craig k harris
department of sociology
michigan state university
429b berkey hall
east lansing michigan 48824-1111
> From: Roberto Verzola[SMTP:email@example.com]
> Sent: Saturday 27 March 1999 2:10 AM
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Re: Wow
> >sustainable agriculture do so among themselves. Don't get me wrong, I'm
> >not trying to stifle your freedom of speech and yes, I too have a delete
> >key which allows me to be selective. But, can we steer discussion back
> >the issues of good old sustainable agriculture? I'm ready for the
> An occasional discussion of the social context of agricultural
> practices can sometimes help some appreciate the deep roots of the
> threats to the viability of ecological agriculture.
> But I will also withdraw from pursuing this thread further.
> On the idea that farmers should think more like businesses and CEOs:
> It seems that this is precisely the cause of the major shift towards
> ecologically-unsustainable practices.
> I act as informal adviser to an organized farmers' group in the
> Philippines. Some plant rice, others vegetables; some maintain fruit
> orchards. I'd like to share some of their comments about maintaining
> ecologically-sustainable practices:
> - They have very little bargaining power because they are poor. Their
> family will go hungry if they don't sell their crop soon after
> - Their product is perishable (rice will last for many months, but
> fruits and vegetables are), which worsens their bargaining power.
> They are currently discussing whether it is better to plant most of
> the food crops they consume themselves (rice + vegetables) or heed the
> government call to plant cash/export crops. The emerging consensus
> seems to be to plant enough food crops (and enough variety) for their
> own consumption, so their families won't go hungry if they are unable
> to sell their surplus. This improves their bargaining power. At the
> core of this idea is subsistence agriculture (producing for one's own
> consumption). This leads to the idea of diversifying crops (also to
> fishponds, raising chicken, ducks and pigs, etc.) When they have
> secured their family's food -- even if accountant's calculations show
> they will earn more from cash crops -- only then will they focus on
> cash crops. Some of the farmers moved in this direction in the last
> planting season. More will probably do it in the next planting season.
> Another idea that emerged is the local processing of perishable goods
> into less perishable ones. Again, this is meant to improve their
> bargaining position, but is so far only a future prospect.
> They want to avoid chemical agriculture (big debate: some don't use
> any pesticide or chemical fertilizers at all, but their neighbors do).
> But since all of them have little cash, there is recurring interest in
> avoiding chemicals as much as possible.
> The government's position is *very* different. It essentially pushes
> -- even forces -- the farmer to plant export crops. Most govt support
> programs are for export-oriented crops. These programs come in
> technology-packages that include seeds and of course chemicals.
> From my own vantage point, the mindset that leads to
> ecologically-sustainable ag practices seems to be risk-minimization.
> This is quite different from the business/CEO/corporate mindset, which
> is growth/gain-maximization. Risk-minimization leads to
> subsistence-oriented ag as the stable base for more diversified ag
> operations. Food that a farmer raised for his/her family's consumption
> will probably contain less poisons and be healthier than food raised
> for the anonymous market.
> Regards to all,
> Roberto Verzola
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