Here's what I'm reading lately:
China Bound. Jim Harkness, the president of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (who is also fluent in Mandarin), is blogging about organic food and farming from China, including a fledgling organic store with its own farm and CSA-like business in Beijing. Speaking to a store clerk, Harkness reports: "I ask how he likes working for an organic business and he said, 'It’s wonderful!' And then, with a dramatic gesture sweeping his hand across his face, 'They’ve torn away the masks!' When I looked puzzled, he explained that most people hide their problems, cover up bad news or talk behind other peoples’ backs. 'Here if something’s wrong we have to acknowledge it and deal with it.'” Sounds a bit different from recent China headines.
Sustainable Business? Mark Powell, who works at the Ocean Conservancy making sure fish have a future, blogged from a Stanford Business School seminar on business strategies for environmental sustainability. Specifically, he looked at the possibilities of collaboration between environmental groups and corporations. "Flexibility of mind may be the hardest thing to ask people to do. If you've always hated big business, then you need to spend some time with people who work in big business. I assure you, they're not as evil as you think. If environmental groups leave you angry, then find someone who can talk about the real goals of the environmental movement. It's not the end of corporations, even though some people might say that."
Small Farm Voice. Simon Huntley, who has a novel venture setting up web sites for small farms, blogs about the difficultly of principled small-scale farming. "People want adjective-laden food (micro, local, sustainable, et al) instead of chemical-laden food, but it takes extra care and smaller scale to bring these products to the marketplace. Small farms are well suited to the task of producing high-quality food, but the costs are higher. Will Americans pay the extra price that sustainable, small-scale production requires? If not, can farmers find a way to bring down the price to point that the general public can pay? Or failing the first two options, will farmers be forced to scale up to survive?" My humble opinion: The answer to these questions is yes, yes and yes. There is no single monolithic market or producer but many producers that can meet our various needs. Let a thousand organic flowers bloom.
Rural Divisions. Bruce Cole, who edits Edible San Francisco, directs us in this engaging post to John Ikerd, who is the Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri. Ikerd exposes what CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are doing to rural America. "CAFOs completely disrupt the community life of rural people. Some have labeled this the most divisive rural issue since the Civil War. In many communities, multigenerational family farmers are leading the opposition, often pitting neighbor against neighbors who have been their friends for years." (Thanks Tana!).
Holy Cow! And for a more spiritually enlightening take on the Aurora Dairy dust up, check out Amanda's post on Ethicurean, "Confessions of an Organic Mega-Dairy."