“The sense of impotence and dread in rural America is a consequence of decades of economic extraction and exploitation carried out in the guise of rural economic development. Rural areas are suffering the consequences of prolonged “economic colonization”—a term typically used in reference to neoliberal economic development in nations previously colonized politically. Rather than being colonized by national governments, most economic colonization today in rural America, and indeed in rural communities around the world, is carried out by multinational corporations. (more…)
Haven’t we been hearing or a long time that that human innovation and technology will be the thing that gets us through the projected crisis’ ahead, from the environmental, to the social and political. Yet even as we are seeing an unprecedented increase in affordable technologies, these solutions still tend to consolidate power in the hands of a few as most are proprietary by design.
Wasn’t it Wendell Berry that said a solution is not a solution if it is not available to all? It’s a rational that resonates with a lot of the opensource and farmhack ethos of simple, user designed, accessible technologies and practices. Because beyond just being accessible, open source innovations respond to the needs of a community rather than being prescriptive solutions coming from outside.
We’re excited about this little project by some folks from France called The Gold of Bengal. The group has been sailing a boat made of recycled material, navigating the the world in search of different interesting initiatives. Their current voyage began in 2015 and for the next 3 years they are documenting low-technology innovations that they encounter along the way.
Three cheers for community led, decentralized, open innovation!
Sarah Kendzior has a favor to ask of all Americans, no matter who you voted for this past election. It’s a simple request that all of us, no matter how busy our lives may be, should take a moment to fulfill:
Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others. Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children. Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today.
Write your biography, write down your memories. Because if you do not do it now, you may forget.
Why should we do this simple exercise? Because in this Age of Trump we may see our institutions, our media, and our leaders, as flawed as they may be, erode into something that once would have been thought to be unimaginable. And that’s an easy thing to internalize:
But most of all, never lose sight of who you are and what you value. If you find yourself doing something that feels questionable or wrong a few months or years from now, find that essay you wrote on who you are and read it. Ask if that version of yourself would have done the same thing.
And if the answer is no? Don’t do it.
Read the entire article HERE. It’s well worth the read and get writing those biographies!
According to a recent article in the LA Times, wages are up for farm workers in California and some farms are even offering perks (think 401(k), health care, vacation days, and profit-sharing bonuses) that were often unheard of in the world of agriculture. So why, then, are farmers struggling with what sounds like a crippling labor shortage? Paired with an increasingly restrictive immigration policy, the article suggests that it’s because native-born Americans simply don’t want to work in the fields:
But the raises and new perks have not tempted native-born Americans to leave their day jobs for the fields. Nine in 10 agriculture workers in California are still foreign born, and more than half are undocumented, according to a federal survey.
What do you think? Although the article has its holes and shortcomings, it’s a great start to a debate that must be had in California and throughout the country. Give the entire piece a read by clicking HERE.
“…why the things are what they are, how the things would be if they were as they should be, and how a path can be made from the things as they are to the things as they should be.”
These are the words of Peter Maurin who, along with Dorothy Day, cofounded the Catholic Worker Movement. Now 85 years later, the movement that started with a small paper that called for non-violence, voluntary poverty, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and forsaken has 240 communities that remain committed to these principles.
Brian Terrel recently addressed the National Catholic Worker Farm Gathering, and recalling the revolutionary spirit of Peter Maurin he had this to say:
For many of us, too, solidarity work and travel to places exploited by economic and other kinds of colonialism brought us to see that Peter was right when he pointedly insisted that issues of war and peace always are, at the heart, issues of the land and its use. In New York City or Los Angeles as in Jerusalem or Mexico City or San Salvador, the peace and good order of society requires justice on the land. It strikes us, finally, that even the food that we serve on our soup lines that is donated or gleaned from dumpsters depends on slave labor and is grown in ways that cannot be sustained. When the peace for which we yearn and struggle finally comes and our global neighbors will no longer be forced by debt and oppression to clothe and feed us but will use their own labor, land and water to care for themselves, how then will we live?
The vision of the Catholic Worker Movement parallels much of the aspirations of today’s new agrarians, as we seek ways to work with the land, minimizing our reliance on asymmetric power dynamics of a global world.
You can see Brian Terrel’s full transcript here and find out more on the Catholic Worker Movement Here.
We couldn’t help but wrap up this week with a little re-post of this incredibly inspiring and fun initiative coming of Amsterdam.
When you spend a lot of your life in the country it’s easy to forget about all the cool things that people in cities get up to. And this here is great example of communities, professionals, artists, and academics coming together to solve a unique challenge together.
From the blog:
Supernatural is an exhibition and community project developed by Pink Pony Express which worked with a muslim community in Amsterdam to convert leftover bread into cooking gas.
Kolenkit is a majority Muslim district in western Amsterdam with a large amount of waste bread. According to the Koran, bread is not allowed to be thrown away and must be given back the the earth, which has developed a problem with pests. Specialty bins were provided by the municipality to collect and dispose of unwanted bread in a manner that is compatible with Muslim teachings.
Per week there are about 200 loaves of bread thrown away by Muslim families in the Kolenkit. This could generate approximately 60,000 liters of biogas, One stovetop burner set on high uses approximately 1000 liters of biogas per hour. Thus, the bread from the Kolenkit could keep a stove top burning for 60 hours per week. – cyclifier.org
Well, you get the general sense of things. Head on over to their sites, blogs and what not to get more info.
Now we’re all thinking of different ways we can make biogas on the farm… it’d be a great addition to the composting toilet.
If you’ve not heard of David Bollier, now is as good a time as ever.
Bollier is an author, activist and blogger that spends a lot of time researching and thinking about the commons. He has written a number of excellent books looking at ways in which economies and communities can transition to commons based systems.
From his latest book Think Like a Commoner:
In our age of predatory markets and make-believe democracy, our troubled political institutions have lost sight of real people and practical realities. But if you look to the edges, ordinary people are reinventing governance and provisioning on their own terms. The commons is arising as a serious, practical alternative to the corrupt Market/State.
The beauty of commons is that we can build them ourselves, right now. But the bigger challenge is, Can we learn to see the commons and, more importantly, to think like a commoner?
Recently Bollier gave a lecture in Athens about the emerging commons economy in Greece post collapse.
Photo Credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT for Center for International Forestry Research
Some bad news from a recent article in the New York Times:
A decade after the “Save the Rainforest” movement forced changes that dramatically slowed deforestation across the Amazon basin, activity is roaring back in some of the biggest expanses of forests in the world. That resurgence, driven by the world’s growing appetite for soy and other agricultural crops, is raising the specter of a backward slide in efforts to preserve biodiversity and fight climate change.
Large American-based food giants such as Cargill are fueling this destruction, as they look for increasingly remote areas, where regulation and protection laws are limited, to source their crops. There’s also some next level hypocrisy going on, as Cargill and other similar companies had signed deals in recent years promising to curb their role in deforestation.
You can read the entire article HERE (highly recommended!), but this is a reminder that no cause can be forgotten: stay vigilant! Also, give some thought to your soy consumption, in its many iterations:
A major culprit is the cultivation of soy, which has jumped more than 500 percent in Bolivia since 1991, to 3.8 million hectares in 2013, according to the most recent agricultural censuses. Little of that soy is consumed domestically. The vast majority is processed and exported as animal feed in a commodities trade that serves a global appetite for hamburgers, chicken and pork.
Greenhorns, we want to point you in the direction of two texts on contemporary farm life!
The first is The Journal if Peasant Studies, a publication that focuses rural politics and development. If you’re a farmer, researcher, activist, or just plain curious about the breadth of the agrarian perspectives this is a great starting point!
Next, we would like to give a shout out to our very own publication: the 3 Volume of The New Farmers Almanac. We’re pretty proud of this compendium of agrarian life, which focuses on the commons and features writings, illustrations, thoughts and musings from 120 farming and ranching contributors.