We have just placed five new papers on my web site:
These are all presentations made at meetings this past winter. Of course
there is some overlapping of concepts and ideas among these papers and with
earlier papers. However, nothing is ever really new. Every idea that
exists today has been floating around in some form since the beginning of
humankind. The only concept of "new" that we know is simply new
arrangements of old parts. But, each new arrangement is, in fact, a "new
whole." I hope at least some may gain new insights of their own from these
The following are brief abstracts of the papers so you can decide whether
they are worth your further exploration.
Thanks for your consideration.
Sustainable Farming and Rural Community Development
As agriculture has become industrialized, rural communities in agricultural
areas have lost their fundamental purpose. Industrialization seemingly has
destroyed the future of many rural communities as it has destroyed the
future of farming. However, there are growing indications that the
industrial era may be coming to a close. The continued industrialization of
agriculture is but the last dying gasp of an obsolete way of thinking.
The future of farming and of rural communities is in the sustainability
paradigm for farming and for rural community development. The
sustainability paradigm is consistent with the post-industrial,
post-business visions of noted futurists such as Drucker and Toffler. The
post-industrial era brings new possibilities for people to farm and to live
in communities that are economically viable, ecologically sound, and
socially responsible. The future of rural America belongs to those who
have the vision and courage to claim it.
Small Farms: Their Role in Our Farming Future
The conventional wisdom is that farmers must either get bigger or get out of
farming. The conventional wisdom is wrong. True, there is no future in
continuing to produce basic agricultural commodities - corn, hogs, soybeans,
cattle, etc. But, there is a future in producing the food and fiber
products that people really want by methods that both can be sustained by
nature and will be sustained by society.
People have different tastes and preferences. We are not all alike, as mass
marketers would have us believe. Nature is inherently diverse - even though
industrial production methods demand homogeneity or sameness. These
incompatibilities are primary sources of the non-sustainability of
industrial systems. If national or global organic standards lead to an
"industrial organic system," it will be neither ecologically sound nor
socially responsible. Sustainable systems must conform to marketing and
ecological niches inherent in nature - including human nature. Those niches
are small and diverse -- not large and uniform.
Small farms are real farms. Many small farm families depend on farming for
a significant part of their economic, social, and spiritual way of life, if
not their whole livelihood. Small farms can conform to the economic and
ecological niches of markets and of nature. Small farms also are
consistent with the visions of futurists for a post-industrial society.
People will be at the center of the knowledge-based era of future human
progress. To sustain a desirable quality of life on small farms, people
must be at the center - as producers, as customers, as neighbors and fellow
In Harmony with Nature
Neither land nor people can be sustained unless they are given the
attention, care, and affection - the love -- they need to survive, thrive,
and prosper. The necessary attention, care, affection, and love come only
from lives lived in harmony -- among people and between people and nature.
The history of human civilization may be characterized as a continuing
battle of "man against nature." "Man" has been winning all the battles, but
continues to lose the war. We have destroyed so many wild beasts, wild
rivers, plagues, and pests that we now risk destroying ourselves -
destroying human civilization. How many more battles can we afford to win?
Sustainable agriculture is a paradigm that seeks to work in harmony with
nature and with people, and thus, represents a fundamental departure from
past attempts to conquer nature. Concern for sustainability presumes some
higher order of nature, including human nature, to which people must
conform. Spirituality may be defined as a felt need to live in harmony with
some higher order of things. Thus, sustainability is fundamentally
spiritual in nature, in that it seeks harmony with nature instead of
The New American Agricultural Revolution
Sustainable agriculture has been defined as a quiet revolution - but the
time for quietness has passed. Large agribusiness corporations - in the
name of inevitable, technological progress - are forcing thousands of farm
families from the land. Industrialization is neither inevitable nor is it
progress. The time for quietness has passed.
Thomas Paine, the revolutionary writer, used three basic strategies in
developing the pamphlets that inevitably rekindled revolutionary spirits.
He gave no quarter to the enemy, the British monarchy. But, he invariably
went beyond criticism to paint a positive vision of the future of America -
of the freedom and democracy to come. Finally, Paine never showed any doubt
that the colonies would eventually win their freedom - there was simply no
way the British could hold them in captivity if all demanded to be free.
It's time for a new American revolution -- in agriculture. The enemy is an
economic system that rewards the exploitation of both natural resources and
people, as epitomized by the industrial corporation. It should be give no
quarter. The positive vision of the future is a sustainable agriculture and
a sustainable quality of life in America and around the world. It should be
extolled at every opportunity. Finally, there is no way that
industrialization can continue - it is destroying the very things upon which
it ultimately depends. It's not sustainable. It's all just plain common
sense. It's time for a revolution.
Shared Leadership, Shared Responsibility and Shared Rewards: A Model for
Sustainable Agriculture Programming
Development - more often lack of development - of sustainable agriculture
extension programs at the University of Missouri provides a case study of
how not to do sustainable agriculture extension programming. In the
mid-1990s, after five years of struggle, the program was a dismal failure.
A shared leadership, shared responsibility approach to programming was then
adopted - based on a flexible networking model developed by a USDA Extension
planning group in the mid-1990s. Now the program is showing promise for the
The lesson: Effective sustainable agriculture educational programs require a
fundamentally different approach than do traditional extension technology
transfer programs. The educational approach must be consistent with the
types of information and concepts to be conveyed. Sustainable farming
systems are inherently site-specific, individualistic, and dynamic in
nature. Sustainable agricultural educational programs must have those same
basic characteristics - they must be adaptable, flexible, and changeable in
nature. They must empower people to think and learn for themselves - to
solve their own problems rather than expect someone else to provide
John E. Ikerd
Co-coordinator, Sustainable Agricultural Systems Program
College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
200 Mumford Hall
Phone: (O) 573-882-4635 (H) 573-874-0408
e-mail: IkerdJ@missouri.edu <mailto:IkerdJ@missouri.edu>
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