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Farmers, Friends, and Tough Questions  RSS feed

 
Kelda Miller
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I would like others opinion on this tricky issue that may be easier to ask online than in a close community.

In a few communities, although I still tend to grow much of my own food, I'm friends with farmers and also their customer for things I don't grow. This is great, to be friends with the people who grow food. There's a transparency to the process that can't be beat, and a safety that the USDA could never regulate.

What I wonder about though are the tough questions. How much do I balance trusting my friend on one hand and on the other hand saying 'i'm an informed customer and the way _______ is done on this farm just doesn't seem right'.

Does anyone know what I'm talking about? The chickens that should be rotated a little more often? The pigs hanging out in the creek? The nitrates added to the pork? Or, as the case should I be a joel salatin customer, what's this business with advocating 'stocker' cattle? To be sent to the feedlot!!!

I'm not so much wondering how to get the balls to say something, but if other folks, other farmers, have had situations like this and through their experience thought of some good guidelines to follow.

I've never yet had anyone criticize my food-growing for them, but I hope I'd be able to take it in stride.

Anyway, as Dumbledore said to Neville Longbottom "It takes courage to stand up to your enemies, it takes even more courage to stand up to your friends. "
 
paul wheaton
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I know that when I visit farms I'm not bashful about asking those very questions.  Only instead of saying "you should ____" I usually ask "why do you do it that way?" and maybe "So you're not concerned about _____?"
 
                                
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pauls answer is a bit more diplomatic and its always nice to not tell the farmer how they should be doing things. But like paul said ask questions as to why they dont do it this way or why they do things the way they do.
if the farmer doesnt give you the answer you like I would ask them do you know of anyone in the area who does it that way then? if so maybe you should move over to that farmer and buy from them.

I have people ask me all the time how I do things. Most buyers of local or oraganic produce are much smarter and much more educated now then in years past. I tell them exactly how i do things from buying seed to picking and bringing it to market. From a-z so to speak. If there is anything they dont like about it my feelings arent hurt and they are more than welcome to shop elsewhere. Chances are though they wont find anyone else who cares more about their crops and foods safety than me. I tell my customers i eat what I sell and that speaks volumes. I wouldnt want to eat chemical laden ecoli traced food anymore than they would. All my practices go well beyond what the usda organic practices are so Im pretty safe.
The biggest thing I get is why dont you grow this or that. If I dont grow something its because I dont like to eat it. LOL I dont grow hot peppers because I dont eat hot peppers. I do eat bell peppers and I sell them.
 
Kelda Miller
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Thanks for the thoughts!

Have you ever had this conversation with close friends, years long friends, who are also customers? All the suggestions are great, but I'm asking more about intimacy, trust, and loving criticism. Of course I can shop elsewhere, but I'm wondering if farmer-critique kind of falls in the same category as critiques parents get about raising their children. It kind of doesn't, because it's the Community.

I see this question getting more important as community-supported gets more and more intimate. I'd like to hear a farmer's stories about when critique from customer-friends has been positive, or alternatively if it has ever ruined friendships. And what is the difference between the two.
 
MJ Solaro
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Location: Bellevue, WA
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Kelda,

I've never had to approach this situation from a farmer's perspective, but I have had to do the same thing many, many times in the business world. Make an outsider's suggestion (that's of critical importance), to somebody who is the owner, or expert of a particular business problem.

So far, the advice that has been issued is high-quality. If you have a close, trusting relationship with these individuals, then the way it is going to be received is all based on two things: 1) your approach to the conversation, and 2) their personality. Some people simply can't take constructive criticism, even when offered in the nicest way possible. Since you know these people well, you should be able to take a guess as to whether they fall in camp two.

As for the approach. The best way to subtlety insert your concerns is to approach the subject with deference and humility. Phrasing your concerns as questions is an excellent suggestion. Saying things like "help me understand why you do this..." and smiling is a great way to cushion the blow. Often, citing a neutral (even if fictional) third party will help, something like "I read this article the other day that said blah blah blah".

I'm interested though - do you think that you're going to sever your business relationships with these parties based on their responses?

 
                    
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Farmers operate on a (usually) thin profit margin. They are sensitive to the criticism of those who grow food and raise livestock for personal ethical or political reasons rather than for profit. They are, by and large, hostile to criticism on ethical grounds because they cannot afford to make such distinctions. Their main concern is the maximum product for minimum cost in overhead proportionate to healthy yield as a selling point for consumers. Even organic farmers must trade ethical considerations for yield-to-profit concerns. Even as a friend, unless your opinion is asked, it is probably a good idea to remain silent if you disapprove of practices and if you disapprove strongly enough taking your business (or exchange) elsewhere can speak loads eliciting a request for your opinion. Once asked you are free to opine.
 
Kelda Miller
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This is cool to see how this conversation goes, MJ and Alexis!

I smiled at the diversity in your two responses: MJ (kind of 'know your friends and you'll know how to say it' and Alexis ('as a friend don't say anything, but they may always ask you when you leave'. Because of course both are true.

I live in a county where there aren't That many choices, so in most cases I would stay with farmers who are doing the best that's available here. But if there is a choice, that's a different matter.

Even since I've formulated this question, the 'don't say anything but be a good friend' approach has changed (or maybe Opened) the conversation a bit. There's nothing like a lovingly raised eyebrow or empathy for someone frustrated in how to do things better.  Like anything, there are some things I as a friend will have more empathy with than others. And especially more if I'm eating the product of it!

It's so tricky! Because at some point it comes to 'how close will we be friends if they don't care that _____ is happening on their farm?'. Sometimes I find that they do care, in other cases they may not.

This conversation is really important I think for CSA customers that have left a farm for a sustainability/social justice flaw in the farm, but have never had the conversation with the farmer about it. CSA customers get pretty close to their farmer, and I think it's sad for farmers to lose them.

I hope some folks from that situation hit up this site, and may have some feedback to give
 
                                
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kelda as you know everyone on this planet s different. its what makes the word go round.
You will have to size up your friend for yourself to see if they are easily hurt by your comments.
Some people have tough skin and understand. Most people who do business fall into this category. They realize they arent going to be able to please everyone out there. And they know they cant do it the way everyone else wants.
Some people take things very personally and will feel hurt but generally these people dont do well in business for very long. If you can take personal criticism you wont last long in business.
I had a friend who had a short lived subshop. He loved to create his own mayo mustard and other condiments from scratch. He would tell anyone the wonders of his homemade condiments over any store bought. He loved his home made creations so much he put them on all his subs. (ONLY ONE PROBLEM) He insisted I try one of his wonderful subs. He put on his homemade condiments. I told him to leave off the mustard as I dont like mustard. He put it on anyway stating this was different it was much better than store bought that I would like his.
One taste later I made a gosh awful face and spit it out in my hand. Yuck that was terrible I said as I ran for a glass of water. He took it personal. He said your joking right? I said um no I told you I dont like mustard. I cant stand the taste.
Apparently he thought I was just being mean and continued to put his home made creations on all his subs. He last 7 months in business then went under due to low sales.
 
Susan Monroe
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Many farmers operate on a low profit margin for mainly two reasons, as far as I can tell: 

They spend more money on inputs than common sense would dictate.  Buy a calf for $300, then spend a fortune buying feed for it, then wonder where the profit margin is?

They sell wholesale to another operation that really kicks the price up, instead of selling retail himself.  Sure, it's easier to have some guy with a cattle truck pick up your steers, turn them into a filthy holding pen, and slaughter and butcher them with godknowswhat standards, if any.  Sure it's easier than doing your own clean butchering and looking your customers in the eye.  Sure, just take the check and stick it in the bank and hope it covers the bills.

Small farmers in particular need to get out that cheap product/low income mindset.  Put a little money into improving your soil and pasture, then rotate your stock carefully, butcher it yourself and sell it retail.  Fence off a few acres and grow a high-value crop instead of growing all the same low-income crap that everyone else in the valley is growing.

Just because your daddy did it for sixty years and worked himself into a pauper's grave doesn't mean you have to. 

Like the man said, Don't work harder, Work SMARTER.

And the question you should ask is.... "Have you ever considered ... [fill in the blank]?"  Some people have had their head down for so long they're never even considered an alternative.  Maybe you'll be a flash of inspiration for them.

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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unfortunatly the legislation doesn't support that kind of farm sue. I can't sell meat unless it is on the hoof because to sell it packaged it has to be processed in a usda plant. that expense in itself eliminates the chance a at a profit. Most real farms I suspect don't buy a calf for $300 and feed it. those aren't farmers after a profit those are fun farmers. Most dairys unload them asap sometimes give them away. I can buy one for about 20$. Meat operations are raised on pasture until they go to the feed lot and you can be sure no farmer worth his salt is going to be raising a bottle calf unless it is some seriously nice breeding stock certainly not one bound for the killers. I think some better methods are slowly working there way through the system and making an immpression on farmers. change takes time. hopefully the polititcians will keep there sticky fingers out of it and won't screw it up.
 
Susan Monroe
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Are you familiar with Joel Salatin's book, Everything I Want to Do is Illegal?

Sue
 
paul wheaton
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SueinWA wrote:
Are you familiar with Joel Salatin's book, Everything I Want to Do is Illegal?

Sue


Not only do I have it, but Mr. Salatin signed it for me and shook my hand. 

Haven't read too much in it tho. 

 
Leah Sattler
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never read it but it is on the list to aquire! I have a feeling it would hit home.
 
Kelda Miller
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On that note, and especially as it pertains to this county and the farmer in question, we soon have a new toy. A mobile meat processing unit that is USDA certified. Woohoo! It travels like a semi-trailer. And it means local farmers will have a much better time of trying to keep their meat local and the costs down.

And, Acres even put in a blurb about it. Check it:
http://www.capitalpress.com/main.asp?SectionID=67&SubSectionID=1261&ArticleID=44614&TM=32824.37
 
Susan Monroe
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It sounds like a good idea.

If it's done on-farm, it will eliminate a previous problem of taking good cattle in for slaughter, and getting poor meat from trash cattle back.  IOW, the old switcheroo.

(Capital Press isn't Acres USA, it's just Capital Press)

Sue
 
                                      
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Susan Monroe wrote:
Many farmers operate on a low profit margin for mainly two reasons, as far as I can tell: 

They spend more money on inputs than common sense would dictate.  Buy a calf for $300, then spend a fortune buying feed for it, then wonder where the profit margin is?

They sell wholesale to another operation that really kicks the price up, instead of selling retail himself.  Sure, it's easier to have some guy with a cattle truck pick up your steers, turn them into a filthy holding pen, and slaughter and butcher them with godknowswhat standards, if any.  Sure it's easier than doing your own clean butchering and looking your customers in the eye.  Sure, just take the check and stick it in the bank and hope it covers the bills.

Small farmers in particular need to get out that cheap product/low income mindset.  Put a little money into improving your soil and pasture, then rotate your stock carefully, butcher it yourself and sell it retail.  Fence off a few acres and grow a high-value crop instead of growing all the same low-income crap that everyone else in the valley is growing.

Just because your daddy did it for sixty years and worked himself into a pauper's grave doesn't mean you have to. 

Like the man said, Don't work harder, Work SMARTER.

And the question you should ask is.... "Have you ever considered ... [fill in the blank]?"  Some people have had their head down for so long they're never even considered an alternative.  Maybe you'll be a flash of inspiration for them.

Sue



Sue, I respectfully submit that you have some issues with farmers that simply aren't justified.

No farmer buys a calf for $300 unless it's a breeder or something special.
No farmer buys feed for cattle other than what is necessary for their health and well being, the rest is hay and silage, along with pasture, usually from their own farm.
Selling retail opens up another can of worms that many farmers for good reason don't want to get involved in, and with that goes regulation after regulation.

It's already been mention about USDA butchering operations, they come at a cost. A high cost.

I spent many years of my young life on a farm, as well as knowing enough farmers throughout the years to say that any one that thinks farmers are dolts, just don't know farmers.

When the world goes south, and things get down and dirty, you want farmers on your side.
They are the survivors.

As Leah said, hopefully the politicians will sit this out..........
 
Susan Monroe
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There have to be some smart farmers out there, but all of them aren't.

I've been watching farmers all my life, and they just seem to do a lot of dumb things.

Now, for the last 15 years I HAVE been living in Stupid Central, and that, too, may be coloring my attitude.

There is a little cafe near me (the only one for miles), and a lot of the local farmers go in there to eat breakfast and socialize.  Some of the conversations I've overhead make it very difficult not to say something out loud.

One guy grows feed corn to sell.  He figures that it costs him about $150 per acre for fertilizers and RoundUp (etc), and his net profit per acre is only $50.  FIFTY LOUSY BUCKS!  That's insane!  And he can probably write off the $50 for his labor (but I don't know that for a fact).  But he still keeps growing corn, year after year. 

Another guy whose farm I used to pass daily left his tractors and stuff outside all winter in the rain and snow, fully exposed.

There's a sheep farmer with lousy fences.  I can't count the times I've pulled into his driveway and laid on my horn to tell him his ewes and lambs were out on the road AGAIN.

Last winter, the weather prediction was for multiple storms, one after another, bang-bang-bang, with heavy rain.  The water standing on Interstate 5 was 10-12 feet deep.  So, naturally, that's when one farmer went to visit his son.  His farm is low, near the river.  The flood just filled up his property and his house, four feet deep.  What do you think happened to his sheep?  Well, you're wrong.  They didn't drown, simply because the guy behind him saw the water rising and went down and cut his fence open so the farmer's sheep could come up onto his property.

Okay, some farmers are smarter than others.  But when, nationally, farmers are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on farm chemicals that they seem to see at a (hopefully) magic bullet, and yet their income barely exceeds their outgo, PLEASE don't try to impress me how smart farmers are.  I'm just not that gullible, and I'm not that stupid.

Why do you think that the number of small farmers in America has decreased from approximately 5.5 MILLION family farms in 1930 to only 565,000 in 2006?  How many more do you think we've lost in the last two years?

Personally, I don't think these losses are due to smart thinking by farmers.  They were sold a bill of goods over a half a century ago, never seemed to recognize that fact, and most went broke following bad advice from our government/agricultural colleges and the chemical companies (which are probably near to being all the same thing at this point).

That's not smart.  That's pathetic.  And I'm sorry about it, and hope that the farmers who are smart can get the others to follow in their footsteps and succeed.

Sue

 
                                      
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Susan Monroe wrote:
There have to be some smart farmers out there, but all of them aren't.

I've been watching farmers all my life, and they just seem to do a lot of dumb things.

Now, for the last 15 years I HAVE been living in Stupid Central, and that, too, may be coloring my attitude.

There is a little cafe near me (the only one for miles), and a lot of the local farmers go in there to eat breakfast and socialize.  Some of the conversations I've overhead make it very difficult not to say something out loud.

One guy grows feed corn to sell.  He figures that it costs him about $150 per acre for fertilizers and RoundUp (etc), and his net profit per acre is only $50.  FIFTY LOUSY BUCKS!  That's insane!  And he can probably write off the $50 for his labor (but I don't know that for a fact).  But he still keeps growing corn, year after year. 

Corn production is running between 125-150 bushels per acre. The price of corn was at somehwre around $4/bushel this year, a price that was the same back in the 80's and it's been traded at $2-$3 a bushel in the 90's and since until the ethanol boom.
So let's say 125 bushels an acre @ $4/bushel. That comes to $500/acre of corn harvested.
You can do the math from there........


Another guy whose farm I used to pass daily left his tractors and stuff outside all winter in the rain and snow, fully exposed.

Many farmers do leave equipment out, becaus ethey can't afford to lose the storage space for hay crops and such, and building another machine shed usually isn't in the budget.

There's a sheep farmer with lousy fences.  I can't count the times I've pulled into his driveway and laid on my horn to tell him his ewes and lambs were out on the road AGAIN.

Last winter, the weather prediction was for multiple storms, one after another, bang-bang-bang, with heavy rain.  The water standing on Interstate 5 was 10-12 feet deep.  So, naturally, that's when one farmer went to visit his son.  His farm is low, near the river.  The flood just filled up his property and his house, four feet deep.  What do you think happened to his sheep?  Well, you're wrong.  They didn't drown, simply because the guy behind him saw the water rising and went down and cut his fence open so the farmer's sheep could come up onto his property.

No farmer just "leaves" his or her farm without someone watching over things, they simply can't, it isn't an option. It was probably discussed with the other landowner to just let them on his property if things flood out, It's what farmers and rural folks do, they help each other out.

Okay, some farmers are smarter than others.  But when, nationally, farmers are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on farm chemicals that they seem to see at a (hopefully) magic bullet, and yet their income barely exceeds their outgo, PLEASE don't try to impress me how smart farmers are.  I'm just not that gullible, and I'm not that stupid.

I've never seen a hungry farmer, or at least VERY few. Money isn't the only thing involved for them. They are self sustaining BECAUSE they are farmers, not in spite of it. Their cost of living is pretty low if it is a family farm.
Farming income is just about the same as the average household income for the country, so I'm not sure where you're getting your numbers from, but they aren't living in a stone cave huddling around the fire to keep warm at night.
The billions spent on chemicals is because people simply aren't interested in spending $6 a gallon for milk instead of  $4, so if you want to help farmers compete and move to other practices, offer to pay more for your groceries, and lobby congress to stop the importantion of cheaper commodities like fruits and vegetables from countries where DDT is still used.


Why do you think that the number of small farmers in America has decreased from approximately 5.5 MILLION family farms in 1930 to only 565,000 in 2006?  How many more do you think we've lost in the last two years?

Family farms have been lost because the spoiled generations found jobs in the city where convenience rules and hard work isn't to be spoken of.
If more people would get into farming and demand changes, things would change. As it is the corporate farms are setting the stage, not the family farm.


Personally, I don't think these losses are due to smart thinking by farmers.  They were sold a bill of goods over a half a century ago, never seemed to recognize that fact, and most went broke following bad advice from our government/agricultural colleges and the chemical companies (which are probably near to being all the same thing at this point).

So in other words, when corn goes from $4/bushel in the 80's and then drops to $2/bushel in the 90's it is the farmer's fault for not being able to pay their bills while THEIR cost of living continues to increase?

That's not smart.  That's pathetic.  And I'm sorry about it, and hope that the farmers who are smart can get the others to follow in their footsteps and succeed.

The only farmers in business today ARE the smart farmers, since farming is in fact a business, and no business is viable without proper decision making abilities. Wether you agree with that or not is up to you, since this is America you have that option, but knowing something about how business works, I believe I can speak to some of this.

Sue








2007 Corn Crop a Record Breaker, USDA Reports



WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2008 – The 2007 U.S. corn crop was one for the record books, with 13.1 billion bushels of production eclipsing the previous high, set in 2004, of 11.8 billion bushels, according to the Crop Production 2007 Summary released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The 2007 production level was up 24 percent from 2006.

Driven by favorable prices, growing ethanol demand and strong export sales, farmers in nearly all states increased their corn acreage in 2007. Planted area, at 93.6 million acres, was up 19 percent from 2006 to the highest level since 1944, when farmers planted 95.5 million acres. The 86.5 million acres harvested for grain was the most since 1933, and up 22 percent from 2006. Those acres yielded an average of 151.1 bushels of corn, the second highest yield on record after 2004’s 160.4 bushels per acre, and up 2 bushels from last year.

The shift to corn led U.S. farmers to plant and harvest 16 percent fewer soybean acres in 2007 than in 2006. A total of 63.6 million acres were planted, and 62.8 million were harvested. Soybean production, at 2.6 billion bushels, was down 19 percent from the record high of 3.2 billion bushels in 2006, while the average yield per acre was at 41.2 bushels, 1.5 bushels below last year.

For 2007, all cotton yield reached a record-high 871 pounds per acre, up 57 pounds from last year and surpassing the previous record of 855 pounds set in 2004. Total production came in a 19 million 480-pound bales, down 12 percent from last year’s 21.6 million bales. Still this is the fourth-highest production on record, following 2005, 2004 and 2006, respectively. Harvested area, at 10.5 million acres, was down 18 percent from 2006.

Grain sorghum production, at 505 million bushels, was up 82 percent from 2006, thanks to favorable growing conditions throughout the major sorghum-producing region. Planted area totaled 7.72 million acres, up 18 percent from 2006. Harvested acreage, at 6.81 million acres, was up 38 percent. Nationwide, yields averaged 74.2 bushels per acre, with yield records set in Texas and Arkansas and tied in Kansas and Nebraska.

For rice, the 2007 U.S. yield of 7,185 pounds per acre is a record, topping the previous high of 6,988 pounds per acre set in 2004. Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri all had record yields as well. Overall, 2007 rice production was 197 million hundredweight, up 2 percent from last year. Both planted and harvested acres were down 3 percent from 2006.

The full Crop Production 2007 Summary is available online at http:// www.nass.usda.gov. The report contains year-end acreage, yield and production estimates for grains and hay; oilseeds; cotton, tobacco and sugar; dry beans, peas and lentils; and potatoes and miscellaneous crops.

 
                                      
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Just another view Susan.................I'm known to do that from time to time.
 
rose macaskie
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  Its a sort of question for all people on the earth, should i criticise my neighbor?
    I was brought up not to and then taught to do so or pushed into doing it, by being called wet and weedy and such.  I have been so stepped on because i did not criticising others that i can say the punishments for shutting your mouth are as great as those for opening it or even much greater though more gradual.
    When you criticise others they start to know what your priorities are, when you don't they decide you're immoral.
  It is really hard, there is no way of criticising and being keeping all your freinds or even those people you wanted to look after a bit. You have to make sacrifices and sacrifice others.
    If you don't do it, you don't find out what happens if you do and often you really never learn what others are like. Its only when you press them that you learn they really don't give a damn, for example,  they're not just saying it, whatever it was that you imagined they did not really believe, it seemed so wrong and you imagined them to be fair people. You find they really believe it.
    If you don't criticise others then you are probably not pulling your weight, though you imagine you are just waiting for the right moment. In David Copperfield, the heroe has "got there' when he denounces his cruel and fortune hunting stepfather. On the other hand upholding the need to criticise others, is the excuse for their conduct of lots of bullies. Also lots of people are very lazy when it comes to finding out before they hang others very given to believing the first person that comes along the best blackener and overly sure of themselves, given to embrodering the truth and even to being straight psicopaths and criticising to destroy.
    These totally destructive criticisers who shoot you to peices instead of slapping you, have excuses for being so. They say you are the same as them because you have criticed others. It is not the same to criticise with care and without going for others on all scores and being carefull to withdraw and persuade others to stop attacking if you have caused to great a hole in their social life, as to really go for others in a through type of way and it is difficult to argue these points so you have a complicated and long job in front of you when you take the active path.
    I think it is more commun for boys to be brought up to stick their oar in than for women to be brought up to bring people to task or to the conference table, especially for women to do so to men. May be it is classist and racist question too. Have you been brought up to rule or be ruled? Are you uncle toms cabening, just a cap doffer?
    I hate people coming at me the polite way, I can see what they're up to and they are behaving as if i can't and i feel insulted and as i did not used  to be woman enough to say, "stop playing with me", th i was left choking with frustration.  Round about ways of expressign criticism can make it dificult to reply, on purpose, this means i am being treated as if i could not possibly have a good and interesting answer.
  Sepp Holster asid plant lots of poisonouse plants it helps peole learn to deal with them, and it might work as a medicine.
 
rose macaskie
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One farmer complained here about talking as if farmers are stupid. The economist have just been stupid, when we criticise some sections of society it is as if we thought they were stupid instead of as if we thought that things get out of hand in lots of situacions and human mess up, even though they're clever and that they are not so much stupid in some cases as straight bad.  Everyone thought chemicals in farming where wonderful, discovering that they ruin soils and and are not really that necessary is a swing in events and takes a bit of time to come to grips with. as does the fact that  global warming means that ploughing is really a bigger disaster than we thought it was, as plants absorb carbon dioxide and if there are none yu are greatly contributing to the problem and they shade insulate the earth, reducing the build up of warmth that now, with green houe gases that reflect it back, in has difficulty in escaping from our atmosphere.
 
Gwen Lynn
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I may be just a tad cynical, but over the years I started agreeing with comedian Ron White, because...sometimes..."You can't fix stupid!"
 
Brenda Groth
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my suggestion to this older thread that I had not seen until it was brought back up today..would be to print off any information that might be helpful to the friend and give it to them saying something like..look at this informaiton I found online..i found it very interesting..and thought i would share it with you..then they can read it ..toss it..observe it..or whatever.
 
Nicholas Covey
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Well, as has been covered here several times....

People don't like to be criticized, constructively or not. It's human nature...

Typically farmers are a demographic that feels like everyone is against them, be it government, industry, environmentalists, hunters, etc. To criticize a farmer, who feels like he's already been sold out, just adds insult to injury.

Trade journals, studies by major land-grant universities, and even the USDA are very centric to keeping with the status quo. To do any different is to risk ridicule, loss of funding, possible crop failure, and loss of livlihood. Among farming circles there are also a great many examples of "fads" that have come and gone. Almost every farmer has at one time or another attempted to be progressive and different and lost their shirt at it. I believe that the argicultural industry has made it that way on purpose, but that's another story altogether.

Now I agree, it's better to know what you're doing wrong and fix it. I have this particular issue with my father, who is a typical row-crop and cattle farmer. I have to show him the difference. When he sees for himself that there is another (better) way of doing things, then he considers it.

I think the best thing we can all do to persuade that permaculture is better is to prove it. Then don't stop there. Promote yourself, your product, and your means. Get your name into trade journals. SHOW PEOPLE.

Then you trick them into thinking it was their idea.
 
rose macaskie
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Gwen Lyn, you say, "you can't fix stupid". There is no such thing as stupid, there is ignorant and bloody mindedness but not stupid, if you believe in stupid you will never fix them because they will con you.
      The real problem is not whether to be rude enough to  disagree with a friend, it is that they won't let you speak. If they were freinds they would have given you an oportunity to say all that interests you if you are askking if it would be rude to talk to them it is because experience has lead you to discover tha they respond crossly they are not freinds.
      In no way will they let others know anything more than them, they have the leadership philosophy, i have to get myself respected and obeyed and if someone finds out i don't know something i will lose control of others. Instead of, i have to know my stuff to be respected and  of course nobody thinks everybody has to know everything, you can't really be a full time farmer and father and agricultural expert. They are reasonable they will respect me though i make a mistake. 
      There is also the land of i am clever because i tamed that woman or man who did not manage to do what she he wanted but i did manage to do what i set out to do. They have a point, you need intelligence to think of ways of herding people, it is or difficult and so it means that you have used your head. Still if this means that i can believe knowing things is unnecessary or is of no worth, and i don't have to learn anything or i wont listen to anyone then its counterproductive to their family or country though it might get them inot the advantagouse position of being obeyed and feared.
      It is normal for ruling bodies to pretend that people are clever without the informacion to make informed choices, to ridiclize learning and swats, this puts the reins into the  hands of the rulers. Persuad people to be ignorant and you can take the reins.
      People who are in power do always say," but look i have a right to be where i am, look how ignorant he is". though they may turn round and tell others that learning is stupid.
      Their is a left wing thinker in South America, Paulo Freire, who pretends that the stuff is in people you only have to get them to spit it out, a new excuse to keep them away from the information that allows people to make informed choices. His system consists in leading the conversacion in such a way as convinces people of the importance of changing the class system. This leading that pretends to be letting you find what is in you, clever mind washing tehnic, stops a disscusion of the points brought up. I have met people who followed his teaching fif judging from the circumstances the them is allowed as evidence these modern missionaries aren't open about their intencions. As Freire and his companions despise despises formal teaching, input, it will only support old methods that allowed the educated to rule, be it the educated communist instead of the educated monachist, lords temporal and spiritual.
    The rich or powerfull, church members are more powerfull than rich, petend that money is the name of the game. The name of the game is know how and informacion. The rich or are educated for longer, or can pay experts. 
    You have to practice speaking of what you believe in so much that you learn to go on speaking when others are bored, when they have yawned, when they have insulted you, which at  first gets you on the defensive so you stop explaining what you were explaining and start to defend yourself, if they raise their voices so that the only way to get heard is in a shouting match, this sounds silly but you can find that you have not said anything sensible in three it could be in forty years because you did not want to look mad indulging in a shouting match and they know it.
    Insulting you is saying you are showing off, for example, that you are pushing them around, that you aren't humble and are boirng, that it is insensitive to go on talking when others don't like it. It is nit picking, and  moral and intellectual invalidation.
      I have had all this happen to me when i started to talk, it has taken me fifteen years to learn how to deal with distraction techniques.
    As a woman i wasn't brought up to fight.  For one, bringing people up to fight might turn them into bullies. The thing is, that it is better to have everyone fighting, then ts not just the bullies doing it. It is the Pokemon, Son Goku, philosophy.
  They managed to create trade unions and socialism it is possible to do these things.
 
rose macaskie
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  I read a book or part of it on the mafia written by a criminal psychologist and she said that the early mafia wanted respect more than money.
      If you are a peasant farmer, the fact that  that people come to you with their problems because you are mafia is just so much more agreable than being a poor peasant who people turn to with trivial questions like, the sun is shining, how are the family, a trivial question when they are wellish, and give you their back when they sit down to talk about politics or ecology or any of the other themes that are crucial to our lives and that of our children. How to look after the land that brings in our money. I know how boring it is not to have a voice in the group, iIam a woman and if you complain about being voiceless, they pretend you want to have the veto, to simply rule unchallenged, they try to embarrass you, so you daren't ask for your rights.
    If you can get farmers to the council chamber they should enjoy it. If their sense of self worth constists in whether they can out do others or manipulate them, maybe they won't want to have a voice with their communities, be part of information bartering groups, then a touch of scorn might bring them into the group who weighs up matters.
      Charities in poor countries just leave the men out and involve the women who are so hungry for a bit of consideration they will do anything.
 
rose macaskie
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I don't know about having to do it yourself and then convince people, i reckon you have to convince people while you do it and after you have succeeded, really convincing people is a different ball game from farming and there are people who have done it the farming bit, already. We don't have to do it ourselves, except that i want to do it for myself, I want to prove myself and what I believe in, in the possible. I sometimes believe it helps show others and sometimes that that is stupid, it all stands to reason it has been proved, you don't have to go on proving it. 
  The idea that were fed to us, that pesticides would cure plagues and herbicides other plagues and fertilizers would make feeding crops easy, where well and truly shoved into our heads everyone nesw about them and the other ideas such as those of Fukoaka, were not very prominent, though they maybe coincided in time, I don't know when the use  of chemicals in agriculture started so fo course the farmers used them, but  now we know what the disadvantages of the chemicals are and we know more about plants and soil so we know why we were wrong about chemicals and farming, farmers have proved it, as well scientists. Chemicals don't allow you to grow more and do completely do for the soil in the long run. At least if you use the most modern ecological technics, you will grow as much and more than other farmers. No chemicals work better. THere is no reason to pussy foot around these things are proved and certain, all there is left to do is wonder why this has not got into everyones heads yet. i remeber a autobiography of a girl in the begining of the last century and she said when she was five she saw the last bussle to be worn turn the corner of an out hose i just wonder why we have not seen that yet in farming. Can't Obama do it for us. 

    Chemical nitrogen meant that farmers weren't putting organic matter in their soil. Organic matter does not only turn into nitrogen, it also absorbs and retains more water and the nutrients held in the water.  This means that if there is a dry spell in the growing season of a crop or if summer comes early the man who has more organic matter in his soil will have a better crop the soil will ahve kept wet while his neibors will have dried out.
  Read about Quinn, a farmer of Montana who has experienced this, -organic farming for fun and profit- by Dave Gorak-The Heartland Institute. heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=13079

      The thing about Fukuoka farm is that his rice heads had bigger grains of rice on them than the rice of other farmers, so much so that the government wanted to patent them, as if the type of rice had been the factor when it was his soil so full of organic matter that was the factor that increased his productivity. On top of this he got a crop of rye or barley in winter, on the same field all seeded together in autumn. Two crops a year with really good yields.

          The soil of those who put more organic matter in their soil will get better and better each year, who knows what quantity and quality of goods they won't be growing in twenty years or fifty.

  The organic matter when completely broken down is scientists humus, humus whose particles are so tiny broken down by acids enzymes of plants and fugi by and microbes in the soil, that they they measure 0,000 mm, at this size particles are called colloidal. You can also have colloidal particles of clay for example. These particles do not feed the plants, but they do other things that help them, they make soils slightly acider which apparently is good and hold on to things like iron molecules in such a way as to make them easier for plants to absorb,  my chemistry is terrible. these particles also behave like gelatin, absorbing and retaining lots of water and the nutrients held in it so they don't get elached out of the soil.
  Another factor of organic or permaculture farming is that-
  Plants with a symbiotic relationship with myccorizal fungi, which is to say that the certain special types of fungi live on the plant roots, living  at each others expense without losing out from the relationship or positively  benefiting from it. see -paul stamets and Daryl Hannah- on youtube.  The roots of fungi are so much better than plant roots at absorbing minerals and water and they pass these on to the plant which is healthier as a result, fights diseased better and grows bigger when it has this relationship with fungi. The plants give the fungi elaborated nutrients sugars and such.
    I heard about micorrizos from a hippy. Those who grow hashish really know a lot about plants. Apparently Canada is the best place for getting their products, special fertilisers and soils and such.

    Chemical nitrogen kills life in the soil. It is often too strong and burns mites, insects, microbes fungi and algae and anything else that lives in the soil.  I imagine the nitrogen that kills life in the soil kills fungi among the other forms of life it does for, so there is an end to healthy symbiotic relationships between fungi and crops.

  These are not theories or fads they are the new information that scientist have put within our reach and that some farmers have tried to their advantage.  They knock the usual farming for six, it is not a return to the past with some bad and some good bits, it is an advance on the past that makes such farming much more productive and a change of direction that is essential in view of the damage chemicals do to soil, which goes as far as making soils irremediably salty in the long and sometimes short run.[/color]

    I would go for attacking the government and the makers of the children's gnome programs and such, or everyone maybe, rather than farmers. Makers of children's green cartoons could easily improve a bit on their green information and be a really usefull source of information for everyone, with children at anyrate. I did not understood their stories about marshes until i looked it up or fell upon articles on it myself and it is always possible to explain things in easy terms.
 
  There is more life in a spade full of soil than humans on the earth but not after being subjected to enormous quantities of chemicals. We used to have a pulsating earth and now we have barren soils.
 
 
rose macaskie
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      That Sepp holster is a canny sort of person, not the sort to tell you exactly how much he earned. I bet he earns a lot. Wouldn't publishing Sepps income be a really good way of encouraging farmers to go green.

      In germany they eat all sorts of river fish we don't eat maybe in austria it is easier to make money from fish farming.

  The, lets all be nice people and cut down on our wants is inspiring for some but in the past it has lead to incredible poverty, it leads to carelesness in condsidering the needs of others. WIth out a bit of excess you sink on  a rainy day.

  I did yoga and was very keen on that sort of morally beautifull idea more than even seemed healthy to my teacher i think, but reality, being faced with a demon i was told about in my youth, with those who have asked the poor to be poorer, has reminded me of the dangers of the creed.  i am for it but not when the well provided for ask those on the brink to embrace it.
 
rose macaskie
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I have more to say on this topic so brace yourselves.here it is it is in reference to people being stupid .

    Information on psychiatry gets round without people actually citing their sources so i only imagine that what i have learnt comes form psychiatry.

  This ties up with Sepp holsters teaching methods. One reason for telling people instead of trying to get them to figure things out, a system some educators believe in, is that if pupils don't have references and clear facts they can't research the idea and researching it helps a lot to know where you stand with a teacher or group of ideas, finding out the week points by yourself when someone else's experience could have served you is slow and stupid. Another problem with the i am not telling you, figure it out yourself methods is that if the pupils pass on what they have learnt they can be made to look very stupid and so can a maybe good system. I have passed on ideas i got from yoga, which i then thought were yoga ideas and later found out came from Greek philosophers, i felt cross with the teacher.  I have read a lot of literature and nearly no philosophy.  How people must have laughed at me and discredited me, they would have done so any way, but it made it so much easier for them.

  As to people being stupid
    There is the big factor confidence, that seems to be an idea that comes from psychiatry, which is not a factor intelligence, lack of confidence and know how make people stick to the known and look stupid, They are not used to researching the new and they are not used to doing the new,  if they aren't used to playing with new ideas  they will stick to the old though it kills them.
    I don't think it is easy to grow things if you don't have practice you haven't kept the seeds damp or soaked them or you have tried with a seed or two and not all of them are viable and so they don't come up and you feel a failure when they don't grow and a few failures can make you stop if you haven't been taught to be hardy and not to lose confidence. Is not being hardy something they teach bosses and not underdogs? Hiding important skills is a way of maintaining superiority.
  If a farmer is to put more organic matter in his soil it might be  hard at first . It could be hard to think of a way of creating more organic material with out spending lots of money you don't have, the American farming book i had talked of collecting your own seed from weeds, i have never tried to collect enough clover seed  for example to sow a field full of clover, the not having tried, fills me full of fear that i won't succeed and that makes me not even try. It is not so much that i feel afraid, as that it is not practical to try things that wont work except that you do learn if you try things, so the idea that its not practical to try is wrong. Sepp holster is a good expample of the worth of trying out things.
    Just trying things though they wont work is usefull, you do learn in the end, not trying foments lack of confidence in trying being something that works, lack of experience trying stops you from ever trying things. You have no experience to prove the worth of the activity.
    When you pick up the phrase hhat come from psychiatry, "face up to your fears", I and I suppose others think of the sort of fear you have when facing a lion and not that fear of failure that i found was a great part of my make up when faced with a new task. psychiatrists are very lazy and inprecise using language i read boooks i can't believe how stupid psychiatry is with the english language or with concepts isnot it necessary to say the person lack confidence in theis or htat instead of just saying they alck confidence? My habit of putting of tasks that i was afraid of getting wrong, hid the fact that i lacked confidence in them, also you try to keep yourself safe, somethings involve taking a risk for you and your family, you wait for a safer moment.
    Lack of experience pushing things that involve a risk, makes you unaware that good moments don't happen. Waiting for a good moment to do something is not real, it turns out to be like procrastination something that internalises. It is only when you face people for example that you find out how entrenched they were in an idea you thought they did not really truly believe and that teaches you that a good moment would not have come to talk of such an idea.
    A change of method is something that does not necessarily work at first and so the good moment when you could change without risk would never have come. You realize when you find out how much work it has taken you because you have tried it, how long it took though it was successful in the end that the moment you hoped for could not have come without your pushing it, because whatever, needed more than you supposed it did nt just a good moment.  without doing somethign you can't know it was not just the right moment that was lacking. You have to learn to take risks and tighten your belt if you want success, you must not wait for the right moment.
      If people say you lack confidence, you think of the things you are confident in and feel incredulous, Maybe people get brave about the tasks there family has taught them to face and as they are brave in theswewe a accusation of being cowards is inncomprhensible. If  they have never been taught that it would be brave to start collecting information on how to get more organic matter for example or could be necessary, when they don't do it they don't see themselves as cowards or stupid  for not trying harder, they have never been taught to think there was bravery involved in that aspect of life.  This stops them from realising that they are not doing something, they have filled the quota of tasks the family taught them was theirs or human. 
      Also just imagining there is nothing to learn plays a part here.
      More than stupidity, know how on collecting information and the experience that going on trying out new things gives results, is involved in what looks like stupid behavior. Trying does not make you competent tomorrow but in ten years or with luck and an awful lot of experimenting one sooner, you will know how to do it, lack of know how trying is to blame for what looks like stupidity. this is confidence alck of confidence makes people think they are not equipped to research.
    Also just not being real, which isn't exactly not being able to do things, it is not facing up to how far reality and tradition has messed things up and you need to change your premises, that make people stupid, living more in their projection for what will work, than in what has worked, and going on thinking what they hoped would work or what they were taught would work, or what they believed in, will work, in the face of the fact that it doesn't hasn't and so probably won't, that makes people stupid. they think it will work next year.  A lack of ability to question authority or given ideas.
  Send your stupid farmers to a psychiatrist, instead of to university.
 
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