Re: ag education (Whew--I'm bashing them tonight!)
Greg & Lei Gunthorp (email@example.com)
Sat, 6 Feb 1999 20:19:02 -0500
If you can take the abuse inside the system then by all means I say go for
it, but trying to change the system is not for the weak or faint of heart.
They will abuse you. They will try to wear you down. They will attack you
on everything besides the message because the message is strong. The
economics of the modern day capital intensive industrial model that we
jokingly refer to as "American agriculture" are by far the weakest link in
its obvious lack of sustainability!!!!
We have seen the abuse first hand. My wife and I are Farm Bureau
members. Fairly active actually. I honestly believe the actual farm
community is not opposed to the issues that we in the sustainable ag
community support. I'm county VP and we both served two years on the state
young farmer committee. In fact Lei was the state young farmer secretary
last year. This year we were selected as the state young farmer
achievement award winner. Its about a 15 page application explaining the
farm operation, strengths and weaknesses of the operation, future goals,
and leadership activities. Needless to say it was too much for some to
handle that a little old 100 acre pasture hog farm should or could win the
state contest. I was also fortunate enough to win the state discussion
meet. It was a four round contest with 42 people in it. The topics this
year were Cloning, Urban Sprawl, Small/Large Farms, and Changing
Demographics of FB membership. I got to discuss the changing demographics
of FB membership in front of 1900+ FB members. It was kind of fun to talk
about sustainable ag issues. Because like I said before, its hard to find
people to argue with when you really get down to discussing issues. Of
course I did find a lady from Minnesota to argue with on the "obvious"
economic advantages of large farms at the national contest but that is a
whole nother post. Kind of funny she had no statistics and I did! Back to
talking about the kill the messenger campaigns once you publicly step out
and say that "conventional" agriculture is not sustainable. (I don't like
that word conventional anymore because honestly there aren't enough
"conventional" family supporting farms out there to call it
conventional--thats a whole nother post also.)
Anyhow, one person, that we even thought was our freind, had the nerve to
go around and tell everyone that the only reason we support our family with
about a thousand hogs a year on a hundred acres is "because we have a
$20,000 a year trust fund that we failed to mention on the award
application." She also said that I was a paid speaker that receives $1200
per speaking engagement. I'm obviously doing a very poor job at
bookkeeping because I haven't found any of these checks yet. We also have
a "fan" (or enemy) that calls around threatening any of the conferences
that I speak at with bad publicity. One of Farm Progress Companies
syndicated columnists has a very large grudge against us. We had to go as
far as allowing him to talk with our banker just to get him to quit
harassing us. He still doesn't believe pasture hogs are working for us.
He hasn't harassed us lately since we sent the president of the company a
letter. He still follows me around the internet to the NPPC board and the
like and posts very derogatory posts under aliases. Yes I signed the
petition to get rid of the hog tax but as long as its still around I'm
going to give them my two cents worth. I'm a huge fan of telling the
sustainable ag story to the rest of agriculture. Some will not appreciate
it! In fact Lei just sent an email off today to the Indiana pork producers
to share her thoughts on what they didn't include in the first two IPPA and
Purdue hog crisis forums. They addressed none of the issues that face
small hog farms and they know at least one family wasn't impressed!
Getting new breeding stock was one of the best answers they had. I wonder
if they were serious? Especially when that suggestion came from a breeding
stock supplier. Where is the accountability in the land grants programs?
These people that are part of the kill the messenger campaigns will never
admit that they are very scared about the future of "conventional"
agriculture. They know as well as we do that it is falling apart. The
statistics show it. The general feeling of farmers in the country show it.
They aren't willing to step up to this inevitable paradigm shift if we
want any family farms left. They are in denial and they are fighting it
hard. The academics know where there money comes from. They can not and
will not cut their own money trail. Did I say that???? Until you get out
here in the real world, there text book answers work fine. Out here in the
real world economics take on this "Is there money in the checkbook even
though the paper says there should be syndrome". And they don't have to
tell me about cash flow, income maximisation, opportunity costs, etc.
I've heard it all before. I've got one of those brain factory ag econ
degrees up on the wall. (Actually I hide it.) When they start talking
about increasing marketing sector margins and increasing input costs and
the realistic ways that farmers can capture more of the market price and
the ways to reduce input costs long term then I will have something good to
say about them. Direct marketing and low input production systems would be
an excellent place to start.
Joel Salatin has some excellent comments in his latest book YOU CAN FARM
on not sharing sustainable ag dreams. He explains the things that will
happen when you start sharing sustainable ag dreams with conventional
agriculture. I still think it is worth telling the story.
Hang in there. Give em hell. And come back and let us know when you
make some progress. Because don't let them fool you, the sustainable ag
movement is gaining huge momentum even in this very conservative state of
Indiana. Its unstoppable now! Remind me in the next week or so to tell
you a story about our latest FB young farmer conference that I got Steve
Bonney, president of Sustainable Earth, to talk about profitable farming
strategies in one of the break out sessions. It goes a long way to show
that we haven't got rid of our "hobby" farm image as sustainable
Gunthorp's Pasture-ized Pork
visit our farm at www.grassfarmer.com
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> To: Peggy Adams <email@example.com>
> Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Re: ag education
> Date: Saturday, February 06, 1999 1:45 PM
> I am having a similar experience at Cornell U. I am in the PhD program in
> Ag Econ, and find particular resonance in Peggy's comment about
> researchers with thier hands in the corporate pockets
> However, if all of us "organic" types stay away from Ag schools, how will
> we ever sway the agenda their to a more balanced view of sustainable ag?
> I was told here that if I plan to be an ag economist and work in Sus.
> ag., I will be an outcast
> I prefer to think of myself as a visionary...delusions of granduer,
> perhaps, but I believe such work needs to be done. Economics is a crucial
> part of sustainability
> I guess it boils down to the age old argument of "can you do more good
> inside or outside of the system??" I've been outside. now I'm trying it
> from the inside
> On Fri, 5 Feb 1999, Peggy Adams wrote:
> > Eric,
> > My experience at the University of Idaho was similar, only far worse.
> > There was general, and occasionally extreme, animosity toward anyone or
> > anything that was remotely related to "sustainable" agriculture".
> > Organic farming was considered an "extremist fringe group of hobby
> > gardeners" by much of the faculty in the college of agriculture. Since
> > graduation I've been working with a non-profit to promote sustainable
> > organic farms and to move WSU and UI, both land-grant universities, to
> > adopt a more inclusive attitude. We've had some success but they are
> > deep in the pockets of the ag chemical and biotech industry that
> > is minimal.
> > Although I stuck with it and graduated with a degree in Ag Economics,
> > encouraged other students to go into Environmental Science and stay
> > from the college of ag altogether.
> > I believe our experience is not at all uncommon. Let's hope more
> > continue to push these schools until some enlightenment occurs.
> > P.
> > To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with the command
> > "unsubscribe sanet-mg".
> > To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command
> > "subscribe sanet-mg-digest".
> > All messages to sanet-mg are archived at:
> > http://www.sare.org/htdocs/hypermail
> To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with the command
> "unsubscribe sanet-mg".
> To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command
> "subscribe sanet-mg-digest".
> All messages to sanet-mg are archived at:
To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with the command
To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command
All messages to sanet-mg are archived at: