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Geographical Branding

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Appellation d'origine contrôlée, "which translates as "controlled designation of origin", is the French certification granted to certain French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural products"(Wikipedia). In US it is used as "Appellation of Wine Origin" to refer to a vintage location.

Now, if industrial agriculture produces a commodity, and permaculture farmers need to differentiate, wouldn't this be a solution? Suppose you have an association of local permaculture farmers, and all the members of the association agree to follow the same rules about not using chemicals, about animal breeds, animal feed and so on. If you are part of the association, and you follow these rules, then you get to use this local brand. Let's say, Missoula Chicken. Local farmers can easily monitor each other to make sure rules are followed, the promise of the brand is kept, and you don't have people "free riding' on the efforts of everybody else. Local buyers would be assured that they get a chicken that is a) high quality and b) local. Moreover, it allows for selling of the chickens further away from the location. People in Chicago could buy "Missoula Chicken" from certain permaculture friendly retail locations. And the product will come with some sort of story - about Missoula and why the chicken tastes better there - something to start a conversation around the table. And by sourcing from multiple local farmers, you minimize "out of stock" situations. Would this make sense?

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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I think this has been done many times.

The regional thing is legally enforced in the European Union. Only France can sell Burgundy, Champagne or Bordeaux. But there is nothing to stop those from outside of Europe from producing their own version. There are American and Australian wines using these names. Cheddar cheese is made in many places all over but a town by that name in England claims the European rights.
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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I spent a few weeks at a PDC in Darjeeling last year. The permaculture farmers in that village are apparently not allowed to label their tea "Darjeeling Tea" because the geographical appellation is only allowed to the members of the consortium of big tea plantations. It's really a sad situation.

These small farmers occupied an abandoned tea plantation called Mineral Springs several decades ago, set up their own small diversified farms, and gradually over the years they've managed to get official ownership of their plots. They are on extremely steep terrain, with tiny narrow terraces, growing domestic vegetables and milk animals, and for sale they grow oranges, tea, ginger, cardamom, and maybe a few other items. Each terrace has let's say, 2 to 6 m2 of a crop such as a vegetable or spice, with a mandarin orange tree in the middle of the terrace, and a couple of tea bushes on the edge. Forest permeates the whole environment. It's a lovely, lovely place.

The local NGO that supports them, sets up the PDC, and ensures that the farmers remain only organic is DLR Prerna. Several of the staff come from tea business backgrounds and they told us the whole sorry story of how the couple-dozen big plantations managed to make sure that the Geographical Appellation "Darjeeling Tea" can only be used by the big plantations. The big plantations spray like crazy, exploit labor families that have been sort of bonded in the plantations for generations, and are exempt from Indian labor laws and minimum wage, because the laborers live on the plantation.

So the "Mineral Springs" tea, if ever you happen to see it for sale, is organic Darjeeling tea grown in excellent permaculture conditions by independent proud small farmers. Snap it up! They told us it is being marketed in Europe as Mineral Springs tea.
Cristian Chelariu
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I agree. It is done outside of the US, and in the US it's only done in the wine industry, so it can be expanded to other products. The grocery store shelves are dominated in the US by large global corporations that push national or global brands and have little interest in regional branding. But it can be a solution for smaller permaculture farmers to differentiate from the big brands.

Meanwhile, there is a risk that these large corporations will co-opt the term "permaculture" and define it the way they see fit. For example, the German supermarket chain Real has begun using the brand "Permaculture" in its stores: http://www.permaculture.co.uk/news/0103167072/brand-permaculture-now-sold-european-supermarket-chain. Now, maybe they are doing this in good faith, but it is only a matter of time till the big corporations will start getting on the local/organic bandwagon. Walmart is doing it, so is Costco, and Whole Foods is about to open another chain 365, targeting a lower income segment. This could be a threat, or an opportunity.

But on Permies, people still debate who is doing real permaculture and who is not...

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