This exchange, for me, has been a little like listening over a very bad
phone connection, as I only seem to be hearing half of what is said.
Anyway, I believe I agree with basically everything Lawrence says (and I'd
love to live where he does).
The scenario of living in an area with nothing but farmland visible all
around is very possibly a symptom of this society's relationship to
agriculture, and what is wrong with that relationship - where agriculture
is far away from and not integrated with the rest of the population.
Myself, I get frustrated with the idea that farming "the right way" means
being an impractical idealistic pauper. CSA farmers, for instance, who
don't build the cost of healthcare, etc. into their wages are being
needlessly sacrificing. I simply don't believe that's the only choice, and
I think if someone asked the consumers, they'd agree. I also know that
things will not change overnight - most of the country's food needs will
continue to be supplied by plains states and California, barring any
I am strongly interested in the growing movement among consumers - not
among farmers, but consumers - who are demanding greater control over their
food quality and seem increasingly receptive to marketing systems like
those in other places like Japan and Europe and Great Britain, where
"guild" type farmers deal directly with their local customers through
various arrangements. And, lest you accuse me of basing all my ideas on
some far-off system I know nothing about, the simple fact is, I know
farmers in this country who make excellent livings through direct
marketing. Sure, no solution will take care of all the struggling farmers
in this country; sure, some will be interested, for bigger profits
(deceptive, maybe) or because they're too far from population centers, or
because they simply don't like dealing with people, in selling mostly to
brokers or wholesalers or whatever. But conversations about "blanket
solutions" are bound to be very silly conversations.
By the way - all those friends and relations Mark relates to via e-mail -
I'm sure you met (and were born to!) many of them before e-mail became so
popular. I don't see the relevance of the internet and the fossil fuel it
saves(it does?), to a conversation about quality, fresh-picked produce - it
won't go through the wires! A local farm operating right in the middle of
town sends a very charming and entertaining blanket e-mail message out to
all its fans and constituents weekly. But we're _fans_ because we can mosy
down to the farm any old day, admire the organically tended fields, and
select by hand the produce fresh-picked that morning.
At 04:38 PM 5/16/98 -0500, Mark Bruns wrote:
>I don't know if it's unreasonable to expect consumers to know the grower
>and the operation ... it shouldn't be in five, ten or fifteen years or
>however long it takes for this information network we are using to be as
>ubiquitous as energy or transportation infrastructures. After all, what is
>information technology and the Internet for, if not to exchange
>information? For example, right now [as you're reading this], you are
>more ~local~ to me than any of my three nearest neighbors who each live 1/2
>mile away. I'm also willing to bet that you and I have more in common
>(with respect to interests, educational backgrounds, etc.) than those folks
>and I do. Maybe not, I dunno. But I do KNOW that it is cheaper, easier
>and less wasteful (of fossil fuels / energy / personal resources) for me to
>communicate with you (since they don't yet have Internet access).
>So it is not at all immediately obvious to me why a customer would have to
>be local (within 30 miles) in order to ~know~ me? If I consider my
>personal friends and family members ... took a sample of people who know me
>best (by almost any standard you want to use) -- more of those people would
>come from outside a 30 mile radius than inside that 30 mile radius. That
>might be different for some other folks, but I'm willing to bet that would
>be true for most others ... particularly for professionals or people with
>I understand the sentimental appeal of the eco-groovy LOCAL GARDEN utopian
>vision, because I tried marketing to local customers for more than 10 years
>before I finally "wised up" ... and I'm still poor enough to prove that I
>was every bit as much the hard-headed "local produce" ideologue as anyone
>else. I recognize that there are regions of the country where 30 miles is
>sufficient to provide an appreciative, affluent market base which can
>provide reasonable employment to a local grower. But I do not live in one
>of those regions. Even if I did, I am not so sure that I would so quick to
>dismiss the notion of specialization or global markets. My guess is that
>"ideological flexibility" (particularly in terms of tolerance of different
>points of view, alternative paradigms) would offer a higher probability of
>For those of us in areas with farmland everywhere we look and a high
>population of family farmers, specialization is absolutely necessary in
>order to achieve mastery and to be able to continuously and consistently
>improve. You simply cannot get good enough at anything to know enough
>about it to improve if you are doing ten or twenty or fifty different
>things ... and that is exactly what you're doing if you're the
>horticulturist, soil scientist, geneticist, grower, mechanic, marketer,
>manager, accountant, engineer, child-care provider, gofer for a business
>that produces twenty different products.
>Of course, financial / microeconomic diversification is absolutely
>necessary -- I'd highly recommend off-farm employment for at least one
>member of [sustainable ag] farm families (especially if telecommuting is an
>option) and joining/forming a LOCAL investment club ("club" as in ~group of
>friends whose company you enjoy enough to tolerate even when their stock
>selections stink~) in order to carefully, diligently study, discuss,
>understand, and invest in superior organizations. I belong to one of
>these clubs and I've learned a lot about my fellow club members ~~ about
>how each one of them assesses information and makes decisions, about how we
>all are able quickly reach consensus on thorny issues or how we are able
>learn from one another ~~ and we've even learned a little bit about how
>excellent, responsible companies prosper and grow. We've also learned why
>all of the best companies are increasingly engaged in global commerce and
>trade in some way or another ~~ worldwide, it's the same story, customers
>want to buy the very best value at the lowest cost.
>At 11:50 PM 5/15/98 -0400, Lawrence F. London, Jr. wrote:
>>On Wed, 13 May 1998, Wilson, Dale wrote:
>>> Don't you think it is a little unreasonable to expect consumers to know
>>> the grower and their operation personally? What you are really saying
>>> is that you are willing, as a producer, to accept a tiny, purely local
>>> market. Probably, many organic farmers don't feel that way.
>>Who ever said local markets are "tiny"? Why would any small
>>(microfarmer/market gardener - 5 acres +/-) want to/have to resort to
>>shipping out his produce more than 30 miles away (that might be
>>considered a reasonable maximum distance for delivery of produce,in a
>>3-5/day/week schedule). If you grew speciality crops that might be
>>different. The benefits to farmers and the communities they live near
>>are tremendous with a local direct marketing system. The cooperation
>>possible between growers and consumers is boundless. The benefits
>>to the counties they live in and areas they market to are great;
>>working farms make money for the county; they demand less from the county
>>for each tax dollar paid. Small farms and family farms that are
>>economically secure from local direct sales set a good example for
>>local governments, encouraging them to design and implement farmland
>>and open space preservation plans. Encouraging small and family farms to
>>diversify and engage in production for local sales keeps them on their
>>farms, makes money for the counties thay live in, gives consumers access
>>to products of exceptional quality priced fairly and helps keep good
>>or prime farmland away from development forces.
>>Lets hear it for growers committed to LOCAL DIRECT SALES!
>>Lets hear it also for saving farmland, small farming and family farms!
>>I will soon start a new mailing list (also accessable via your news
>>readers and web browser [a Lyris mailing list for those interested]
>>for these growers called new-local-grower; posting ID when I have it
>>set up will be firstname.lastname@example.org.
>>a local grower using natural farming methods in Chapel Hill, NC
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