This is a very rich topic with many aspects to be discussed. Woody's
observations are central. We should think about the notion of "value-added".
Many people have observed that modern industrial society has gone
through a process of "commodification". All cultural and social relationship
become gradually reduced to the terms of the almighty dollar. Where I live
we see this in Mesomaerican's sacred crop corn. Corn has deep cultural
meaning for Mayan Indians. They grow it for food and they grow it for money.
But they also grow it to exchange for labor and other things within the
community, they grow it (special varieties) for certain kinds of dishes and
for certain fiestas. They grow it because they think it is part of being
human; growing and preparing corn for food is a large part of what it means
to be married, to be a family. They grow to it give the gods.
In the NAFTA mentality, corn is reduced to a price, a commodity. Any
corn will do as long as it doesn't have weevils (of course, no body wants
any of that weird "Indian corn"). NAFTA mentality says "Corn from the US is
cheaper, so US farmers must be more efficient, so Indians should stop
growing corn because its 'uneconomical'". If they resist, they're being
stubborn and are an obstacle to progress, so FMI and the World Bank pressure
the Mexican government to implement policies that are, in essence,
ethnocidal and genocidal, like NAFTA and the reforms the Mexican government
put into place to prepare for NAFTA. Indians are "redundant" in the global
economy, said Salina's principal ag advisor. These policies seek to destroy
or prevent autonomy, a cultural space where meaning is forged, where the
"commodity" gives way to multidimensional "value".
The battle is between this "commodity" mentality and the idea that
farmers "food", that is, something with *meaning*. something culturally
appropriated, something that maintains our health and expresses our culture.
The neck of the hour glass is the filter that keeps farmers on the
"commodity" side (an therefore getting little reward for their labor) and
the corporations in strict control of the process of turning commodities
into meaningful products, i.e. food. The point is the phrase is not
"price-added" but "value added" Value is more than money and many
dimensions of value cannot be reduced to purely economic terms.
Shopping is part of the process of cultural appropriation, of
turning commodities into food. If we shop responsibly, i.e. we look for
organic products, products produced by small farmers, products with quality,
cultural meaning, if we try to widen the bottleneck, then we contribute to
breaking the corporate stranglehold.
Some scholars (e.g. Baudrillard) have said that in advanced
capitalist societies, consumption becomes a more powerful force than
production, that the political battle for hegemony lies at the point of
consumption rather than the point of production. Deusing cites
figure that tell us that 80 cents of our food dollar is actually devoted to
the appropriation process, only 20 cents to production of food commodities.
Thus the importance of "winning the hearts and minds of the consumers".
Consumers may have the power to bring renegade corporations to heel by
shopping reflexively. The importance of CSA and farmers markets lies in
returning a social and cultural dimension to agriculture and food, going
beyond the idea that 'the market' is everything. Food for thought.
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