Ratio of Eyes to Acres

Wes Jackson of the Land Institute has often used the term ‘eyes to acres’ to indicate proper scale for farm management.

Fundamentally one must be able to ‘see’ the farm…a way of understanding and gaining intelligence about farm agro-ecology.

We have been working on development of a farmer training program. Since the property has no buildings or equipment we have worked for seven or eight months designing a set of farm buildings and a comprehensive schedule of equipment and fixtures.

It has been a wonderful exercise…and has been carefully done so the resulting farm, buildings, and equipment allow us to ‘see’ everything on any given day.

We believe we are 95% complete with design (the other 5% will take a lifetime of refinement!).

David DeFrancesco, Christian Roberge, and I will be blogging as we progress on design and development process…hoping to engage a broader community as we refine/build/begin operations.

The Decline of Family Farms

There are certain days where the ‘best I can do’ is to sort out some ethical guidance for chaotic situations.

Nothing else, just sort out societal ‘messes’ and hopefully give folks some religious and ethical perspective on action.

Yesterday was one of those days.

I went to bed with dog Lucille at 8:30 pm after reading a few pages of an historical novel about rural life in America.

I awoke at 2 am.

The decline of the family farm in America was much more than a change in the ‘way we farm’.

It was a profound change in the way we think.

It was a profound change in our cultural values.

It was a profound change in our ABILITY to think.

Without the insights and intuitions of daily meaningful work with plants and animals we lose our intelligence.

Science cannot replace the intelligence that grows from daily work caring for plants, animals, and other humans.

We Americans have been lost.

I see lovely signs that we are beginning to – again – be found.

The Value of Knowledge

I am starting to revisit work done over fifteen years ago on the financial value of knowledge.

Interestingly, the period when I was first analyzing valuation methods for intellectual property/knowledge was coincident to Internet enterprises devaluing knowledge/information.

It was a period where social media, Google, and other Internet enterprises were building advertising financial models. Those enterprises were both devaluing information/knowledge as well as condescending to longstanding academic and publishing ethics on knowledge creation/evolution.

Currently (20 years later) we have the result of their ephemeral business model and condescension…fake news.

It was inevitable.

It was also the result of complex cultural changes that were evolving because of our highly individualistic society.. and much of the petty social action that results from that self-absorption.

I now confront another harmful cultural outgrowth of those events.

How do you financially appraise the value of sound, rigorous knowledge creation in a society that has very few tools for analyzing those assets?

In a few narrow fields (mostly linked to progressing self-interest – human aiding biotechnology, personal computational technology, etc.) those knowledge developments are highly (and I might add artificially) valued.

In most other fields the basis for valuation is only linked to current cash flow generated by those knowledge creations or – in some rare cases – projected cash flows from comparable analysis.

Neither of those approaches allow for analysis of asset value based upon historical, cultural, scientific comparisons that accommodate for externalities…. and natural elegance (more on that in another post) .

I’m in process on further research to address some of the issues/problems that I encountered 20 years ago when we began our agro-ecological work.

More to come.

Family

This morning I went to a favorite breakfast spot in Warren, Rhode Island.

They have a community table and I ended setting with a young couple and their 4 children.

It was remarkable for several reasons:Roblox HackBigo Live Beans HackYUGIOH DUEL LINKS HACKPokemon Duel HackRoblox HackPixel Gun 3d HackGrowtopia HackClash Royale Hackmy cafe recipes stories hackMobile Legends HackMobile Strike Hack

  1. Seldom in my community do I see larger families..particularly out for meals.
  2. The children ranged in age from 4 to 8. The three boys were ‘stairsteps’ (another term I never hear in this community for progressive births). The youngest, a girl, was a foster child.
  3. They were lovely children…but active…so I was helping a bit…and find both parents (probably early 30s) grew up on farms.

It was a lovely breakfast.

More Thoughts on the Human Manipulation of Biological Characteristics: Part 2

At our Partner Meeting this morning an interesting discussion arose regarding natural genetic evolution/modification versus human driven, biotechnological genetic modifications/changes.

One of the Partners had an important comment that natural modification always involves a complex array of biological occurrences….and that those additional factors are an integral part of biological evolution…and, in turn, agriculture.

Both of the young farmer Partners are skeptical of biotechnological genetic modification because it alters what they see as a fundamental ethic of biological evolution.

My sense from them was not so much a concern for unintended consequences  – although they are concerned about unintended consequences – as they are concerned about an intuitive ‘wrongness’ about altering the complexity of natural genetic modification.

Somehow we potentially head down an ethical black hole without the natural complexity.

It much better defined – for me – a parallel to the cultural debasement that occurs in societies that become spiritually wounded, shallow, and materialistic.

Justice

Martin Luther King often said justice is the result of love.

From Wikipedia:

Justice is the legal or philosophical theory by which fairness is administered. The concept of justice differs in every culture. An early theory of justice was set out by the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato in his work The Republic. Advocates of divine command theory argue that justice issues from God. In the 17th century, theorists like John Locke argued for the theory of natural law. Thinkers in the social contract tradition argued that justice is derived from the mutual agreement of everyone concerned. In the 19th century, utilitarian thinkers including John Stuart Mill argued that justice is what has the best consequences. Theories of distributive justice concern what is distributed, between whom they are to be distributed, and what is the proper distribution. Egalitarians argued that justice can only exist within the coordinates of equality. John Rawls used a social contract argument to show that justice, and especially distributive justice, is a form of fairness. Property rights theorists (like Robert Nozick) take a deontological view of distributive justice and argue that property rights-based justice maximizes the overall wealth of an economic system.

A farm lovingly managed exhibits just relationships.

More Thoughts on the Human Manipulation of Biological Characteristics – Transgenics

Transgenics refers to those specific genetic engineering processes that remove genetic material from one species of plant or animal and add it to a different species.

The field of transgenics allows scientists to develop organisms that express a novel trait not normally found in a species; for example, potatoes that are protein rich, or rice that has elevated levels of vitamin A (known as “golden rice”). Transgenics may be also used to save endangered species such as the American Chestnut tree, which is currently being repopulated by Chinese-American chestnut hybrids specifically engineered with a genetic resistance to the chestnut blight—the deadly fungus that nearly decimated native populations in the early 1900s.

Ethical Issues

Transgenic biotechnology presents an exciting range of possibilities, from feeding the hungry to preventing and treating diseases; however, these promises are not without potential peril. Some of the issues that need to be considered are the following:

Social Concerns

  • If the blending of animal and human DNA results, intentionally or not, in chimeric entities possessing degrees of intelligence or sentience never before seen in nonhuman animals, should these entities be given rights and special protections?
  • What, if any, social and legal controls or reviews should be placed on such research?
  • What unintended personal, social, and cultural consequences could result?
  • Who will have access to these technologies and how will scarce resources—such as medical advances and novel treatments—be allocated?

Extrinsic Concerns

  • What, if any, health risks are associated with transgenics and genetically modified foods?
  • Are there long-term effects on the environment when transgenic or genetically modified organisms are released in the field?
  • Should research be limited and, if so, how should the limits be decided? How should the limits be enforced nationally and internationally?

Intrinsic Concerns

  • Are there fundamental issues with creating new species?
  • Are species boundaries “hard” or should they be viewed as a continuum? What, if any, consequences are there of blurring species boundaries?
  • Are chimeras and transgenics more likely to suffer than “traditional” organisms?
  • Will transgenic interventions in humans create physical or behavioral traits that may or may not be readily distinguished from what is usually perceived to be “human”?
  • What, if any, research in genetic engineering should be considered morally impermissible and banned (e.g., research undertaken for purely offensive military purposes)?
  • Will these interventions redefine what it means to be “normal”?

The Issue of Species Boundaries

Some individuals argue that crossing species boundaries is unnatural, immoral, and in violation of God’s laws, which presumes that species boundaries are fixed and readily delineated.15 However, several books and journal articles demonstrate that the concept of fixed species boundaries continues to be a hotly debated topic. Some bioethicists point out that a variety of species concepts exist: biological, morphological, ecological, typological, evolutionary, and phylogenetic, to name a few. All of these definitions of what a species is reflect both changing theories and the varying purposes for which individuals conceptualize and utilize different species.20 If species boundaries are simply a matter of a naming convention, and there are no truly fixed boundaries to cross, then many philosophical objections to transgenics are rendered less problematic.

In addition to the issue of species boundaries, there are other issues that need to be considered and discussed prior to large-scale acceptance and usage of transgenics and other genetic engineering research, including:

  • the risks and benefits of the experimental use of animals;
  • the risk of creating new diseases—for which there is no treatment—by combining animal DNA or human DNA with plant DNA;
  • the potential long-term risks to the environment;
  • the potential for increased suffering of transgenic organisms. Various bioethicists, environmentalists, and animal rights activists have argued that it is wrong to create animals that would suffer as a result of genetic alteration (for example, a pig with no legs) and that such experimentation should be banned.

Source: Ethical Issues in Genetic Engineering and Transgenics, Linda MacDonald Glenn

Note: I would add many of these ethical issues are from the perspective there could be some  control/management/regulating of biological manipulations. I believe numerous additional ethical questions arise when you introduce uncertainty over ‘who uses and how’.

A Failure to Improve the Lives of Rural Small Farmers

Long-Delayed Rules to Protect Small Farmers Might be Too Little Too Late

Siena Chrisman in Civil Eats does a postmortem on efforts during the Obama Administration to improve the law and policy for small farm operators.

My question:

Why believe that Congress and the Executive Administration will provide equitable, reasonable, and environmentally/economically intelligent legal solutions to our social problems when those congresspeople and administrative executives are driven by – and dependent on – large sums of money that can only be provided by aggregated enterprises or aggregating individuals? – and unfortunately too many of them in our current economy are not morally sound.

We live in a post-aggregated economy – the money is highly concentrated. The folks who are in Congress and the Administration (Obama or Trump…or whomever is next) have accepted the monetary system of American politics.

We are almost all money-dependent. The question is about the ethical nature of our financial support system.

This in no way implies that individuals or institutions cannot obtain great wealth in a morally responsible manner. They can.

The issue is the ethical, moral, and religious basis for individual and institutional action.

From a previous post:

Agriculture and food are intellectual gateways to culture.

We are not going to farm well (properly) by legislating morally shallow enterprises.

To continue building a sound culture and agriculture is going to be  long and expensive…. and require people of excellent character spreading the good news of healthy food and nutrition.

 

Big Corporations Dominate Food Sales

The growing dominance of international conglomerates in the food and farm industries has been documented by German researchers and journalists. Their “Corporation Atlas 2017” (Note: Did not find in English) calls for tighter anti-monopoly controls.

According to their dossier, 50 firms share 50 percent of the worldwide revenue for food products – and market dominance is even more prevalent in certain product categories.

Roughly 80 percent of the global tea market is held by three companies – the Dutch-British concern Unilever, the Indian corporation Tata and Associated British Foods.

Sixty percent of all baby foods and 62 percent of all cereals worldwide are produced by just four companies. In Latin America, this number is even higher – 75 percent for both product lines.

Mergers create mega-corporations

A  new wave of mergers among food producers started around 2010, triggered by the global financial crisis.

This increased market concentration, the authors of the “Corporation Atlas” assert.

They cite the 2015 mergers between US giants Heinz and Kraft and brewing companies Anheuser-Busch and SABMilleras examples for the increasingly oligarchical state of the food and beverage industries.

Agricultural and foodstuff mergers were worth 329 billion euros ($347 billion) in 2015, five times greater than mergers in the pharmaceutical and oil sectors.

Evaluating Agro-ecological, Economic, and Community Conditions

We’ve used this Framework for ensuring we are comprehensive in our farm evaluation:

Framing Questions 1

Are precipitation and groundwater resources captured, stored, used and released in a safe, stable and sustainable manner?

What are water sources and quality of water source?

Are water losses to runoff and evaporation in balance with soil and plant resources (Determine a water budget)?

Are irrigation waters efficiently and timely in use?

Are perennial stream flows, ground water aquifers, and water storage reservoir volumes stable (within natural or acceptable range of variability)?

Framing Questions 2

What are the major soil types?

What is the general texture of the surface soil?

Is the texture likely to make soils unstable if vegetative cover is removed?

Are there hydric soils on the parcel? How many and are they being farmed?

Is the land surface of sufficient steepness to cause erosion and management concerns?

Does the land have a general aspect toward a specific compass point?

Framing Questions 3

Are kinds and flows of chemicals (minerals, nutrients, etc.) in balance and appropriate for native plant and animal communities?

Are nutrients and/or minerals being lost from the system?

Are nutrients and/or minerals accumulating in the system?

Framing Questions 4

Are pest populations being held in check by predators?

Are native/desired species being damaged by predators?

Has human intervention substituted for natural predation in pest control?

Are crop losses above acceptable economic limits?

Is there evidence of environmental/ecological recovery without human intervention?

Is there evidence of recovery with human intervention?

Are soil parameters within ranges sufficient to allow recovery from stresses?

Is recovery impaired due to species competition?

Are managed species varied by land use and crop management in order to minimize risk of catastrophic loss (crop arrangement, crop rotation, crop integration)?

Is there sufficient genetic variation in the managed species to minimize risk of catastrophic loss?

Is there a sufficient soil seed bank to revegetate disturbed areas?

Framing Questions 5

Does farmer’s enterprise contain a diverse source of income?

Does current management system allow farm to remain competitive?

Does the farmer have latitude in making decisions about management or do others control those choices?

Does the farmer have a profitable economy?

Framing Questions 6

Are their documented harmful health effects from management methods?

Are their health risks from the types and methods of application of agrichemicals?

Are their broader community health risks from farm management?

Framing Questions 7

What are the regional trends in farm ownership?

What are the trends in development patterns?

What are community land uses?

Are there zoning restrictions?

What is the distribution of vegetative types in the county/community?

To what extent is farm/community vegetation fragmented?

Do the political borders correspond with ecological, economic, social and institutional boundaries?

Framing Questions 8

What regional markets are in place?

What products are supported?

What commodity programs are in place to support markets?

Framing Question 9

What nutrient profiles are possible given the property’s agro-ecology?

How do those nutrient profiles ‘fit’ with local and regional nutritional needs and eating habits?

What adaptations are possible to enhance nutrient profiles?

What adaptations are possible to diversify nutrient profiles if desirable?

Framing Questions 10

What types of community institutions exists to make decisions on land use, management and protection?

What civic and community groups exist?

What percentage of the community participates in elections, meetings, and hearings?

Does the community have a land use planning process?

What is the kind and nature of community government?

Are there land and water growth management plans?

What are the kinds and frequency of local cultural activities?

What is the history of successful citizen/community initiatives?

Framing Questions 11

How effective and efficient are modes of transportation and communication?

Are the health, education, and banking facilities distributed for broad use?

What structures are in place to promote a healthy local food supply?