He concludes that the moral of the story is to restore small-scale
consumption and small-scale personal ambition. He bases this moral
on a premise that could have been taken from the script of Oliver
Stone's "WALLSTREET" --- I can almost hear Michael Douglas saying,
"Greed is GOOD!!! ---- and will rule as long as this earth spins."
I don't disagree with Jim - at least not within the legal and
economic value system he employs. I enjoy his writing, and almost
always come away having learned something new. But perhaps I
simply see the problem from another value system - another paradigm
- another way to motivate change.
Sustainable agriculture does not deny the economic realities of
farming, but rather attempts at every turn to integrate other value
systems into farming. Conserving the topsoil, reducing or
curtailing the poisoning of food and land, protecting the culture
of rural communities, enhancing the diversity of wild plants and
animals - these elements are also valuable to our society. Notice
that I said "integrate", not "replace".
The 98% of the American public not in farming has become
increasingly intolerant (read "angry") about threats to both human
and environmental health, be they real or imagined. I would argue
that if farmers - regardless of operational size - really want to
remain farming the land, they would do well to listen to what their
countrymen expect from agriculture...
... I also suggest that the participants of a sustainable agriculture
are in an excellent position to facilitate such a dialogue.
A basic premise of sustainable agriculture is to conserve the
land upon which farming is done AND the persons who actually do the
farming. When the value system - the point of view - is shifted to
this conservation motif, the future of American farming becomes
considerably less bleak.
The task for us in sustainable agriculture is to help the person on
the land perceive and implement the other value systems at play, AS
WELL AS the economic system they already know so well. All we can
rightly ask of farmers on the land is that they make an INFORMED
choice about their farming practices. We also have the
responsibility of attempting to integrate those other value systems
into Farm Policy - at whatever level. Society may indeed express
other non-economic values it expects from agriculture, but that
same society must then also accept the economic reality of
compensating the farmer for those expectations, one way or another.
Subsidizing the farmer for those things the society values is not
only ethical, it is also good business. Removing the subsidy for
that which is shoddy, wasteful, or unsustainable is likewise good
In the book "New Roots for Agriculture", Wes Jackson writes:
"There has always been a minority in our country who make a
practice of meeting the land's expectations first. Can we
ever expect this number to increase? Is there any reason to
believe that most of the countryside will ever have the chance
to respond to the touch of a people who believe in and cherish
such a relationship?"
And like Mr. Jackson, I too offer a qualified "yes"... but it is
going to take a mix of value systems to accomplish.
Fayetteville, Arkansas USA
Opinions expressed above belong to me - my employer has
nothing to do with what I think is true.