Update

My apologies, but a confluence of events has taken my attention from blogging.

During the absence, I’ve done a good bit of thinking and research related to the societal impacts of creating a ‘family farm’ training operation.

Most of the research has revolved around thinking about family.

I’ve previously blogged about some of the social implications/problems with our ‘self’ orientation.

The more I look at law over the past 60 years, the more problems I see…and the more destructive I see law with respect to family and community.

The great irony is that the entire purpose of law is to maintain society. If our law begins to ‘prioritize’ the individual over the family and community, then the law and the judicial system becomes the antithesis of its sole purpose.

Certain parts of our legal system have specifically lost sight of core judicial meaning. Family Court in my region is now almost exclusively about individuals. As a result it has degraded to a petty, materialistic bickering forum.

When we began the Organic Farmer Training Facility and Ripen initiatives I did not realize that we were headed into the eye of an enormous and destructive social storm.

I understood the condition of the agricultural economy and rural communities. The relationship between those conditions and our national judicial system was not as obvious.

For a country that was formed specifically to structure a government to limit the power of any individual (and structured amazingly well to achieve that end) we have lost our way.

Some recent writers have put the dilemma in terms of our societal ‘soul.’

I think a great many in our society have the desire for a healthy soul.

My concern is more that a very, very small number of self-interested individuals have had some success at changing our legal system to alter the course of our national history…and the explicit intention of the founding citizens to, as they put it, structure a society around law and God.

Selfish actions with the law have pitted people against people in the most harmful way – the destruction of family and community.

Short Creek Farm in New Hampshire

http://www.shortcreeknh.com/about/

Short Creek Farm was founded in Northwood, New Hampshire in 2015 by friends Jeff Backer and Dave Viola. Situated on 200 acres of field and forest, we produce pastured pork, grassfed beef, and heirloom vegetables in an ecologically conscientious manner. From our home-grown meats and vegetables, we create delicious, distinctive products that reflect season and are instilled with a sense of place. We look to traditional techniques for inspiration in the field and kitchen while also embracing innovative practices that move agriculture and food culture forward. We aim to be good stewards of the land, to add vitality to the community, and to make good, real food more readily available.


Jeff Backer, Farmer
Before coming to Northwood, Jeff started Potter Hill Farm, in Grafton, Massachusetts, where he grew a wide variety of heirloom vegetables and flint corn and raised pork and beef on pasture. Over five seasons, both he and Potter Hill became a fixture in the lives of many families in the community. Jeff brings the same ecologically-rooted agricultural management he practiced at Potter Hill to Short Creek with the goal of improving the quality of the land while at the same time producing nourishing foods from it.

sausage_coil.jpg

Dave Viola, Chief Sausage Maker
Dave has had a hand in progressive food companies throughout New England; notably, he developed well-respected charcuterie programs at Farmstead in Providence, Rhode Island and at Moody’s Delicatessen and New England Charcuterie in Waltham, Massachusetts. In conversations with Jeff over many years, Dave recognized the need for farmers to be able to turn their goods into higher quality finished products. This is his role at Short Creek and it basically entails taking the incredible meats and vegetables that Jeff grows and making them last longer, making them easier for you to turn into a delicious meal at home, but most of all, trying not to screw them up.

Evaluating Ideas and Methods in Agriculture

One of the partners and I have been engaged in a discussion that starts to take our farming methods work and determines a protocol to evaluate the integration of a ‘new idea’.

The exchange began because of a concern about genetic manipulation… but could easily extend to any agricultural innovation.

My anxiety arises based upon the broad question of ‘How do we know?’ the impact (both short and long term) of any new method.

As a general statement, I would hypothesize that agricultural science has been severely underfunded in comparison to medical science. I also think it is fair to hypothesize that agricultural science research has been severely anthropocentric.

From a bit of Internet research:

U.S. healthcare research spending in 2016 appears to be approximately $50B (Federal government portion). The only statistic I found on industry investment was from 2010 for $76.5 B.

U.S. agricultural research spending in 2016 appears to be approximately $3B (Federal government portion).

Given our society and the Earth are suffering from 20th Century anthropocentric ideas and methods, I’d also hypothesize there would be enormous social, environmental, and cultural benefit to broadening the ‘human centered’ perspective that drives research spending in America.

Now comes the BIG question…how to develop a research protocol for agriculture 1) intelligently linked to other disciplines, 2) free of species biases, 3) sustainably funded, and 4) capable of answering sophisticated scientific and cultural question.

 

The Economic Arts

A few years ago Wendell Berry made a speech with the following paragraph:

But I would insist that the economic arts are just as honorably and authentically refinable as the fine arts. And so I am nominating economy for an equal standing among the arts and humanities. I mean, not economics, but economy, the making of the human household upon the earth: the arts of adapting kindly the many human households to the earth’s many ecosystems and human neighborhoods. This is the economy that the most public and influential economists never talk about, the economy that is the primary vocation and responsibility of every one of us.

The making of a household has for almost 40 years been a central part of my health (or lack of health). Over the past two years my ability to make a household has been interrupted – both in the practical sense and in the psychological sense.

My home literally ‘fell apart’.

During those two years, I have allowed the practical part of homemaking to become disjointed, uncertain, uncomfortable, and unhealthy.

It has pointed out how important and sustaining is the work of the homemaker.

 

Fake News, Internet and Communication Tech Companies, and American Society

This post diverges from agriculture and food…but not really

…and excuse the following generalizations (there are good folk in all the places I criticize).

Apple’s CEO made a recent statement on Fake News.

Article on the Statement

Apple has more historical credibility here than the others…but…

He states the need to create methods to ‘find’ fake news without stepping on freedom of speech.

Excuse my frankness, but if Google and Facebook and Twitter and all these other social media entities had – in the beginning – collaborated with publishers and newspapers (rather than intellectually and economically demeaning them for a buck to be the hot new technology) …this entire episode would not have happened….

AND Facebook and Google and Twitter..etc. would today have had a much better business model.

Watch what happens now….

It’s a huge mess…I disagree with Cook that it is going away quickly…will NOT go away without better business models for Internet companies. The advertising model has all the integrity …and ‘spendability’…of a wooden nickel.

I’d even suggest Google is only marginally on firm financial ground.

Facebook, Twitter…even certain aspects of Amazon….are in the bulls-eye of the coming information reformation.

The peripheral companies like Yahoo are already seeing their ephemeral balance sheets crash.

Google and others (like Bezos and Musk) also constantly scramble to get into other businesses…I wonder if this is just ‘expansionist’ capital… or fear of the fragility of the core business financial model?

I was, for 20 + years, in publishing …loved it and was extremely good professionally (information graphics and descriptive communications at the most sophisticated and intelligent levels of the industry….sorry for the ‘personal back-slapping’…but I was pretty darn successful).

In 1994 I left the field because I no longer saw a route to practicing with an ethic similar to my practice at The University of Chicago Press and Scientific American. Fortunately The University of Chicago Press is still robust (do not know about Scientific American).

In many ways the industries of publishing and journalism (and the integrity of those industries) were ‘stolen’ by the Internet’s ephemeral models.

Our society had also…for the previous 30 years (60s through 80s) evolved a culture and law of hyper-individualism….where personal rights in law supercede the rights of family, community.

It is also the period where ‘individual rights’, ‘rights to aggregate’ and  ‘rights to be corporate’ superceded traditional ideals of justice for all….even superceded BASIC rights enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. We now have an entire set of inane laws that are fundamentally and profoundly contradictory.

We are now seeing the results of the changes in law and culture from the 60s to the present:

  1. We have a PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES who has built a career (since the 60s) on the manipulation of information/communication for his own “individual’ gain (and his need for attention). He does not see any moral, ethical, or cultural connection/contradiction with his severely dishonest actions. I am not a psychiatrist and do not know what his diagnosis would be…but am certain he is not healthy.
  2. We have forty years of law based upon the idea that an individual is more important than a community or a family. The political dialogue seldom even acknowledges the complexity of the laws created…the ultimate absurdity being the public discussion and laws related to abortion, sexual rights, etc.
  3. We have forty years of financial corporations and financial professionals whose goal is the personal acquisition of money (not wealth in the traditional sense). Not that America was ever without sin (remember the American Indian, the African slave)…but we originally created law – with our country’s formation – meant to alleviate oppression, respect one another, and allow for the pursuit of happiness (I would have used the word ‘health’ rather than ‘happiness’…but the intentions were sterling). Those formation documents are simple, straightforward, understandable, and consistent with my understanding of human behavior.
  4. We have also created an agriculture economy based upon the aggregation of ownership and money at the expense of farming integrity…an agriculture that has deteriorated the fundamental means of production (the soil and the reproduction of animals) based upon someone’s or some corporation’s ‘individual rights’.
  5. We have created food that reflects the aggregation of money by debasing ingredients and quality of raw materials.

Fortunately, a more and more robust sector of our society sees the problem, understands the problem, and has some pretty spectacular start-up suggestions on how to reform our culture.

A subset of that group also has amazingly high moral, ethical, and religious values at a young age – remarkable in our current economy.

They are going to need a strong stomach and sturdy limbs…prophetic action will be resisted.

 

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.

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 – 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’.

Order of Existence

Over the past few years my colleagues and I have drawn from our own experiences, research materials, knowledge of other colleagues/acquaintances – as well as life and farming intuition – to develop what we first titled ‘ A Handbook for Agro-ecological Practices on Specialty Farms’.

In a larger context (over the past 20 years) we’ve worked with colleagues, farmers, scientist, economist, etc. to provide tools and methods to evaluate land and land use. Those methods and tools, primarily scientific and technical, have been designed to allow a more conscious and comprehensive ethic for land use decisions.

The interest in our work has been narrow and limited…..and I think there are numerous cultural conditions which explain the limited interest.

Since July of this year, I see our past work in a much different light. Recent political, economic, and personal events have changed my perception. Those events have also given the work a more compelling validity.

As a young person, my father had a printing and small publishing business. His typesetter, Joseph Dickson, spent a good bit of his life working on a volume based upon his belief that the Book of Revelations was – at its heart – a farmer’s almanac.

Ever since that experience I have  often interpreted the Gospels as metaphors for nature (and the workings of nature).

I have come to see our agro-ecological work as a very particular ‘order of existence’.

Our work is an ethical set of behaviors and practices within a specific societal situation (our community).

We have worked diligently toward defined, justified beliefs – rather than opinion.

The knowledge we derive cannot be generalized. It is location specific.

The methods for deriving the behaviors and practices, however, could be used in any location. The resulting ‘order of existence’ will vary dramatically based upon local conditions. There will also be certain practice truths that will remain relevant to diverse locations.

Our work is both agricultural and religious. It respects Berry’s Solving for Pattern in Agriculture. It holds possibilities for rural communities.