Jeff Ishee asked for input on interview questions for Dennis Avery
and Joel Salatin. My offering is this:
Dennis, for many years now you've witnessed to how miserable smaller
scale and other farmers are, and offered your thoughts on how
large-scale corporate technology and economic structures can save
them. While finding fault with the solutions that successful small
scale farmers have created for themselves.
You say you have deep experience with farmers, but it's hard to
determine what that means. You talk a lot about their misery, their
struggles, their suffering and failures--which indicates that you're
most familiar with a certain group of farmers. [Assuming he's
familiar with farmers at all, rather than mass mediated or corporate
PR representations of them, but I digress.]
Therefore, would you accept the challenge of a group of successful
small farmers and small farm and food activists to take an unpaid
year (or two or three) off from your prestigious, high-profile job,
and spend it with them, living and working on their farms and in
their rural and urban communities. And furthermore, not writing or
speaking a word about it publicly till after the year is finished,
and you've had three additional months, in a retreat setting, to
digest what you've learned?
And maybe not even then, because Profile can tempt one to
self-justify, rather than self-reflect.
The idea, Dennis, being to open yourself to the experience and
perspectives of people who not only are happy and successful, but
don't need you, or your high-profile PR or "policy analysis" edifice,
to "save them" from anything--to expose you to people who have the
capacity to find and build their own answers, that work and work
well. And to open yourself, before you reach your deathbed, to the
experience of listening to the still, small inner voice in you, which
you seem to be trying to drown out at all costs. Because when we hear
you speak, it's hard not to feel that you're projecting your own
unhappiness onto farmers, who are carrying enough of a load as it is.
And it's hard not to notice that there's some part of you that may
actually care about farmers...but you seem to think that the "free"
market can minister to people's hearts and spirits and communities.
Or your own.
Well, I guess that last part zoops over from Journalism to Moral
Challenge. Well, heck, Jeff--if Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain could
do it...so can you. :^) I've already got a short list running of
places that Dennis the Menace has avoided immersing himself--starting
with the Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference, the Churches
Center for Land and People (Sinsinawa, WI), the vast community
gardens of Philadelphia, and pretty much anything Fr. Darryl's doing
down in Texas.
Center for Integrated Ag Systems, UW-Madison
UW voice mail: 608-262-8018
Home office: 415-504-6474 (504-MISH)
Home office fax: Same as above, phone first for enabling
We must imagine the unimaginable, think the unthinkable,
describe the indescribable, and do the impossible. --Philip Berrigan
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