

“It’s not allowed at the [Portland] Farmers’ Market, but you can legally buy it at any other store in the city,” Golden said.

Neither raw milk nor hard cider are allowed to be sold at the markets, which are held on Mondays and Wednesdays in Monument Square and on Saturdays in Deering Oaks Park.

On Tuesday, the committee was slated to discuss adding hard cider to the list of products that can be sold at the farmers market. The proposed change comes in part in response to the recent passage of a state law that allows permitted farm winery operations to sell certain alcoholic beverages at farmers markets statewide.

David Buchanan attended the meeting and told the committee he plans to team with Eli Cayer of Urban Farm Fermentory to sell hard ciders at the farmers market and he thinks the allowance of the alcoholic product could be a further boon for the market.

“I’m really interested in bringing back the cider business, exploring different flavors and bringing it to market,” Buchanan said.

With the conversation open about what’s allowable at the Portland Farmers’ Market, nearly a dozen advocates for adding unpasteurized milk to that list also showed up at the committee meeting. Emails reportedly circulated among vendors and other interested parties that the raw milk issue would be discussed by the committee Tuesday.

Unpasteurized milk was not on the agenda, however.

“This started out as a question of, ‘Do we want [to allow] cider or don’t we,’ and now we’re talking about rewriting the whole ordinance,” said Cheryl Leeman, a city councilor and committee member.

The committee, which is chaired by City Councilor Dory Waxman and also includes City Councilor John Anton, will renew discussions of allowing both beverages at the Portland Farmers’ Market at its scheduled November meeting.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.