Sustainability in the American Sheep Industry

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Janet McNally
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Re: Sustainability in the American Sheep Industry

Postby Janet McNally » Tue Mar 13, 2012 1:14 pm

Its going to be pretty tough for industrial agriculture to build a case against Chipolte. For one, if talking about grass fed meats, grass fed beef is leaner than grain fed which has been determined to be healthier for us. There is some research that suggests that the Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acid ratio of grass fed is more favorable (healthier) than feedlot fed beef. We also know that grass fed meats contain five times more conjugated linoleic acid than conventionally fed beef. CLA has been found to reduce some types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity in labratory animals.

But Chipolte is not promoting grass fed per se, but local grown, and that is simply a consumer preference. You can't argue consumer preference.

Industrial ag continues to hammer on there being no proof that organically grown vegetables are any more nutritious than conventionally grown vegetables, (and the same could be said about meat) thereby completely missing the point why people buy organic. People purchase organic to avoid the addition of pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, and antibiotics, and also to support a particular system of agriculture. Again, this is consumer preference.

The only points that industrial agriculture can argue is whether or not Chipolte's truly does source their ingredients from smaller farms or local grown sources as they promised to do, or is it just hype to draw customers.

Janet McNally
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Food Bill 2012 Science-Based Policies can Transform Agricul

Postby dhibbeln » Mon Mar 19, 2012 7:50 am

Toward Healthy Food and Farms How Science-Based Policies can Transform Agriculture

DRH NOTE: Someone needs to contact these folks and inform them that in addition to beef and dairy sheep are raised on pasture....see contact info at end

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture shelled out $5 billion to subsidize corn and soybean crops that are primarily used for processed foods and animal feed. The USDA offered only a fraction of this amount – about 7 percent – for fruits and vegetable crops. These figures are not in keeping with the USDA’s own nutritional guidelines, which emphasize fruits and vegetables as the foundation of healthy diets.

“Farming cannot continue as a factory-like system. The current food system is wholly dependent on fossil fuels, pesticides and artificial fertilizers. And this system is just not sustainable,” said Tatham.

According to UCS, farm policies should encourage farmers to grow a diverse array of nutritious foods while incorporating farming practices that do not harm public health or the environment. The best way to do this is through policies that incentivize growing fruits and vegetable and increase investments in local food systems, including farmers markets, food hubs and community supported agriculture programs.

“While no one expects to transform the food system into a sustainable enterprise overnight, through the farm bill, we can begin to include provisions – like investments in local foods – that make sustainable farming methods and growing healthy produce both profitable for farmers and affordable for consumers,” stated Tatham.

Ever wonder why corn chips and sugary drinks cost less than carrots and squash? In large part, it’s because government policies make the wrong foods cheaper and more abundant. Billions of dollars in federal subsidies give processed foods an unfair advantage over fruits, vegetables, pasture-raised meats, and other healthy foods.

And it’s not just the health of our diet that current federal policy is bad for. The same subsidies that fill the nation’s shopping carts with processed foods also encourage agricultural practices that damage the soil, water, and air—and our health. Precious taxpayer dollars also fund research that maintains and expands this industrial system.

The Solution: Science-Based Sustainability

There’s a better way to grow our food. UCS has a science-based vision for the U.S. farming and food system in which farms are not factories, and do not rely heavily on fossil fuels, harmful pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers to produce huge quantities of just a few crops.

U.S. crop subsidies in 2010


Instead, sustainable agriculture views farms as ecosystems made up of interacting elements—including soil, plants, insects, water and animals—that can be modified to solve problems, maximize yields, and conserve resources.

Sustainable agriculture can meet our food needs, protect the environment, and support thriving rural economies. But in order to make this vision a reality, we must begin shifting farm subsidies from processed foods and industrialized agriculture to healthy food and farming practices.

Policies for Real Food and Healthy Farms

The U.S. food and farm landscape will not be transformed overnight. But we can take significant steps forward by adopting and expanding innovative policies grounded in the latest science and economics. The Farm Bill, which Congress renews every five years, provides a unique opportunity to change what the nation’s farmers grow—and how they grow it—for years to come.

DRH NOTE: More details on UCS' priorities for the Farm Bill follow

Policy Priorities for a Healthy Food and Farm Bill

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has a science-based vision for the U.S. farming and food system in which farms are not factories, and do not rely heavily on fossil fuels, harmful pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers to produce huge quantities of just a few crops. Instead, farmers and policy makers aim to produce a wide variety of nutritious foods while taking the long-term environmental and health impacts of production methods into account.

The federal Farm Bill offers a unique opportunity to change what the nation’s farmers grow—and how they grow it—for years to come. UCS is committed to pursuing policies to support healthy food and farms. As Congress develops the next Farm Bill, UCS will advocate for the following changes:

Expand the production and accessibility of healthy food

Increased production of fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods, particularly through local and regional food systems, will yield multiple benefits for environmental quality, nutrition, public health, and economic development. To achieve these benefits, our nation’s food and farm policy must provide new and expanded support for farmers, ranchers, entrepreneurs, and community organizations to engage in local and regional food systems. In particular, the next Farm Bill should:

Increase investments to grow local and regional food systems and expand access to healthy food for consumers across all income levels.

Include mandatory funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farmers Market Promotion Program and programs that support the redemption of nutrition benefits for low-income households at local food markets.

Include mandatory funding for USDA rural development programs that foster local food system development, including the Value-Added Producers Grant Program and the Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program.

Expand incentives for farmers to produce more sustainable, organic, and healthy food, especially fruits and vegetables.

Include mandatory funding for the USDA’s National Organic Certification Cost Share Program.
Include and increase mandatory funding for the USDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, with a specific share dedicated to local and regional food systems.

Provide farmers who participate in USDA commodity programs greater flexibility to also grow fruits and vegetables for sale in local or regional markets.

Improve and expand the “safety net” of credit and risk management tools to support farmers who are engaged in sustainable and diversified practices.

Expand and improve federal crop insurance programs to provide “whole farm revenue” insurance for diversified farms that produce healthy foods and utilize sustainable farming practices.

Remove financial barriers to the production of organic food by allowing federally subsidized crop insurance policies to pay out at organic prices, and by eliminating insurance surcharges for organic producers.
Improve and expand federal lending opportunities for farmers who grow food for local and regional markets, through changes to the USDA’s Business & Industry Loan Program, Community Facilities Program, and Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program.

At the same time, decrease perverse incentives for unhealthy food production by reducing USDA subsidies for commodity and crop insurance programs.

Increase farmers’ adoption of sustainable agriculture and conservation practices

As the demands and pressures on our agriculture system increase, conservation practices are critically important to achieving a system that produces abundant healthful food, minimizes environmental damage, and ensures a robust resource base for future farmers. Greater support is needed for farmers to implement conservation practices and adopt sustainable production systems, such as organic agriculture, that can be highly productive while also protecting our air and water. Specifically, the next Farm Bill should:

Provide greater investments to help farmers implement conservation measures and adopt science-based sustainable production practices and systems.

Include robust mandatory funding for the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the premiere working lands conservation programs.
Improve CSP by increasing the national average per-acre payment, increasing the minimum contract payment for farmers, and adopting a new ranking system that is based solely on an application’s total environmental benefit.

Improve EQIP by eliminating payment caps for organic farmers, retaining organic production assistance, reducing payment limits to encourage broader program participation, and structuring payments to support sustainable livestock production, such as pasture beef and dairy. Prevent support for polluting operations by not allowing EQIP funds to support the development of new CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) and minimizing payments overall to existing facilities.

Improve conservation programs to encourage greater adoption of sustainable crop production practices, with a specific emphasis on the use of cover crops, longer and more complex crop rotations, and perennial crops.

Develop rules that ensure farmers who receive federal subsidies employ minimum conservation measures and limit their use of environmentally destructive farming practices.

Establish conservation compliance requirements for all recipients of federal crop and revenue insurance subsidies.

Ramp up publicly-funded research to enable an economically robust and sustainable agriculture and food system

The challenges that today’s farmers face—including global warming and the need to boost food production sustainably—are unprecedented. Overcoming these challenges will demand new approaches that place agriculture in the context of larger ecosystems and address environmental problems at the landscape and farm level. Publicly funded research is critically important to helping policy makers, researchers, and farmers better understand the interactions of the natural systems that support farming; and to developing and refining appropriate technologies and practices. Therefore, the next Farm Bill should:

Develop and refine innovative sustainable, organic, and diversified production systems, ease farmers’ transitions to such systems, and increase understanding of the ecosystems that support farming and the impacts of various management practices.

Include mandatory funding for the USDA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative and its Organic Production and Market Data Initiative.

Include funding authorizations for the USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Extension Program, and National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.
Direct the USDA to devote a greater percentage of funding for internal and grant-funded research related to agroecological farming practices.

Foster the expansion of local and regional food systems, and better document their economic benefits.
Direct the USDA to prioritize in-house and grant-funded research related to the development and expansion of local and regional food systems.

Develop and provide funding for a new USDA initiative to collect much-needed data and market information related to local and regional food systems.

Increase the diversity of our agriculture system and promote resilience in the face of environmental challenges, through public crop and livestock breeding programs and other efforts.

Direct the USDA to prioritize internal and grant funded research related to the development and expansion of local and regional food systems.

Develop and provide funding for a new USDA initiative to collect much-needed data and market information related to local and regional food systems.

Increase the diversity of our agriculture system and promote resilience in the face of environmental challenges, through public crop and livestock breeding programs and other efforts.

Direct the USDA to prioritize in-house and grant-funded classical breeding efforts and the development of public cultivars.

For more information, contact Justin Tatham at or 202-331-6949.

Last Revised: 02/29/12
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The Hallmarks of Sustainable Farming Systems - J. Ikerd

Postby dhibbeln » Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:33 pm

Folks, Prof. Ikerd has some interesting things to say about sustainablity from the perspective of agricutural from the perspective of an ecomomist. I have NOT read all his stuff, just enough to give me a taste, but this fellow in seems to have take over where British economist E. F. Schumacher left off. Regards, Dave H.

John E. Ikerd - Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics
University of Missouri Columbia

The Hallmarks of Sustainable Farming Systems

Some look to farming practices and methods for the hallmarks of sustainable farming – organic farming, management intensive grazing, direct marketing, integrated crop and livestock systems, crop rotations, etc. However, these are but the means by which farmers practice the principles of sustainability. The hallmarks of sustainable farming strategies underlying these farming methods are diversification, individualization, and decentralization of decision making within interdependent networks. Sustainable farmers work with nature, they focus on value, they market in the niches. They value their uniqueness as individuals and the uniqueness of their relationships with others. Sustainable systems match unique farming operations to the uniqueness of the farmers, their potential markets, and the natural resources of their farm. The farming practices and methods of a sustainable farming system are unique to the farmer, farm, market, and community.

Sustainable farmers are linked by their common commitment to the principles of sustainability. Intergenerational equity is the hallmark of sustainability – meeting the needs of the present while leaving equal or better opportunities for the future. The hallmarks of sustainable systems, derived from intergenerational equity, are economic viability, ecological soundness and social responsibility – interdependent dimensions of the same whole. Thus, holistic management is a hallmark of sustainable farming -- balancing economic, ecological, and social objectives – in harmony with some higher order of things. Nature and society are within the bounds of their decision-making – they consider the environment and the community in every decision. Guided by a higher self interest sustainable farmers build relationships and practice stewardship, neither for economic gain nor personal sacrifice, but instead to enhance their overall quality of life. The principle hallmark of sustainable farming is the pursuit of higher quality of life -- for farmers, families, communities, for all people, both now and in the future.

more on web link....

Authentic Sustainability; Beyond Going Green

Sustainability is the defining question of the 21st century. It is not just a buzzword or passing fad, as many people seem to believe, or perhaps even hope. Sustainability asks: how can we meet the needs of the present without diminishing opportunities of the future? It isn’t about demanding sacrifices from present generations to ensure a life of abundance for those of future generations. It is not about giving everyone everything they might want, either now or in the future. It’s about ensuring that everyone has access to enough of the things they actually need for a purposeful, productive, and personally rewarding life. It’s about affording the same basic human rights to those of the future as we expect and demand for ourselves today. Sustainability asks whether we can keep doing what we are doing today without threatening the future of humanity. Those who take the question of sustainably seriously come to the same conclusion. We can’t. Our economy and society quite simply are not sustainable.

Unfortunately, the United States is a nation in denial. Too few are willing to confront the reality that our current way of life is not sustainable. When we face this reality we eventually will understand that we must fundamentally change our thinking about how the world works and our place within it. This change in thinking eventually must change virtually every aspect of our lives. Many people will never seriously ask the question of sustainability. They are afraid of the answer. To them, the risks of real change are simply too great. When confronted with questions of environmental degradation and resource depletion in the 1960s, they thought it was another passing fad or at most a challenge that would be quickly and easily met. When confronted with the economic costs of environmental protection and energy conservation during the 1970s, they retreated into denial and neglect.

more on web link

Rethinking the Economics of Self-Interests
Presented at a seminar sponsored by the Organization for Competitive Markets, Omaha, NE, September 1999.


In the environment within which conventional economics was born, in Smith’s time, pursuit of self-interest might have served the interests of society reasonably well. But, the world has changed over the past 200 years. In fact, none of the important assumptions of truly competitive markets -- the prerequisite for efficient resource allocation by free markets – are valid in the economy of today.

Today, giant corporations dominate almost every sector of local and global economies. Through mergers, joint ventures, and strategic alliances, corporations have formed "virtual" monopolies – irresponsible entities that maximize profits "upon every occasion." Corporate profits today are far larger than any concept of "normal" profit envisioned in classical economics. Corporations are inherently non-human entities – regardless of what the Supreme Court has said and regardless of the nature of their managers and stockholders. Corporations have no heart, they have no soul.

The basic economic resources of land, labor, capital, and management now reside in separate entities, sometimes divided even among nations. Labor and management are in continual conflict, and most corporate shareholders – owners of mutual funds and pension funds -- are hardly conscious of how much of what companies they own. Land has become just another marketable commodity to be exploited and used up.

Producers and consumers have become disconnected, geographically and conceptually, as a consequence of industrialization. Consumers no longer have any personal knowledge of where their products come from or of who is involved in their production. They must rely on a complex set of standards, rules, and regulations for product information, and today’s advertising consists of "disinformation" by design. Superficial product differentiation abounds -- through processing, packaging, advertising, and marketing gimmicks -- making price competition impotent if not impossible.

Human activities are no longer ecologically benign -- if they ever really were. The pressures of growing populations and rising per capita consumption are now depleting resources of the land far faster than they can be regenerated by nature. Wastes and contaminants from human activities are being generated at rates far in excess of the capacity of the natural environment to absorb and detoxify them. Fossil fuels, the engine of twentieth-century economic development, are being depleted at rates infinitely faster than they can ever be replenished. Human population pressures are destroying other biological species, upon which the survival of humanity may be ultimately dependent. The human species is now capable of destroying almost everything that makes up the biosphere we call Earth, including humanity itself.

The society of Smith’s day was weak on economics – hunger, disease and early death were common -- but it had a strong cultural and ethical foundation. However, that social and ethical foundation has been seriously eroded over the past two centuries -- as glorification of greed has replaced enlightened self-interest. Civil litigation and criminal prosecution seem to be the only constraints to the unethical and immoral pursuit of profit and growth. Concerns of the affluent for today’s poor seem to be limited to concerns that welfare benefits may be too high or that they will be mugged or robbed if the poor become too desperate. Smith’s defense of the pursuit of self-interest must be reconsidered within the context of today’s society – a society that is now strong on economics but weak on community and morality.

In addition, contemporary economics is fundamentally incapable of dealing with relationships among people, or between people and their environment. This fact is freely admitted even in basic economics text books. In economics, a market is nothing more than a collection of independent individual consumers. Human institutions such as families, communities, nations and cultures have no economic relevance – other than as collections of individuals. Thus, one gains no economic well being from relationships -- from identifying with or being a part of any particular family, community, nation or culture. Believing, trusting, sharing, caring, and serving are but empty words to the economist. Economic values relate only to our narrow, short run self interest. Concepts such as faith, hope, and love are ignored -- they are just illusions of the human imagination.

<snip> more on web link

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Sustaining the Profitability of Small Farms

Postby dhibbeln » Mon Apr 09, 2012 8:05 am

More from Dr. John Ikerd. Bolds and Formating are mine.
The more of Dr. Ikerd work I read the more I am impressed by his thinking.
This fellow is a Nobel Prize Level Thinker.
Take the time and read the following... It will be worth it...
Dave H.

Sustaining the Profitability of Small Farms John Ikerd
November 5, 2011

I am often asked how a person can possibly expect to make a decent living on a small farm. My typical response has been that farming isn’t just another way to make money. That real farming has always been a way life as well as a way to make a living. Those on small farms have to consider all of the quality of life benefits that come with a small farm, not just profitability. The vast majority of the farmers I meet while traveling across the continent seem to have a good quality of life. That said, I know many people on small farms are struggling economically. Even those who seem to be doing okay economically may not be able to afford health care or may be concerned about how they are going to save enough money to send their kids to college. Many farm families have to rely on off-farm jobs for health insurance and educational expenses, but off-farm jobs with benefits are getting harder to come by.

So I have to admit, profitability is perhaps the greatest challenge to sustainable farming today, particularly on small farms. First, those on small farms need to face economic reality. Most farms in America are large today because large farms that have access to more land, labor, and capital tend to make profits. Since small farms have less land and less capital they are likely to make less money, unless they have more of something else. There is a limit to how hard a farmer can work and without capital they can’t hire more labor. So, the something else has to be the farmer – the farmer’s imagination, creativity, ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and overall management ability.

My typical response to questions of profitability of small farms has been to encourage those on small farms to focus first on their uniqueness or individuality. They need to find customers who value the things only they can provide or at least can provide better than most other farmers. Their uniqueness may be in the particular types of products they know how to produce, their particular location, the times when they have products available for sale, or it may be their purely personal uniqueness as individuals. The most valuable asset small farmers may have is their unique personalities, their social and ethical values, and their willingness to form meaningful relationships with their customers and neighbors.

Meaningful personal relationships cannot be mass produced or mass marketed; no matter how much large corporations may spend trying to create customer loyalty through advertising and public relations campaigns. A person can only have a limited number of meaningful relationships. This is the ultimate advantage of sustainable farmers, particularly small farmers. A small farm doesn’t need millions or even thousands of customers. Sustainability economic relationships must be built on a foundation of ecological and social integrity, which can only be sustained though a sense of personal connectedness. The size of any sustainable economic organization ultimately by limited to the number of meaningful relationships it is able to sustain.

I still believe my typical response to questions regarding profitability is valid. Uniqueness and individuality are the keys to sustainable profits, on large or small farms and for individuals or for groups of farmers working together. The value of uniqueness is being made increasingly clear in the local foods movement. Local markets create opportunities for individual farmers and groups of farmers working together than simply do not exist in national and global food markets.

Students learn in their first course in marketing that the value of any good or service is determined by form, place, time, and individuality. Before you can know what anything is worth in the marketplace, you first have to know what it is – its form – where it is – its place – when it is available – its time – and who has it for sale and who wants to buy it – the individuals involved in the potential transaction. The first three of these are fairly obvious but the third is less well understood and appreciated. The same product at a given place and time may have a significantly different value to two different individuals. People have different needs and different tastes and preferences. This is basic source of value of uniqueness or individuality.

Niche markets are made up of groups of individuals that share common needs or preferences. They are niche markets simply because their members are too few in numbers or lack the buying power to accommodate mass production and mass marketing methods. The current industrial food system has been very efficient in creating economic value by changing the form, place, and time dimensions of products, through processing, transportation, and distribution. However, in the process they have compromised, if not completely ignored, the individual tastes, preferences, and value of their customers. This fundamental weakness of industrialization is a basic strength of sustainability.

The industrial system relies primarily on processing and manufacturing to create a variety of different end products from basic agricultural commodities. You can buy whole chickens, drumsticks, split breast, buffalo wings, or chicken nuggets, but they all come from the same basic generic chicken raised by the same industrial process. Small-scale sustainable chicken producers can’t compete economically for these markets. Chickens produced for sustainable niche markets include heritage breeds, free-range, pasture-grown, or farm-fresh chickens to produce authentic poultry products for profitable niche markets. These markets are too small to accommodate industrial methods. Varieties of fruits and vegetables in the mega food markets are limited to those that can be harvested mechanically, transported great distances, and still have long shelf lives in retail stores. Sustainable grown produce for local niche markets can be selected for taste, picked at the peak of flavor, and eaten before it has time to deteriorate. Industrial foods can’t compete in these markets. Similar comparisons can be made for a wide range of industrial and sustainable food products.

The industrial system relies on low-cost mass distribution systems – including cheap transportation – to move products from the places where they can be grown at the lowest cost to the places where consumers are willing to pay the highest prices. Small-scale sustainable farmers can’t compete in distant markets. By producing for local markets instead, sustainable producers are able to minimize transportation costs while taking advantage of superior freshness, flavor, and other advantages that come with marketing locally. Sustainable producers rely on farmers markets, roadside stands, through CSAs, or through local restaurants and independent food markets, where they can also get premium prices for locally grown food products. Industrial producers can’t compete for most local markets – they are just too small to industrialize.

The industrial system relies on national and global distribution systems to provide fresh food products at all times of the year. The availability of fresh food products by its very nature is seasonal, because in most locations the feasibility and costs of crop and livestock production tends to vary with the season of the year. The industrial food system simply moves products across nations and around the world from places where crops and livestock are in season to other places where they are not. By doing so, they are able to provide fresh food products everywhere during all seasons of the year. Small-scale sustainable producers can’t compete in these markets. Sustainable producers instead must focus on the superior quality characteristics of foods that are harvested at their peak of flavor and eaten fresh or stored when they are “in-season” locally. Fresh strawberries in spring, melons in summer, squash in fall, and soups in winter are seasonal foods. Not only are seasonal products fresher and more flavorful, they also allow people to reestablish a physical and mental sense of connectedness the seasonality of the places where they live.

Sustaining the profitability of a small farm is not easy. Sustainable farmers must be more knowledgeable, imaginative, creative, and innovative than their industrial farming neighbors. Perhaps more important they must be more open, sharing, and caring in their relations with others; they must be “people persons.” Farmers who are lacking in one or more of the attributes or essential abilities may compensate by joining with others whose strengths and weaknesses complement their own. For example, those who have excellent knowledge and skills in building soil fertility but lack people skills may join a group that has people with excellent marketing skills but lack knowledge of soil fertility. Together they can do more things better than either could do alone. However, each farmer must still have the knowledge and skills to necessary to make their own strategic or tactical decisions. A small farmer can’t expect to make a living on a farm that is managed by someone else. In addition, farmers must still be willing to establish and maintain a sense of personal connectedness with their customers, even if some else does most of the day-to-day marketing of their products.

By joining together with other like-minded farmers, small farmers can gain economic efficiencies in production, processing, and distribution. Together they can provide their customers with a wider variety of different products, at different places, during different times of the year, at a lower cost than if they were working alone. In essence, they are able to realizing the economies by “scaling-up” their production while retaining individual control of their farming operation. Such groups may function informally or may form associations, collaborations, alliances, or cooperatives through various types of written agreements. The form of organization does not matter nearly as much as the ability on individual members to work together.

Examples of such organizations include the Root Cellar Bounty Box Program in Columbia, MO, Grown Locally in Decorah, IA, Idaho’s Bounty in southern Idaho, Good Natured Family Farms in the Kansas City area, and New Season’s Market in Portland Oregon, and Organic Valley headquartered of southern Wisconsin. These organizations range in size from a dozen or so farmers to several hundred farmers. Regardless of size, they all focus on providing products to select groups of customers who are concerned not only about flavor and freshness of their products but also about ecological and social integrity of the production and distribution process. The challenge in all such organizations is to maintain their ecological and social integrity as they “scale-up” to achieve greater economic efficiency. If they compromise their ecological or social integrity in the pursuit of greater profitability they will become no different in principle from the other economic organizations. They will have lost their uniqueness and thus will have lost their ability to sustain their profitability. They will have become part of the industrial food systems.

The industrial food system relies primarily on vertical integration to coordinate production with processing and distribution with changing consumer tastes and preferences. Food retailers or processors typically take control of all other levels in the food chain, from production through retailing. They may do so through outright ownership, formal contractual arrangements, or through sheer market power, as in the case of Walmart. In such cases, the organization that controls the so-called vertical supply chain has the power to extract all of the excess profits, leaving others with only enough economic returns to survive.

The historic alternative to vertical integration has been vertical competition or market coordination. In market economies, changes in needs and preferences of consumers are reflected in retail prices. Higher retail prices, for example, provide profit incentives for retailers, who then provide profit incentives to processors, who then provide profit incentives for producers to supply more of the higher priced product to meet the stronger consumer demand. If such markets were “purely competitive,” any excess profits would eventually be passed on to the consumer in the form of lower prices or higher quality products. In today’s economic reality, food retailers or processors, depending on the market, are typically in a position to retain all excess profits for their stockholders, leaving farmers little more than they would have under vertical integration.

The sustainable alternative to vertical integration and vertical competition is “vertical cooperation.” Again, the specific type of organization doesn’t matter, as long as individuals at all levels are willing to cooperate rather than compete. Under a vertical cooperative arrangement the economic benefits are shared equitably among consumers, retailers, processors, farmers, and anyone else involved in the collaboration. The participants reach agreements concerning what will be produced, where it will be available, when it will be available, and equally important, how it will be produced and processed, and who will produce and process it. They also agree on a pricing arrangement that will ensure that consumers will the products they need and want and a price they are willing and able to pay and that everyone in the systems also gets an economic return adequate to reward them for their contribution to the process.

I am not aware of any current vertically cooperative arrangement that meets all of these conditions, although several of the previously mentioned organizations possess many of these attributes and are moving in this direction. The Food Commons project in California provides the best conceptual blueprint I am aware of for forming and sustaining a vertical cooperative organization. The differences between vertical cooperation and either vertical integration or vertical competition is made clear in their guiding principles. Their operational principles include: fairness, sustainability, decentralization, transparency, and stewardship. Their organizational principles include: accountability, subsidiarity, reciprocity, and ethics.

The Food Commons defines their commitment to fairness as a fair deal for all, across the entire value chain, to ensure that the needs of all participants are met in a balanced way. Under sustainability they include recognition of the value of human labor at all levels from on-farm labor to food retail workers. Decentralization includes a commitment to efficient local and regional management structures. Transparency includes open and honest sharing of cost and price information among all levels in the value chain. Stewardship included a commitment to equal opportunities for those of future generations. The organizational principle of accountability includes accountability to the general public as opposed to shareholders. Subsidiarity means that decisions should be made at the most local or lowest hierarchal level. Reciprocity means the whole is responsible for the parts as well as the parts being responsible for the whole. Ethics includes complete accuracy and full disclosure and accountability for all decisions and actions. Such an organization would truly represent vertical cooperation rather than vertical integration or vertical competition.

If the sustainable food system is to “scale up” for economic efficiency without losing its social and ecological integrity, it must form vertical cooperatives that span from the farm level to the consumer level – from dirt to the dinner plate. If the sustainable value chain intersects with the industrial supply chain at any level, it will become a part or vertical integrated or vertical competitive which will include another economic entity that has the economic or political power to extract all of the profit from the entire system. The sustainability of profits for farmers in vertically cooperative value chains depends on maintaining the social and ethical integrity of relationships among all those who share in the cooperative. Relations based on economics are inherently and inevitably unsustainable.

Economic relationships are fundamentally different from social or ethical relationships because value is fundamentally different from social or ethical value. Economic value is individualistic, instrumental, and impersonal. Economic value accrues to the individual, not to a community or society as a whole. An economy is nothing more than a collection of individual economic entities. Economic value is instrumental in that economic decisions are always predicated on the expectation of something of greater economic value in return. An economic decision is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Economic value is impersonal in that economic value is determined by trade or exchange among different individuals. The specific individual or person involved in the transaction just doesn’t matter.

Social value is also instrumental in that something of value is always expected from a purely personal relationship, even if the expectation is not precise with respect to what is expected or when something is expected in return. If we want to have a friend we have to be a friend in return. However, social value is different from economic value in that social value is clearly personal. The value of a social relationship is clearly dependent on the specific individuals involved in the relationship. Spouse are not interchangeable are neither are true friends. Purely social relationships produce nothing of economic value because they cannot be exchanges among individuals. Unlike economic relationships, once social relationships ends, there is nothing left that can be sold or traded to anyone else – only the personal memories.

Social relationships are individual, in that social values accrue to individuals rather than communities or societies. However, social values naturally evolve into cultural or ethical values which recognize and respect the common or shared values within families, communities, and societies as wholes, rather than collections of individuals. At the expectations of reciprocal expectations become less person and less precisely defined, social concerns become connected to communities, societies, or nations rather than for specific individuals. Eventually the recognition of value and respect spreads to those of other nations and to humanity as a whole, including those of future generations. This is the process by which social values evolve into ethical values.

Ethical values are different from economic and social values in that they are neither instrumental nor personal. The person who does things for purely ethical reasons has no expectation of receiving anything in return, at least not in his or her lifetime. They do it simply because they believe it is the right and good thing to do. Ethical values are clearly impersonal. What is right for one person is right for another; what is wrong for one is wrong for all. Sustainability is ultimately an ethical issue. The only rational reason for doing something for unknown someone of some future generation is because it has ethical value; because it is the right thing to do.

Certainly, there may be economic value associated with social and ethical relationships. It’s easier and more economically efficient to do business with people we know and trust. But impersonal, instrumental economic self-interests will inevitably come in conflict with personal and ethical relationships. There will come a time when it is more profitable to do business with people other than with whom we have developed personal relationships. There will come a time when it is more profitable to eliminate ethical investments for which there is not expectation of economic returns. Relationships dominated by economic value are simply not sustainable. A cooperation organization, either vertical or horizontal, that is held together by economic interest is not sustainable.

I have often advised farmers to either form cooperative relationships with their friends or to make friends of those with whom they form cooperative relationships. I still believe that is good advice. I fully realize friendships are not easy to form or easy to maintain. Men, in particular, are notoriously inept at forming and maintaining personal relationships. If we want to realize the economic and social advantages of cooperation, however, we have no choice. The keys to positive personal relationships are not all that difficult to understand, they are just difficult to consistently carry out. For example we all know that if we are to maintain positive relationships with other people we must be honest, fair, responsible, respectful, and compassionate. Anytime we are dishonest, unfair, irresponsible, disrespectful, or uncaring, we know our relationships will be weakened. When we validate or confirm these basic social principles by our actions, our relationships will be strengthened. Ironically, to sustain the economic benefits of cooperation, farmers must give priority to social and ethical values.

Farmers need only return the historic purpose of farming to find the ethical values necessary for economic sustainability. Historically, the word farm comes from Middle English word, ferme ("variously meaning: tenant, rent, revenue, stewardship, meal, feast"), from Old English feorm, farm ("meaning provision, food, supplies, possessions, rent, feast"), from Proto-Germanic firmō, firχumō ("means of living, subsistence"), and from Proto-Indo-European perkwu- ("life, strength, force"). It is related to other Old English words such as feormehām, feormere ("purveyor, grocer"), feormian ("to provision, sustain"), and feorh ("life, spirit"). The Old English word was borrowed by Medieval Latin as firma, ferma ("source of revenue, feast"), and strengthened by the word's resemblance to the Latin words, firma, firmus ("firm, solid") and firmitas ("security, firmness").

Certainly, economic concepts such as “rent, revenue, tenant, and means of living” have been historical aspects of farming. But, farming also has been identified with the provision of physical and mental sustenance for society, including “provision, grocer, subsistence, life, benefit, spirit, and feast.” Equally important, farming has always included a moral or ethical commitment to long run food security or permanence: “stewardship, strength, firm, solid, security, and sustain.” Real farming has never been just another business; it is a way of life. Real farming is inherently an ethical and moral profession. Maintaining the productivity of the land, not just for profits for the benefit of those of future generation, has always been a right and good thing to do.

Back to the original question; how can person possible expect to make a decent living on a small farm? First, we need to accept that farming is not just another means of making money; it is a way of life. My first advice to anyone, young or old, who is thinking of getting into farming is, “If you don’t feel a ‘calling’ to be a farmer, you probably ought to be doing something else.” There are easier ways to get rich than farming and easier ways to farm than to care about people and care about the land – than to farm sustainably. Farming is a means of fulfilling a purpose in life. If farming is your purpose, there will always be a way to earn enough money. It wouldn’t make any sense to have a purpose we were incapable of pursuing. This doesn’t mean farmers are destined to live in poverty; it simply means that purpose is more important than profit.

How does this square with economic reality? Let me close with a few quotes from perhaps the most respected economist of the 20th century, John Maynard Keynes. Back in the 1920s, Keynes wrote, “the economic problem may be solved, or at least within sight of solution, within a hundred years. This means that the economic problem is not… the permanent problem of the human race.”[ii] Man’s permanent problem will be “how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares… to live wisely and agreeably and well.”

As it turned out, Keynes was right. The “economic problem” has already been solved for the vast majority of Americans as well as those in the rest of the so called developed world. In fact, most Americans probably had as much material wealth as we actually needed to be happy as far back as the 1950s. A 2004 review more than 150 scholarly studies indicate that as national economies grow, beyond some very modest level of material well-being, around $10,000 to $15,000 per capita – there is little if any correlation between wealth and the overall happiness of people in a nation.[iii] A 2003 British cabinet office report confirmed that “Despite huge increases in affluence compared with 1950, people throughout the developed world reported no greater feelings of happiness.”[iv]

The research is simply confirming our common sense. Once our basic material needs are met – food, clothing, shelter, health care, – we know that the quality of our life depends far more on the quality of our relationships – friends, family, community, society – than on quantity of income or wealth. Our happiness also depends on our having a sense of purpose and meaning in life. Without purpose and meaning, there is no sense of rightness or goodness in what we do. Once our basic economic needs are met, the pursuit of happiness is about developing the social and spiritual dimensions of life, rather than striving to acquire more income or wealth. For the vast majority of Americans, including those on small farms, the economic problem has been solved.

However, Keynes also wrote, “There is no country and no people, I think, who can look forward to the age of leisure and abundance without dread. For we have been trained too long to strive and not enjoy... It will be those people, who can keep alive, and cultivate into fuller perfection, the art of life itself, and do not sell themselves for the means of life, who will be able to enjoy the abundance when it comes.” The challenge of making a good living, for farmers and for society in general, is not to continue selling ourselves for the means of life or to exhaust ourselves in the pursuit of profits, but to cultivate the art of life itself, to learn to live wisely, agreeably, and well.

That’s what making a good living on a small farm is about. That’s what sustainable farming on any size farm is about: learning to live wisely, by taking care of the land and farming in harmony with nature; learning to live agreeably, through positive personal relationships within families and communities; and learning to live well, by knowing when we have enough money and enough “stuff” to support a good way of life. Some farmers obviously need to make more money, but most farmers, like the rest of us, already have more than enough. Making a good living on a small farm ultimately is about learning how to live wisely, agreeably, and well.

End notes:


[i] Prepared for presentation at the “19th National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference,” Sponsored by Small Farm Today magazine, Columbia, MO, November 5, 2011.

[ii] John Ikerd is Professor Emeritus, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO – USA; Author of, Sustainable Capitalism, , A Return to Common Sense, , Small Farms are Real Farms, Acres USA ,, Crisis and Opportunity: Sustainability in American Agriculture, University of Nebraska Press; and A Revolution of the Middle and the Pursuit of Happiness, on line at .

Email:; Website: or .


[i] Wikipedia, The On-line Dictionary, “farm.”

[ii] John Maynard Keynes, Essays in Persuasion, (Miami, FL: BN Publishing – no copyright date) pp. 366-368.

[iii] Diener and Seligman, “Beyond Money,” Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5 (1), 2004, 1–31.

[iv] Oliver James, “Children before cash; better childcare will do more for our wellbeing than greater affluence,” The Guardian, May 17, 2003.

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Reducing animal greenhouse gas emissions

Postby dhibbeln » Sat Apr 14, 2012 10:51 am

Dave H: Note: I found this after reading this little piece on high sugar grasses in the april 2012 issue of http:\\ Formating is mine.

qoute: "The theory is that when ruminants eat correctly, their bodies use the nutrients instead of producing gases. Studies on lambs showed that the improved rumen function lead to reduced GHG (green house gas) emissions (ammonia & nitrous oxide) of up to 20%"..

Reducing animal greenhouse gas emissions

Jamie Newbold, Eun Joong Kim and Nigel Scollan accessed: 14 april 2011


Grazing systems account for 26% of the Earth’s ice-free land mass and typically use land that is unsuitable for cropping. Importantly, such areas include land cleared from rainforests, contributing to soil erosion and further deforestation. Industrial (intensive) systems account for approximately 75%, 40% and 65% of poultry meat, pig meat and egg production, respectively. Domesticated livestock convert forages, arable crops and associated by-products into desirable human foods of high nutritional value (especially in relation to high quality protein and micronutrients) and play a key role in food security. However many livestock diets include ingredients such as cereal grains which could be eaten directly by man. This has opened up a debate on the competition between livestock and humans for land, food and other resources.

Globally livestock use some 33% of cereals produced. Although monogastric livestock are more efficient in terms of total food resource use than ruminants, when diets are based on forages and crop by-products, then ruminant systems can be net contributors to human-edible food. Gill et al. (2010) estimated that only between 6% and 26% of dietary energy was recovered in ruminant products.

However, when calculated as human-edible efficiency (human-edible energy contained in the product divided by human-edible inputs), these values increased to between 65% and 374% recovery, dependent on the production system, and reflect the ability of ruminants to exploit fibrous feedstuffs not readily utilised by monogastrics, including man (Table 1). Gill et al. (2010) therefore conclude that, when used to transform fibrous feedstuffs produced on land not suitable for primary cropping or by-products of the food industry, ruminants can certainly be net contributors to the global supply of human-edible food.


It is possible that, rather than using plant extracts as direct additives, a longer-term solution might be to ensure that the relevant bio-active compounds are expressed in the animal’s normal diet - grass. Whilst such approaches are perhaps unlikely to be available in the short-term, significant progress has been made in the development of perennial ryegrasses with increased water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) content. Feeding such forages significantly increases the capture of N into microbial protein in the rumen (Moorby et al., 2006) and, as such, might be expected to decrease nitric oxide emissions from the animal’s excreta. There is also evidence that using clovers and grasses with high WSC (note: He is talking about stuff like SucraSeed in animal diets can directly reduce methane emissions (Lovett et al, 2004), with recent unpublished observations from our own group suggesting that this might be due to enhanced capture of metabolic hydrogen into microbial protein, thus diverting substrate away from the methanogenic Archaea in the rumen. Experiments are ongoing to investigate the effect of novel forages on emissions over the whole grazing season.

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Re: Sustainability in the American Sheep Industry

Postby dhibbeln » Tue May 29, 2012 7:36 am

folks, in case you missed it...dave h.


May 25, 2012

American Lamb Board's (ALB) Encourages Industry Response to Sustainability Survey

Lamb producers and feeders will soon be receiving an invitation to participate in a production practices survey-the American Lamb Board's (ALB) second phase of its sustainability assessment project. This survey was developed in conjunction with an industry working group that represented members of ALB, American Sheep Industry Association, independent feeders and producers and academic advisors. It was also tested with 20 on-site visits to lamb and feeder operations in each region of the country.

ALB is conducting the survey to review standard operation practices so that the industry can respond with credible data to issues as reported in the media. The board is also hoping to highlight best practices and use the data to protect and enhance the industry's reputation.

The greater the response, the more credible the information and the better the ALB can help the industry in its quest for continued economic viability. All responses to the industry survey will remain confidential and will not be attributed to any one individual. The survey will be available starting the week of June 4, and will be available online, or you can request a paper copy delivered by mail.

Questions can be directed to
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Biodiversity passes the taste test and is healthier too

Postby dhibbeln » Tue May 29, 2012 7:43 am

Folks, some of the evidence I've been looking at regarding relationship between type of feed/forage and taste/texture/palatbility in mutton, hogget and lamb.. regards, Dave H.

Biodiversity passes the taste test and is healthier too

Cattle and sheep grazed on natural grasslands help maintain biodiversity and produce tastier, healthier meat, according to a study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) by Prof Henry Buller of Exeter University

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Chemical analysis showed that the meat from animals with a more biodiverse diet was healthier too. Meat from wild-grazed lambs, particularly those grazed on heather, had higher levels of the natural antioxidant, vitamin E, than meat from animals grazed on improved grass land. It also had higher levels of healthy fatty acids including the long chain omega 3 fatty acid, DHA, thought to play a key role in brain development and to protect against heart disease. And higher levels of the anti-carcinogenic compound, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) were found in meat from lambs grazed on moorland and Longhorn cattle grazed on unimproved pastures than in control meat

Lamb in full flower
2nd May, 2007 ... ull-flower

....for that positive feedback to work, biodiverse pastures must demonstrably improve the nutritional profile of the meat. Proving this was a challenge tackled by farm animal scientist Frances Whittington, working with Professor Jeff Wood at the vet school of the University of Bristol. First of all, she found that the vitamin E content of meat was significantly higher in the heather- and saltmarsh-grazed lambs, and lowest by far in the animals grazed on conventional ryegrass.

“Vitamin E is a natural anti-oxidant that is not only good for consumers,” says Whittington, “but also improves the keeping qualities of the meat, maintaining the red colour during retail display.”

Furthermore, vitamin E reduces fat oxidation products, a sign of spoilage. As for essential fatty acids, meat from the biodiverse lambs was higher in omega-6 fatty acids – and in the much-prized omega 3s, including the so-called long chain omega 3 fatty acid DHA.

“These results show that when sheep graze biodiverse pastures, their meat contains significant levels of healthy nutrients previously only identified with oily fish,” says Wood. Levels of conjugated linoleic acid, CLA, were higher too in biodiverse-fed lambs, compared to conventional controls – another encouraging sign, as studies suggest these compounds may have anti-carcinogenic effects.

What’s more, all the wild-grazed lambs scored higher on flavour than conventionally fed control samples; meat from moorland and saltmarsh lamb scored highest.

Yet there are hopeful signs, says Jones, that even conventional livestock farms are beginning to turn from quantity to quality. “If we were really clever, we could devise seed mixes for modern pastures, spiked with a variety of wild grasses and herbs, that served to produce higher quality meat or milk, and could also bring biodiversity benefits,” he says. As a step in that direction, researchers at the University of Reading have recently seeded fields on the university farm with a mix of six wild flowers. “We’re now waiting to see whether sheep that have grazed on the sward will show higher meat quality,” says Kirsty Kliem of the university’s department of agriculture. Fingers crossed, she says. Britain might just be about to experience a new, but this time eco-friendly, agricultural revolution.
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University of Vermont - Center For Sustainable Agriculture

Postby dhibbeln » Sun Jun 24, 2012 9:55 pm

University of Vermont - Center For Sustainable Agriculture
acessed 24 June 2012 ... lcrit.html

Major issues identified by the Sustainable Ag Council (mandated by State Law) as critical to sustaining agriculture in Vermont are:

•A public relations effort is needed to increase public awareness of the positive aspects of agriculture and the value of farming to Vermont's economy, culture, environment and aesthetics.

•Economic development policies should recognize not just the value of "farm gate" production but also the indirect value of agriculture to food processing, specialty foods, tourism, and maintenance of wildlife habitat.

•A positive future for Vermont's agriculture requires increased support for programs that encourage youth to understand and value farming, such as Agriculture in the Classroom and the Sustainable Agriculture Internship Program.

•Build on the preservation of farmland with programs that focus on ensuring the success of future agricultural enterprises on this land such as Land Link Vermont, the Farm and Agricultural Resource Management Stewards (FARMS) Program, and beginning farmer programs.

•Local consumption of Vermont-grown food should be increased by enhancing consumer awareness of the benefits of buying locally and by providing incentives for public agencies to purchase locally.

•Use-value appraisal and other policies that recognize the value of maintaining "open land" are essential to the long-term viability of farming and forestry in the face of development pressure and high property taxes.

•Alternative enterprise production and market research and development need to be supported in order to compare the viability of a diversity of alternative crops and animals and to identify the most promising candidates for Vermont.

•The scale of agriculture matters, and it has to be in keeping with the community.

•We need to plan for the future, protecting our uniqueness while preparing to compete in the global economy.

•Ongoing support is needed to continue to develop products and markets that directly benefit Vermont farmers and their communities.
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Giant investor-financed land trusts

Postby dhibbeln » Mon Jun 25, 2012 6:44 am

Today’s Farmer: Nine Hours Daily On A Computer
In Gene Logsdon Blog on June 20, 2012 at 5:42 am ... -computer/

DRH NOTE: Formats are mine...we are seeing some of this in our area. NYC 1% er's are buying up land to accumulate 1,500 + acres single boundry parcels. These are former dairy farms. They are not farming at present, but they are held as trusts. The one south of me, well, it costs you 10K per year to join the club and slaughter pheasants in the fall, word is they created a non-profit due to the pheasant hunting and there is no tax revenue from the land comeing back to the town.


I promised not to use his name because I wanted him to speak freely which is not easy to do these days when society is in such conflict. He is a fortyish farmer, articulate, engaging, a delight to talk to. He and his brother grow upwards of 5000 acres of corn and soybeans, much of it rented. The first time I met him, several years go, I remembered him saying that a farmer needed to spend two hours a day on the computer, hedging and marketing his grain. Talking to him a few days ago, I recalled his remark and he smiled. “Make that 8 to 9 hours today,” he said. That included time he spent marketing for other farmers who evidently recognized his skill in this regard.

I was aghast. Just think of that: a man who considers himself a farmer spends his working day almost entirely in electronic grain marketing. His brother “tends to the farm machinery.” They employ five people and “we pay them very well because it is really difficult to find people who have a real work ethic.” (None of the hired help has gone to college and it occurred to me that here was an opportunity to make a good living without spending a hundred thousand dollars to get a degree. Are there any guidance counselors pointing this out?)

Meeting this farmer again, I decided to take advantage of his experience to ask my favorite question these days. “I keep sticking my neck out and saying there’s going to be crash in farm land prices. Is that the case in your opinion?”

“Not yet,” he said. “Unlike the crash in the 80s, much of the land expansion now is being done with cash, not borrowed money. If prices drop, most farmers are in a better position to ride it out.”

“But accountants who handle farm business tell me that while farmers are paying half or more down with cash on new land purchases, the borrowed money is still about the same amount because the land prices are so much higher than they were in the 80s. And, say the accountants, the farmers are very heavily in debt from updating machinery.”

“In some cases that’s true,” he said. “And that new big machinery, by the way, is often just a bunch of junk. Breaks down all the time.”

Then he got down to business. I wasn’t taking notes so these are not his exact words, but the gist of what he was saying.

“Things are changing much faster in farming than hardly anyone realizes. We thought we saw lots of change in the last decade of the 1900s. But from 2000 to 2005 we had as much change as in the whole preceding ten years. Than in the next three years we had as much change as in the preceding five. Now, in the last two years that pace of change continues. It’s breathtaking.

The guy who owns 400 acres outright and rents another 400 and is content to farm with old, outmoded machinery is in a solid position if a downturn occurs— especially if there’s a spouse with another job. The farmer who is farming a thousand acres and trying to move up to 2000 or thereabouts is at risk. The fellow going from 2000 to double that is even more at risk. But the farmer who has 5000 acres and is going for more, the ones on the high side who are good money managers and have been expanding with cash more than credit, and have good landlords interested in the operation’s success, not just in making money, these are the farms that will continue to grow larger.

What we are looking at is the end of farming as we know it, replaced by giant investor-financed land trusts and worked by salaried employees. The real financial winners will be the descendents of the present landowners, the inheritors of these trusts, who may never even set foot on farmland or have any direct connection with it. Sort of like families who inherit oil fortunes.”

I asked him if he thought there was any really big movement in the opposite direction, in small scale, local, organic food, which he has also dabbled in.

“I think this will always be a minority thing. Most people care nothing about food except the price. If the organic or local food is higher priced, they won’t buy it.”

Trying to keep the conversation light and friendly, I said I thought that if I could live another 40 years, I could point my finger at him like a shriveled old man is prone to do, and say: “See, you were wrong.”

He smiled and replied: “I’ll be about 80 then and I will point my finger at your memory and say: “See, you were wrong.”

Will this country allow the land to go into giant trusts where the workers are all employees of inherited wealth? This would mean that what we think of as free enterprise capitalism will dissolve into the ultimate kind of socialistic plutocracy. If it goes that way, I am glad that I’ll be dead.
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Meatless Mondays and University of Vermont

Postby dhibbeln » Mon Jul 09, 2012 10:25 am

Folks, crossposted from Vermont Pasture News List-Serve.. dave h

: Jul 6, 2012 10:54 PM

A caveat first; I'm writing critically about an ex-employer, so read and digest with that in mind.

Today I read on Google News the Addison County Independent's summary of
a UVM sustainable food conference held last week, and came away
concerned enough to write about it. What caught my attention was Robert

presentation at the conference promoting Meatless Monday, and
its context within the overall message UVM has been and continues to
send. First, I agree with Lawrence that consumption of meat in excess is
unwise. I disagree with some of his critique and characterization of
livestock production, particularly on the Vermont scale, and wonder why
UVM would bring him and his message to educate Vermonters on this aspect
of sustainability.

The answer to the later is in large part that UVM continues to become
more distant and disconnected from actual livestock production around
the state. When I started at UVM Extension 10 years ago there were a
number of others in UVM Extension, based away from the Burlington
campus, trained and working directly with the raising of livestock
(Chet, Willie, Bill, Colleen, Rick, and John come to mind). These were
all dairy or livestock "Specialists", meaning they were faculty-level
employees selected for their livestock knowledge. They were
encouraged/expected to have at least a MS in their field of expertise
because they were expected to be a two-way conduit between farmers and
on-campus researchers, as well as be able to independently assemble and
critique information from a variety of sources. An addition to the list
above would be Carol's work with goats, although technically not part of
UVM Extension (except on days it suited them). Today none of those
people are at UVM Extension and none of their positions were refilled.
Most positions went like mine did - dropped by the leaders of UVM
Extension due to "lack of continued need". When questioned about their
lack of support, they will tell you they are as strong as ever, counting
anyone who has contact with a livestock farm, as opposed to people
trained in animal science. The assurances that all is well are empty and
deceptive when you look more closely; the positions they cite today are
not "Specialist" level, and were previously in addition to the lost
dairy and livestock positions. Last I knew (April), there was only one
field-based dairy or livestock Specialist position remaining, it was
unfilled, with no search underway.

Today's news of UVM advocating for less livestock raising, by their
unfortunate choice of speakers, is a direct result of UVM Extension
being allowed to effectively gut their support of and advocacy for the
husbandry of livestock in Vermont at the "Specialist" level.

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