"Questions We Aren't Asking in Agriculture: Beginning the
Journey Toward a New Vision"
Director, Leopold Center
September 12, 2000
I am not a scientist or a technician. I am a farmer and a philosopher. I am
aware that in our industrial culture that makes me intellectually suspect and
a bit of an oddball as a lecturer at a meeting of an agriculture honor
In my defense I want to note that philosophers and farmers have played an
important role in human civilization. Farmers have helped us to stay alive,
and philosophers have helped us to learn how to live.
Perhaps that is belaboring the obvious. But in our "technopoly" culture we
have been led to believe that agriculture need ask only one question: "How
much does it produce?" Indeed, Paul Thompson at Purdue University argues that
farmers in our culture have been taught to subscribe to only one
ethic---produce as much as possible regardless of the cost. (Thompson, 1995)
And we believe that technology is all we need to achieve our production goals.
And increasingly technological innovation to increase productivity has become
the sole research goal of both public and private research institutions.
Farmers, consequently, have been driven to become primarily appliers of
technology, and philosophers have been relegated to esoteric functions with
little to contribute to the public good. In fact anyone who appears to have
little to contribute to our global industrial economy---the growth of which is
increasingly the single goal of our society---incurs the risk of being
considered a vestige of the past (or worse, a "Luddite"). Accordingly, we
don't expect much in the way of meaningful intellectual leadership from either
our farmers or our philosophers.
Philosophers, however, have the annoying habit of asking questions that the
prevailing culture doesn't like to ask. It's what got Socrates into trouble.
Having said that, I want to be clear. I'm not offering to drink hemlock
tonight and I trust I won't be accused of corrupting the nation's youth, which
you will recall was Socrates' crime. But I think it is time to ask some
questions of agriculture that aren't being widely discussed today.
I can think of no better place, than this place---here among agriculture's
honor students, here in Iowa---to begin asking these questions. I assume you
are our brightest and best, otherwise you would not have been inducted into
the coveted Gamma Sigma Delta. And Iowa is the heartland of American
agriculture. The questions we ask of agriculture here may begin to shape the
questions we ask nationally.
I can also think of no one who is more obliged to begin asking these questions
than the Director of the Leopold Center. The Iowa State Legislature created
the Leopold Center to be an agent for change---to be instrumental in the
development of a resilient agriculture for the state of Iowa that is
consistent with the philosophy of Aldo Leopold.
Many of the questions I will be asking us to consider tonight are, in fact,
similar in character to some that Leopold asked himself. Early in his life
Leopold was convinced, as most of us are, that science and technology could
solve most of our problems---including those facing conservation. Later he
warned that we needed to be wary of "salvation by machine," (1933) and that
without a compelling land ethic that was ecologically grounded, we wouldn't
make much progress, long term, toward our ecological, social or our economic
So I'd like to challenge you tonight to begin thinking with me and my
colleagues at the Leopold Center about three questions that confront
agriculture as we enter the 21st century.
I. What is Our Vision for Agriculture?
This continent has, in fact, enjoyed four visions for agriculture during its
history. The first vision was one held by native Americans. Their vision for
agriculture was to feed the village---everyone in the village---and to do so
in a manner that disturbed nature as little as possible. So during the 15,000
years that native Americans lived on this continent before Europeans arrived,
they developed the three sisters agriculture (corn, beans and squash) which
they planted as companions in small, almost unnoticeable crevices of the
ecological landscapes in which they lived.
The second vision for agriculture was brought to this continent by the
Puritans in the early 1600s. They were driven by a vision of "taming the
wilderness and building the kingdom of God." And agriculture was a key
component of that vision. Their vision of the kingdom of God included cleared
forests, plowed prairies and nice neat rows of corn. It was an integral part
of the social order they envisioned for their "new" life on this "new" land.
A third vision for agriculture dominated this continent in the 18th and 19th
centuries. That vision saw agriculture as a civilizing force. Thomas Jefferson
was its leading voice. Jefferson envisioned a democratic republic consisting
of thousands of small farm landholders, none beholden to political patronage
or economic dependency, and therefore free to speak their minds and vote their
In the 20th century, our vision for agriculture became part and parcel of our
industrial dream. We envisioned an agriculture that could produce all of our
food and fiber (plus that of much of the rest of the world) with a
dramatically reduced labor force, "freeing" citizens to engage in industrial
and professional pursuits that could dramatically improve our common quality
Now it is important to recognize that in each of these visions agriculture is
seen as a public good---not simply a means of producing food and fiber.
Agriculture was seen as the vehicle for:
- feeding the village in a manner that would please the inhabitants of
the land seven generations into the future;
- building a kingdom of God, thereby fulfilling a divine destiny;
- creating a free and democratic society;
- developing an economic system that freed people from the drudgery of
hard work to pursue lives of pleasure and leisure.
Each of these visions was compelling. They invited society to support
agriculture because agriculture was part and parcel of a mission that served a
In a forum sponsored by the Leopold Center several weeks ago, Karl Stauber,
president of the Northwest Area Foundation, suggested that one of the dilemmas
facing us today is that we have no compelling vision for agriculture as we
enter the 21st century.
Today agriculture is perceived more as a public problem than a public good. If
agriculture comes to mind at all for modern suburbanites, it is usually in
connection with a problem that agriculture is perceived to have created. If
agriculture is not perceived as the origin of our polluted groundwater, it is
the culprit that is devastating the landscape with eroded soils, destroyed
rain forests, intolerable odors, or end-of-stream dead zones. If it is not
perceived as a leviathan force that prevents consumers from exercising freedom
of choice in the marketplace, or denying farmers access to free markets, it is
seen as a threat to public health, implicated in everything from mad cow
disease, to E. coli, to cancer, to endocrine disruption.
So one of the challenges we face today is to develop a vision for agriculture
that will enable citizens to perceive it, once again, as a public good. That
vision must be grounded in observable results that meet the public's
expectations. Those expectations now, as in the past, go beyond providing
adequate quantities of safe, nutritious, good-tasting food.
Today the public expects, at least, that agriculture produce healthy
ecosystems, human communities that enable families and farm workers to live a
decent life, and domestic animal environments that show respect for normal
animal behavior. Any vision for agriculture that fails to meet these "on the
ground" objectives is not likely to be sufficiently compelling to enlist the
support of urban and suburban citizens. Simplistic cliches like "feeding the
world" won't do.
So I invite each of you to join us at the Leopold Center to meet this new
challenge, to begin the process of developing this new vision for agriculture.
This is not an easy task, nor one that we will complete in the next six
months. But at least we can begin by asking the question---what kind of vision
do we want for 21st century agriculture?
II. What are the New Problems Facing Agriculture in a "Full" World?
The fact that agriculture is vision-less and perceived as a public problem is
an opportunity rather than a barrier. Since the problems of agriculture are
widely recognized, there will be broad public support to develop a new vision
that addresses those problems.
Agriculture is already part of some of the most important and preeminent
social agendas of the world. Two years ago Jane Lubchenco, then president of
one of the most prestigious scientific professional associations in the world,
the American Association of the Advancement of Science, challenged the entire
scientific community to rethink its social contract based on the fact that we
now, for the first time, live in a human-dominated planet---or what Herman
Daly likes to call a "full world." (Daley, 1996)
Living in a full world means we no longer have unlimited natural resources to
satisfy all our desires or unlimited sinks for the wastes generated by our
activities. We no longer live in a world in which the impact of the human
species is easily absorbed by the ecosystems in which we live. The size of the
"ecological footprint" (Rees, 1999) that we leave today is now so large that
we can no longer ignore the impact that our agricultural activities have on
our local ecosystems.
Agricultural activities are central to our ecological footprint. When Jane
Lubchenco issued her challenge to the scientific community to craft a new
social contract---asking them to "devote their energies and talents to the
most pressing problems of the day ..."--- easily half of the problems she
outlined are directly related to agriculture. Not least among the problems she
identified is the fact that "more atmospheric nitrogen is fixed by humanity
than by all natural terrestrial sources combined." (Lubchenco, 1998)
In other words, scientists both inside and outside agriculture now
increasingly recognize a mounting set of problems created at least in part by
agriculture. We simply have to deal with them if we are going to survive very
far into the next century with any kind of quality of life.
Those problems include, but are not limited to:
- Water logging and salinization, much of it caused by unwise irrigation
practices. (Baskin, 1997)
- Desertification. Seventy percent of the world's drylands are now
threatened by desertification, and no one to date has found a way to reverse
the process once it begins. (Baskin, 1997)
- Depletion of water resources. "One-third of the world's food is now
produced on artificially irrigated lands" and we are losing our capacity to
harvest water, much of it due to the way we have changed the vegetation of the
planet with our farming and forestry practices. (Baskin, 1997)
- Soil erosion. The world's farmers are still losing 24 billion tons of
topsoil each year. (Baskin, 1997)
- Pollution. Soil erosion not only accounts for the loss of precious
soil, it also causes eutrophication. Fertilizer (the annual use of which
increased from 14 to 143 million tons between 1950 and 1989) runs into lakes
and streams causing an algae overload and the eventual death of all
oxygen-dependent life. (Baskin, 1997)
- The increasing population of the human species. All of the above
ecological changes are taking place at a time when the human species is
increasing in unprecedented numbers. The combination of the increased number
of humans in relation to other species, and the increased size of the
ecological footprint that humans (particularly those of us in the developed
world) are leaving on the planet, presents us with a difficult and complex set
of problems that go far beyond simply producing enough food to feed the extra
mouths. How do we produce the additional food to feed the additional mouths without
doing additional harm to an already damaged planet? How do we redesign the
food system so that the hungry will be entitled to the food we produce? We
currently have over 800 million malnourished people on the planet and
insufficient production is clearly not the problem. How do we restore the
health and diversity to our ecological communities to mitigate the additional
disease that will clearly come with several additional billion humans in a
world that is already too full? These and many other problems make it clear
that an expanding human population requires much more than simply producing
- The loss of farmers. We are now at a point where (given the consistent
decline in farm numbers, the increasing age of the remaining farmers, and the
decline of young people growing up on farms) we are in serious danger of
losing our most important human agriculture resource---the farmer. We are, as
Calvin Beale pointed out almost a decade ago, in a "free fall" situation.
(Brown, et. al. 1993). According to 1997 statistics, farm numbers in the
United States have declined from 6.5 million in 1935 to just over 2 million in
1997. More troubling is the fact that of the 2 million remaining farms, 1.3
million are part-time, residential, or retirement farms while fully 61 percent
of farm sales are captured by just 163,000 large industrial farms. And 63
percent of these industrial farms are tied to some kind of value chain through
contract with a large corporation, so they aren't really farms at all in the
traditional sense. (Cochrane, 1999)
Now, many in our society would argue that while the environmental problems
noted above are indeed critical, the declining farm numbers are not. As one
federal government official put it when I asked her about the declining farm
population some years ago, "If two or three farmers can produce all the food
and fiber we need to meet our domestic and export requirements, who cares? In
fact, if robots can do it who cares?"
Well, the brutal fact is that if all we expect from agriculture is that it
produce as much as possible regardless of the cost, then she is right. Indeed,
if all we ask of agriculture is that it produce sufficient quantities of food
and fiber as efficiently as possible on a global scale, then Steven Blank,
professor of Agriculture and Resource Economics at UC Davis, was correct when
he suggested recently that the United States should get out of the farming
business altogether because it can't compete with low-cost producers in other
parts of the world. We should then, as Blank argued, put our national
resources to work on higher value producing activities and leave the
production of raw materials to others.
But farms are more than food factories. Farms aren't just an economic bubble
floating in space with unlimited resources coming in, unlimited capacity to
produce within the bubble, and unlimited space outside the bubble for waste
going out. The 20th century vision for agriculture, producing as much as
possible as efficiently as possible and externalizing all of the costs, may
have worked in an empty world. It doesn't work in a full world.
Farms are ultimately not factories, they are biological organisms. As such
they are an integral part of the ecosystems in which they exist. As biological
organisms they function in a context of biological restraints that we cannot
ignore for very long.
Craig Holdredge (1996), a young biologist in upstate New York, reminds us,
with a simple illustration, why that is true. When we treat a cow like a milk
factory whose milk production can be increased by tweaking some isolated part
of the cow's physiology, we lose sight of the fact that for every additional
quart of milk that the cow is forced to produce, an extra 300 to 500 quarts of
blood must flow through the udder of the cow. To pretend that increasing the
milk production of the cow can be done without having any effect on the cow,
or the environment in which the cow exists, or the community of which the cow
is a part, is---if nothing else---bad science.
The reason that good farmers are important to the future of agriculture in a
full world, is that ecosystems cannot be managed like factories. As Niles
Eldredge, paleontologist with the Museum of Natural History, reminds us, there
is no such thing as a global ecosystem---there are only local ecosystems, and
the health of our planet depends on the health of the combined local
ecosystems. (Eldredge, 1995)
So we cannot manage the restoration of the health of our global home on a mass
scale through centralized, global planning. Each local ecosystem is unique.
The free ecosystem services that feed each ecosystem, and that ultimately make
agriculture possible in it, are unique to the location in which they exist. So
the only way we can manage farms within local ecosystems in an ecologically
sound manner, is if we have farmers living in those ecosystems long enough and
intimately enough to learn how to farm in them in an ecologically amenable
The reason we need farm families living in local ecosystems with the knowledge
of those local ecologies passed from one generation to the next is that it is
the most efficient way (and perhaps the only way) for agriculture to function
in an ecologically sound fashion. Preserving the family farm has nothing to do
with nostalgia, it has everything to do with maintaining a resilient
agriculture in a full world.
In this regard, agriculture is not an isolated enterprise in trouble. It is
not just agriculture that must learn how to fit into a full world, it is all
of our human enterprises. The task before us is to reshape the way we relate
to the ecosystems in which we live so as to permit renewal and restoration of
both the ecosystems and the institutions we have created in them---including
agriculture. And that requires a fundamental paradigm shift in our thinking.
Lance Gunderson and his colleagues have characterized this indispensable shift
as abandoning our illusion of control management and replacing it with
adaptive management. (Gunderson, et al. 1995)
That provides us with one of several clues that may help us chart our way
toward a new agriculture.
III. What Clues Do We Have for Developing a New Agriculture?
Neither I, nor my colleagues at the Leopold Center have a blueprint for
getting us where we need to go. But we are willing and eager to be a catalyst
for change. To start us on our journey I want to offer a few clues from
various sources that may direct our work.
- An Ecological Standard
First, and perhaps most critically, we need to agree upon an ecological
standard for agriculture for the next century that is at least as compelling
as our economic standard has been for the last century.
I think that Aldo Leopold's "land ethic" standard still provides us with a
good point of departure:
"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and
beauty of the
biotic community, it is wrong when it tends otherwise." (Leopold, 1949)
Leopold can perhaps be forgiven if he did not incorporate the more complex
notion of the dynamically changing equilibrium of any evolving ecological,
economic or social institution, in his powerful ethical statement.
But if such an ecological standard is to be applied in agricultural
enterprises, it must be made concrete. The challenge to the agriculture
research and extension community, in concert with our colleagues in biology,
ecology, sociology and ethics, is to better understand how local ecologies
function and how to fit agriculture into them in ways that make both
agriculture, and the ecologies in which it exists, more robust and resilient.
We know precious little about how the prairie ecology in Iowa functions and
how we might rethink agriculture to take advantage of the free ecosystem
services that that ecology offers while regenerating that ecology rather than
It was precisely such ecological principles that informed the new rice
research in China, reported recently in Science magazine. (Science, 2000) Two
types of rice, adapted to local growing conditions, were seeded together,
replacing the practice of rice monoculture planted with genetically uniform
seeds bred for universal application. The result was an 18 percent increase in
overall productivity and a dramatic reduction in the need for inputs that are
potentially harmful to the environment.
What makes this project doubly interesting is the fact that it meets both
ecological and production goals without burdening farmers with the cost of
purchasing additional inputs.
What is the ecological equivalent of this research for more robust and
resilient production on the prairies of Iowa? One suspects that there may be
thousands of similar farming practices waiting to be unearthed in every
ecological neighborhood if we only had a better understanding of how local
ecologies function and how agriculture could be adapted to them.
One also suspects that as long as we only invent narrowly applied technologies
to achieve short-term production goals, we will never discover these free
ecosystem services for agriculture.
On the other hand, if we were to begin applying an ecological screen, similar
to Leopold's land ethic, to all of our agricultural practices, we might
discover new opportunities for improving both productivity and environmental
restoration. And if we made Leopold's standard concrete by establishing clear
ecological goals, similar to those proposed by Paul Hawkin, we might reap
benefits for both agriculture and the environment. Suppose that:
- all waste in our farming systems became food for something else in the
- the biodiversity in all our farming systems was increased, rather than
- all of the energy used in our farming systems was current.
How might that effect the resilience and biological efficiency of the farm as
well as the ecosystem in which the farm exists?
And if we required all agricultural research to answer the question---"How
will the agricultural practice, resulting from this research, effect the
health of the ecosystem, including the human community, for which it is
proposed?" before the research is launched. Might we begin to discover more
ecologically elegant farming practices?
- A New Economic Standard
The second clue follows from the first. Applying an ecological standard to
agriculture implies the need for a new economic standard.
It is interesting to note that most of us who quote Leopold's land ethic never
bother to note the fact that his brief land ethic statement is couched in the
context of some rather caustic observations about economics. The paragraph
that contains his land ethic begins by reminding us that
"The 'key-log' which must be moved to release the evolutionary process for an
ethic is simply this:
quit thinking about decent land-use as solely an economic problem." (Leopold,
He then goes on, in the next paragraph, to declare that
"The fallacy the economic determinists have tied around our collective neck,
and which we now need to cast off,
is the belief that economics determines all land use." (emphasis his)
The problem as William Rees at the University of British Columbia reminds us,
is that most of our economic analyses are "money-based." And thus "They ignore
both the biophysical basis of the economic process and the behavioral dynamics
of the ecosystems within which it takes place." (Rees, 1999) Our economic
models for the 21st century must include these additional, vital economic
We simply can no longer afford an economic model that only measures yield per
acre in a given field in a given year. We need economic models that measure at
least decade-long productivity of whole farms measured against the costs of
such productivity to the farmer, to the community, and to the ecosystem.
One wonders, in this regard, if the China rice research project would have
gotten any press if the results had only demonstrated ecological health and
more stable production, without the immediate productivity increase. Indeed
the final line in the Science magazine report was "more rice... more money."
That seems to be the prevailing mantra of our current agricultural paradigm.
We need a new economic vision.
- Adaptation vs. Control
Perhaps even more central to our new vision is the need to move from control
management to adaptive management. The notion that we can control nature was
born out of naive conclusions, articulated in the 17th century, which assumed
that nature functioned in a mechanical and predictable manner, like a clock.
Those assumptions have long since been proven false. We now know that nature
cannot be neatly reduced to "matter and motion." The advent of quantum
mechanics forced us to abandon the clockwork picture of nature in favor of
ideas of probability. Consequently, the rigid causality theories of classical
physics on which our optimism about controlling nature is based, have been set
aside. In agriculture we still seem to be addicted to the belief that we can
"bend nature to our will," as Francis Bacon admonished us to do.
We have now entered the biological era with a long history of coming to
understand how the planet and its life systems evolved. And one thing has
become abundantly clear---the earth is essentially a bacterial planet.
Bacteria either drive, or provide the essential components, for every
significant biological cycle on the planet. And we now know that bacteria have
developed an enormous capacity to adapt to almost any threat. This is probably
due to the fact that bacteria have been around longer than any other living
We also know that bacteria reproduce with alarming speed, running through
approximately 50 generations every 24 hours.
All of this means that any effort to make room for agriculture within local
ecosystems by controlling nature is not likely to succeed for anything but
very short periods of time. It also means that this kind of control management
turns out to be very expensive since we are constantly having to come up with
new technologies to replace those that are made ineffective by nature's
capacity to adapt to them.
So we have a science disconnect here. We seem to insist on using our newly
found biological knowledge in a further attempt to control nature, in the face
of a new physics that suggests it can't be done. Wouldn't we be on sounder
scientific ground to use this new knowledge to better understand how nature
works and how to fit agriculture into it? This would seem to be a good time to
move beyond the single gene, single cause-effect, control approach to
agriculture, to a more whole systems, dynamic, probability, adaptive approach.
Besides, our control paradigm seems to misapprehend how problems are
constituted. Most problems do not lend themselves to control management. C.S.
Holling, distinguished professor of Ecological Sciences at the University of
Florida, reminds us that most problems are systemic, nonlinear and have an
evolutionary character. He argues that this is true, both for problems in
social institutions and ecosystems. Since problems consist of these complex,
dynamic qualities they seldom lend themselves to quick technological fixes or
to control measures. (Gunderson, et al., 1995)
But the psychology of control is deeply ingrained in our culture and I suspect
that shifting from a control management to an adaptive management model will
be one of the most difficult shifts for us to make as we struggle to craft a
new vision for agriculture.
- Marketing the Farm Instead of Farming the Market
But introducing an ecological standard, creating new economic models, and
shifting to adaptive management strategies will not bring about much change in
"on the ground" agriculture unless we also create new marketing opportunities.
Our prevailing view seems to be that farmers must listen to market signals and
produce what the market demands. Farmers, in other words, should be passive
recipients of market signals from the few processors that buy their
There are at least two problems with this approach. First, this passive
marketing system has now reduced most farmers to raw materials suppliers for a
globalized food system. And our globalized food system achieves efficiencies
by demanding mass production of a very few commodities that can be
manufactured into a wide range of food products. This means that our farms are
forced to become specialized monocultures.
But monoculture agriculture is hopelessly at odds with any reasonable
ecological standard. Natural ecosystems thrive on diversity and the only way
that we can fashion a resilient agriculture that thrives on nature's free
ecosystem services is by introducing at least a modicum of diversity in
Farmers, however, cannot introduce a diversity of crops and livestock unless
there is a market for a diversity of commodities. According to some studies,
"only 10 to 20 crops provide 80 to 90 percent of the world's calories."
(Brown, 1981; Mayer, 1981)
Farmers can't produce diversity on the farm if the food system is based on
The second problem with the "farming the market" approach is that it
increasingly reduces farmers to "serfs on their own farms" as a Time magazine
article put it almost a decade ago. (Time, 1992) If farmers have no economic
power they have no decision-making power. That is why farms increasingly look
like the factories that lay claim to the commodities the farmers' produce.
Almost no other economic enterprise in our modern society is content to be a
passive respondent to the market. Most suppliers of goods and services try to
create market demand rather than passively respond to it. If farmers are to
become dynamic players in shaping a new food system that creates a market for
food products that support ecologically sound farming, we have to abandon the
passive marketing strategy of "farming the market."
Of course, one of the barriers to developing such a proactive marketing system
is the fact that as the food system becomes more centralized it increasingly
tries to dictate market demand, rather than simply creating it. Dick Levins,
professor of agricultural economics at the University of Minnesota, cited a
poignant example of such efforts to dictate market demand at a Leopold
Center-sponsored forum on visioning the future of agriculture. He told us that
an executive of a large food corporation informed a seminar at the University
of Minnesota that the corporate strategy of his company was to "spend all of
its lobbying money to resist labeling" of GMO foods and "all of its internal
capital to build solidarity so no food company would break ranks and take
advantage of the non-GMO market."
But the customers who buy food in local food markets still ultimately hold the
power to shape the food industry. (Miller, 1995) And when farmers and food
customers join forces they form a powerful synergy in the marketplace. An
engaged and informed dialogue between farmers and food customers can bring
dramatic changes in the food system.
This means that rather than farming the market, farmers need to start
marketing the farm. Farmers need to tell their story and listen to the stories
of their urban and suburban cousins around food issues. For the foreseeable
future there is still a special magic in this farmer/customer linkage. My
friend, the late Ken Taylor, who organized the Minnesota Food Association,
described this special magic in a graphic observation. "People in urban
communities no longer like to get their hands dirty, but they certainly want
to shake the hands of someone that does." If we are willing to openly engage
each other, empower public participation in the agriculture research and
implementation agenda, invite farmers and food customers to work together to
embrace a common vision, and develop farmer/labor/small business coalitions
around food issues, we can revolutionize the food industry and create new
markets for farmers---markets that encourage farmers to develop more
ecologically elegant farming systems.
A new vision for agriculture that honors a strong ecological standard, that
adopts economic models that serve both people and the environment, that uses
adaptive rather than control management strategies, and that engages the
producers and eaters in a common cause, can transform the food system.
And the time is right. As Robert Goodman at the University of Wisconsin puts
it---"Unmistakable signs exist that humans must replace the exploitative model
manifest in our pesticide-dependent, industrial system of agricultural
production ... The emerging principles of ecology, integrated with genetics,
and wisely used, offer society enormous promise to move toward an agriculture
consonant, rather than in conflict, with environmental quality and
sustainability." (Lockeretz, 1997)
We should also entertain the notion (radical though it may be to some) that if
it makes good ecological sense to attend to the local, it may also make good
marketing sense. Perhaps it is time to re-examine the native American vision
of feeding the village first. Certainly farmers must know by now that making
exports their top marketing priority for the last three decades has not served
Agriculture, of course, is one of the great pragmatic arts. Visions that only
dance in our heads won't do here. This is a dance that literally has to take
place on the ground. So our task is not merely to dream new dreams, but to
engage each other in a collaborative process that transforms both, the way we
farm and the way we eat.
"On the ground," measurable results must include more than productivity in a
single growing season. They will include closing the ozone hole, less cancer,
more clean, clear water, less obesity and diabetes, more biodiversity, less
global warming, more robust rural communities, and more families on farms who
are as much caretakers of the land as they are producers of food. And, it
should go without saying, a dramatic increase in the pleasure of good eating
for all the citizens of Iowa---and the rest of the world.
I invite each of you to join us on this journey toward a new agriculture. The
future is full of potential. The seeds for the new food system have already
been sown. What we need is a new and compelling vision that binds us to a
Baskin, Yvonne. 1997. The Work of Nature. Island Press, Washington, D.C.
Brown, David L, Donald Field and James Zuiches (eds.) 1995. The Demography of
Rural Life. Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. University Park,
PA. Publication #64.
Brown N.J. 1981 and Mayer, J. 1981. Quoted in Carroll C. et.al. 1990.
Agroecology. McGraw Hill, New York.
Cochrane, Willard W. 1999. "A Food and Agriculture Policy for the 21st
Century." Unpublished manuscript. Available from the author.
Daley, Herman. 1996. Beyond Growth. Beacon Press, Boston.
Eldredge, Niles. Dominion: Can Nature and Culture Co-Exist? Henry Holt and
Company, New York.
Gunderson, Lance, et. al. 1995. Barriers and Bridges to the Renewal of
Ecosystems and Institutions. Columbia University Press, New York.
Holdrege, Craig. 1996. Genetics and the Manipulation of Life: The Forgotten
Factor of Context. Lindisfarne Press, Hudson, NY.
Leopold, Aldo. 1933. "The Conservation Ethic." John Wesley Powell Lecture.
Leopold, Aldo. 1949. A Sand County Almanac. Ballantine Books, New York.
Lockeretz, William. (ed) 1997. Visions of American Agriculture. Iowa State
University Press, Ames, Iowa.
Lubchenco, Jane. 1998. "Entering the Century of the Environment: A New Social
Contract for Science." Science. 23, January.
Miller, Daniel. (ed) 1995. Acknowledging Consumption. Routledge, New York.
Rees, William, 1999. "Scale, Complexity and the Conundrum of Sustainability,"
in Michael Kenny and James Meadowcroft, (ed) 1999. Planning Sustainability.
Routledge, New York.
Science. 2000 "Variety Spices Up Chinese Rice Yields," 2000. Science 18,
Thompson, Paul. 1995. The Spirit of the Soil. Routledge, New York.
Time. 1992. "Arkansas Pecking Order." October, 26.
** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material
is distributed for research and educational purposes only. **