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julian lamarche
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hi
i wonder what the Permies world and Paul think about http://www.agritrue.com/

I think this might have a bit of potential. 

If I have placed this topic in the wrong area, i beg your forgiveness.

thanks
julian
 
John Kitsteiner
Posts: 38
Location: East Tennessee
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I am a huge fan of the whole idea.  I think something has to be done to provide a better guide to consumers (about how their food is being raised and who raises it) and a better way for quality producers to raise food (without overbearing gov't, expensive registration and certifications, and rules that just don't make sense).

I am looking forward to see where this goes.

Doc K
 
Jonathan Byron
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The idea of producers communicating with consumers to describe the way that things are produced is a very good idea. The minimum standards are reasonable (though somewhat vague at this point)  and if all producers followed them, we would see much less pollution, better soil, etc.

Limits of the system as I see it:

The system is based on self-certification and does not involve inspection to verify the claims that are being made. It seems like it would be open to 'greenwashing' and false claims, and would not provide a clear benefit above and beyond a producer simply making a claim. What mechanism lets consumers investigate the production process? Are consumers really in a position to verify these claims, based on limited time, limited knowledge, and limited access to the grower's site?

The ebay reputation system is somewhat more objective than other online systems, because in order to make an evaluation, a person has to make a recorded transaction through the ebay system, a fee is paid, ebay sorta knows who the evaluator is... it could be gamed, but not so easily. Other online rating systems that are less rigorous allow anyone to stuff the ballot box ...  

None of these observations are an insurmountable problem - I think the ultimate test of whether it succeeds or fails will be how 1 person or a small group develops it and pushes for it ... with lots of work and community building, it could be a big success.

The 'certified naturally grown' label is one attempt to deal with the costs of organic certification - which are especially high for the small producer. That system relies on growers certifying each other... there is some record keeping and forms, and a small suggested fee based on the sales volume, but it is much less than commercial certification.
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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I can find weaknesses too.  And I think it is a good idea.  It might be more successful if it were tested within a local domain.

The reason 'organic' definitions have become twisted is because it actually began to mean something and so took market share.  If 'AgriTrue' actually commands market share, it too will become twisted.  Organic began in a very populist manner.  Local systems make manipulation by private power more difficult.

My local food coop is by contrast relatively incorruptable and provides me many of the services proposed by AgriTrue, and is run by a bitchy stubborn soverign people gathered around shared values.  Further it forms a community center, contributes directly to our community (reinvest surplus), and provides a strong stable market base for my community's growers.  (edit: stacking of functions...)

I think the underlying tenets is weak and may be too strongly focused on the deficits of existing systems.  In my opinion, the idea this thing we call 'free market' can exist in the absence of rule by law and effective self governance is kind of snappy and appealing on the surface but very very dangerous.  Private interest rules in the absence of a soverign people.  The idea that the soverign people can appropriately express themselves in the absence of law and government has no basis in any industrial societies I am aware of.
 
julian lamarche
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personally i am pretty excited about the potiential.  I am hopeful about people needing to know who they are getting thier food from will keep the users of this program small scale enough that alot of problems stay manageable. 

I know even thought we mostly give away and trade our surplus I think I will sign us up just to propel the program along locally. 

 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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(i can't really comment today as I am booked all day.  maybe i can say more on sunday evening)

There is a lot to be said for this.  I would like to see a tiny enhancement.

Rather than say "yer in or you ain't" have a numeric system.  Perhaps the value of 1 can be equivalent to the USDA standard allowing things to be sold as food.  And the value of 10 can be the equivalent to USDA organic.  And then you have a massive range of numbers beyond 10 for better food.

Then the producer can fill out a questionnaire to find out what number they get.  The mere act of filling out the questionnaire will be a powerful education for them. 

So if you go to a farmers market, there can be an app where you use one of those square code things to pull up info instantly, you can see the answers to the questions - to see if their values are lined up with yours.  And consumers can then begin to develop values also. 

Next, if a person has the value of 6.7 and they are trying to sell their stuff for the same price as a bunch of people with values in the range of 9 to 12, they might find that a few minor changes take them to, say, 12, and they can begin to outcompete.

People that have freakshow money, might not settle for anything less than AgriTrue level 80. 

People with cancer might focus on foods with certain aspects. 

A cell phone app could be created so that a consumer can tell the app what are the things they are passionate about and then at the market, they point the phone at the square code thing and they see a red or green.  Maybe the app could give feedback to a central computer:  "I decided to not buy because ____"

Each producer can pony up, say, $200 for the system.  One time.  If they are ever found to be causing some sort of shenanigans, they are popped out of the system and will need to pay $500 to get back in. 

 
jack spirko
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Paul I LOVE having your input and want to hear more, I will send you a link to the invitation only forum later today.  But I will say this,

There absolutely NOT be a numeric system and the standards we have now may be more lapse.

Why?

AgriTrue has a primary goal of disclosure. 

Very few people think as close as you and I Paul and even with that a 10 to you may not be a 10 to me or vice verse.  I prefer a basic standard and then the producers disclosure.  Simply put because if Paul Wheaton and jack spirko differ on what a 5 or a 10 is imagine how much Joe Blow differs?

The problem is a 10 becomes better in the mind of the consumer that doesn't even know what a 10 is.  So imagine this Paul,

You go to a market and there is a pile of peppers and the AgriTrue cert. Whip out your phone, scan the cert, there is a profile of the producer, where they are, what they grow, how they take care of soil, animals, etc.

Now if you just want no GMO, no modern chicken house of horrors, no roundup, no cytotoxins, etc. Then anything AgriTrue is good enough.  We are taking as much feedback as we can from growers about where my initial standard (written in clay not stone and hell wet clay at that) is off the mark.  We want good enough for consumers to be confident their food is poisoned and animals are not abused as a base standard.

After that anything you personally care about, ask the producer or view his profile. 

The key with AgriTrue is if you don't know exactly who produced it it isn't AgriTrue, it really can't work for Kroger or Wal-Mart.

The problem with a scoring system is it will look negative to the producer who is really a great producer, even "beyond organic" who is a 2 out of 4 stars or a 7.5 on a scale of 1-10, let alone the producer who is a 1.  That producer who is a 1 in 99% better than anything on a walmart shelf and likely even better than "walmart organic".  So why should he suck wind with a score of 1?

Now this is the big thing even if you and I think the scale is good won't matter, even if you and I and Sepp and Joel and Geoff and Bill M all agree it to be perfect.  The guy with the 5 acre operation who gets a 1, ain't going to get involved.  He will say the hell with this, why bother, the label will do more harm than good.  The way I know this is I have already talked to almost 4 dozen small producers earning a living from farming, they all, with only one exception said this is how they would personally feel.

I really hope that makes sense.

NOW HOWEVER the system is "free market libertarian" and third party verification is fine.  If such a third party came up with a scale system that people paid for independently that is FINE, in fact it is WONDERFUL in my book.  The key is anything beyond the basics must be voluntary and not effect the base level use of the label. 

I also think any third party verifier should make the following a priority and such direction will come from AgriTrue...

Step One - Verify the minimal standards (it really is AgriTrue)
Step Two - Verify the profile (does the producer do what they say they do beyond AgriTrue minimums)
Step Three - Their own rating criteria for any type of a star or scaling system

Again I hope this makes sense, I am trying to serve both sides of the market, that includes the growers.
 
jack spirko
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On all other objections I see here, I have one answer, it will not change,

The system is FREE MARKET, the market will demand of the system what the market wants.  There will be fraud, there is fraud in any and all systems, there is fraud in the Catholic Church.  The market will expose fraud, the market will create verification services, the market will deal with issues as they become apparent. 

In the end with AgriTrue you take a farmer mostly at his word, a farmer that wants to grow garbage isn't going to really want to be involved anyway. AgriTrue is for small producers that sell to people who know them.  This is how our nation used to work.

Those concerned about fraud, concerned about this or that, etc. mainly are concerned because it has been so long since you have seen a true free market you don't know one when you see it. 

So when you say but.....

My answer is, "in time the market will solve the problem".  You can point to organic if you want, I will answer, govement, you can point to the general food market and I will tell you, so what you have no idea who grew your food or where it was grown, etc.  Again the market solves these issues when the buyer can ID the producer of each item.
 
julian lamarche
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I was sitting on the milk stand this morning thinking that I only sell milk to a few people.  I meet the AriTrue standard today (as they are written)  we dont personally need a standard to validate our product.  The people who are buying from us today are already doing so because of the way we do it.  All this said, I am going to get my AriTrue cert. when the program starts because years ago before we were doing this stuff I would have been all over a farm who met these standards.  This is how I want the food system to work.  Everyday I am making improvments around here.  I can't wait till I get to brag on my AgriTrue profile that I am milking in a portable milk shed and I have reached "Wheaton eco level 64", or what ever.  Hell I will call it that when it happens.  I will be so proud of that accomplishment.  I bet there are a lot of other farmers who will use the basic standard as a stepping off point and I will too. 
 
Jeff Mathias
Posts: 125
Location: Westport, CA Zone 8-9; Off grid on 20 acres of redwood forest and floodplain with a seasonal creek.
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I like the idea of a local certification process that doesn't hurt the small grower with fees but helps to identify and support them. (Look at organic certification, the cost alone can be problematic getting certified if your small or on a small budget. And then after spending the time and effort and money to get certified you get handed things like by the way GMO alfalfa is now considered organic.)
Something that gives the consumer a readily available way of quickly identifying those associated with the organization with the standards the consumer approves of. Then a consumer can lock onto a model they prefer making it easier to narrow down who they might purchase from. There is still some responsibility to the consumer to find out the exact processes or methods used but the general principles should be understood by all. I think this is something that can only ever be effective at a local level. A lot of these programs seem to try to reduce the social aspects both in communication and responsibility from both parties. We need more discussion directly between producers and consumers not less. Also consumers should be talking more to each other about the products they buy and why. Small groups could form to research farms in their immediate areas and exchange that information with others in areas to far away to visit easily.

One place that seems to have a good method of handling this is Mendocino Renegade: http://www.mendocinorenegade.com/index.html  This gives the consumer the basics of principles to help them understand where the farmers and growers stand in regards to their methods.

I am looking to make a move to Mendocino soon and came across them doing research. I know nothing about them beyond the web page but what I see so far I think I approve of.

ModernSurvival wrote:
AgriTrue is for small producers that sell to people who know them.  This is how our nation used to work.
Again the market solves these issues when the buyer can ID the producer of each item.


I agree.

I also agree an app to help customers sounds quite useful, however it should never remove the responsibility of the customer to verify for themselves by speaking to the farmer and visiting the farm. People need to understand if simply making laws fixed all the problems we would already live in a perfect society. That is why I stress local certification, some people will always try to game the system; always! And at least locally there is a much better chance of catching and stopping those people. Stepping up to even state certification begins to remove the level scrutiny local provides, and then again you are stuck trusting a person doing the certifying whom you probably do not know for farmers and growers too far away for most people to visit.

Jeff
 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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(i have a lot to say, but will be out all day today)

When I was in college, i remember a text file that was 400 questions called "the purity test".  400 yes/no questions.  You add up all of your "no" answers and that reflects how "pure" you are.  Questions started with "have you held the hand with a person of the opposite gender?" and "have you thought about touching the genetalia of a member of the opposite gender?" and the end of the text featured questions about having sexual relations with road kill.  (so I think I would be uncomfortable around folks that have a purity score of zero).

Then you can compare your number to that of your friends and get an idea of how you compare without actually revealing details.  At the same time, the mere act of taking the test is a huge education.

What is in my head is that people will be asked maybe 40 questions.  And each of these questions will have several answers.  Each of the answers for each of the questions will have a certain secret weight.  When all of the weights are added up, a number is generated.  More importantly, by each answer is a bit of an education for the person taking the test.

I think the thing to do is for YOU to pick what you think 10 means.  And what 20 means.  10 would be roughly equivalent to the organic standard.  Perhaps 50 would be to meet your minimum standard.  100 would be to meet the best that you can imagine.  Values beyond 100 are for future expansion.

If I were to take the time to come up with a standard, yes, my numbers would probably be different than yours.  But we need to start somewhere.

The trouble with having a boolean (on/off, yes/no, true/false, qualified/not) is that meeting the qualifications could seem like too much work to get there.  But after taking the test one time, somebody might find that they are already at 9.1, and they got some ideas that would take them to 14.6 in a year.  And they are thinking about how in a couple of years they might be able to get to 50.  And they can even see themselves someday getting to 100.

I can understand that you might not want to call it "agritrue" until they hit a score of 50.  Maybe you can have different names for 1.0 to 9.9 and 10.0 to 49.9 (agripath?). 

 
jack spirko
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paul wheaton wrote:
I think the thing to do is for YOU to pick what you think 10 means.  And what 20 means.  10 would be roughly equivalent to the organic standard.  Perhaps 50 would be to meet your minimum standard.  100 would be to meet the best that you can imagine.  Values beyond 100 are for future expansion.


Paul I think we are on different pages.  If organic is a 50 of 100 a minimum AgriTrue is probably a 40.  For instance I don't think a person raising hens for eggs should have to use USDA Organic feed.  So well, they ain't USDA Organic eggs.  But they are not from chickens that stand in their own shit, live in a chicken house of horrors and they do have to have access to forage. 

So you tell me, would you rather have a Kroger Egg or an AgriTrue egg?

In AgriTrue the standards are simply MUCH better than the typical commerical space, they are not to the level or organic.  However, with one scan of your smart phone you can find out all important information about the farm that grew your pepper or raised the cow that led to the steak on your grill. 

Paul you should call me so we can talk about this, I want your input but I also want you to understand the middle ground that AgriTrue provides. Organic is an all or nothing approach, AgriTrue is a no GMO, no pesticides, no herbicides and requires an ethical treatment of all livestock. 

It isn't stricter than USDA Organic, is is the middle ground that has been denied to us in the modern commerical age.
 
David Matt
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It sounds like great idea. Some kind of minimal standard to be certified and then the producer can check boxes (or somehow indicate) what they do above and beyond the basic certification. Maybe the smart phone app could be largely graphics based so we could quickly see if the chicken producer was free range, chicken tractor, paddock etc? Is that what you are thinking?
 
jack spirko
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daveinmichigan wrote:
It sounds like great idea. Some kind of minimal standard to be certified and then the producer can check boxes (or somehow indicate) what they do above and beyond the basic certification. Maybe the smart phone app could be largely graphics based so we could quickly see if the chicken producer was free range, chicken tractor, paddock etc? Is that what you are thinking?


Sort of I like the graphics idea.  Perhaps we will come up with icons for all the main stuff and when you look at the products a producer has they show up as you said.  I will be honest if we do it will be because of your suggestion.

The base though is pretty simple, you know you are not eating toxins, gmo's, herbicide residue, etc.  You can see who you are buying from and if you want to know more you ask.  The producers will have some base questions they all answer but they can also disclose as much as they wish to on the profile. 

There will be an ask me function.  So ask, I believe most farmers are the salt of the earth and what ever they do they will tell you square. 
 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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I suspect that most of the people at the farmers market don't even know what to ask.  Or how to tell the difference.  Or care.  But if they use their cell phone and see that all of the vendors range in values from 9 to 47, they will get the idea that they prefer 47.  That's easy.  And then they can have curiosity about what is the difference between 42 and 47.  Education begins. 

And then the farmer that is currently 42 now wants to be 48 to improve sales.  More education.

With more education comes more improvement.

 
jack spirko
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paul wheaton wrote:
I suspect that most of the people at the farmers market don't even know what to ask.  Or how to tell the difference.  Or care.  But if they use their cell phone and see that all of the vendors range in values from 9 to 47, they will get the idea that they prefer 47.  That's easy.  And then they can have curiosity about what is the difference between 42 and 47.  Education begins. 

And then the farmer that is currently 42 now wants to be 48 to improve sales.  More education.

With more education comes more improvement.





I understand your opinion.  However, it ain't gonna happen that way. 
 
Troy Rhodes
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A relatively easy "middle ground" would be very valuable and achievable.

And let's not forget about the other half of the equation.  Let's completely disregard whatever minor startup difficulties the small producers have.  They'll get through it.

BUT...

This easy to understand standard, and easy to achieve standard, will suddenly make the frankenchicken and the frankencorn and frankenbeef producers look really bad.  Maybe they will pull their socks up too. 

Somebody really really needs to shine a big light on what's going on in commercial ag.  This achievable middle ground could be it, assuming the nice government folks don't squash it.

I am unconcerned about self certification "problem".  The farmer's market sized local system will find and punish the cheaters sooner or later.  And even the "cheaters" are more than likely better than the typical factory food at the supermarket.

Finest regards,

troy
 
jack spirko
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I actually sent Paul an email today suggesting a middle ground on the ranking thing, I have to run this by my people but want to hear what you guys think of this too.

First I stand by not doing the number rating, it will make good guys look bad but I also want the minimum standard to apply to most of the small GOOD producers already or with some easy to swallow modifications.  And I do get getting people to strive for more. 

So today I was hanging out at a book store browsing books on Organics etc and kicking this around.  I again came to my same conclusion, the rating is an issue because it makes what is good look bad especially to the consumer.  So if there is any good how to we preserve it and make it all positive.

Well what if we did, DRUM ROLL PLEASE...................................

Silver
Gold and
Platinum

What  happened to bronze?  All AgriTrue producers are better than that anyway.  Being Silver or Gold is a good thing isn't it?  Some of the micro brews I buy are real proud of gold medals on their labels but they tend to mention silvers too, olympians are quick to list the silvers not just the golds, etc.

This would also be easy to explain and I have to ferret this and a lot more out yet but it might be like

Silver - Meets AgriTrue's stringent standards and provides disclosure of basic operations
Gold -  Uses only organic matter based fertilizers and some other improvements, etc.
Platinum -  This is basic Mollison level permaculture but explained in a way other than that.

Just a thought but it is a way to add in some of Paul's idea without a negative connotation assigned to a producer who is 100 times better than the crap in modern markets.

I was also thinking at gold and at platinum there might be some actions required as well.  Like to advance to gold you have to conduct at least to workshops in your community teaching others or something like that.

This isn't just about the food it is about community as well.
 
Sasa Milicevic
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I think that the 3 tier system isn't really beneficial since all you're trying to achieve is a label to differentiate ethical and natural producers from your typical commercial aggriculture. Also, I find it is bad to have a trademark name AgriTrue and then labeling businesses as AgriTrue Silver/Gold/Platinum. You lose the simplicity that makes the entire concept work.

I understand Paul's penchant for marking everything on a scale (not to say that I agree with him) but if you're targeting Joe public you shouldn't force them to educate or choose between lots of numbers because they just won't in most cases or they'll get too confused. Those that are educated can ask additional questions on the AgriTrue website which should function like Angie's List as far as I understand it.

If you're really seaching for middle ground between Paul and you then settle on only two tiers, perhaps:
AgriTrue - natural and ethical farming (no gmo, no -icides)
AgriTrue+ (or AgriTrue Plus) - completely organic practice that is practicing (even in some small parts) biodynamic and/or permaculture
I'd leave the true permaculture businesses to label their stuff as permaculture independently.

I love the idea of QR codes and would make then mandatory for everyone.

 
David Matt
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How about
AgriTrue (maybe a green colored AgriTrue Logo) as the basic certification

and

AgriTrue + (maybe a gold colored AgriTrue Logo) if the producer is doing something above and beyond or maybe the gold logo could signify that the grower is doing something that they REALLY want the consumer to take note of or lookup of and read about

AgriTrue Green Chickens are the yummy things that most of us around here look for (no *.ides etc.) and AgriTrue Gold Label Chickens were somehow raised in a manor above and beyond that the farmer wants you to know about. Perhaps they were paddock raised, given back rubs and slept in little beds in the family home?

 
Suzy Bean
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Paul and Jack talk about Agritrue in this podcast: http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/371-podcast-054-jack-spirko-modern-survivalism/
 
Eric Rice
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Would a "Yelp.com" like system work for Agritrue. Just an idea.

I am going to be starting a farm in Santa Maria, California in a couple of months and I am very interested in getting involved in Agritrue. More details to come.
 
jack spirko
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Farmer Eric wrote:
Would a "Yelp.com" like system work for Agritrue. Just an idea.

I am going to be starting a farm in Santa Maria, California in a couple of months and I am very interested in getting involved in Agritrue. More details to come.


Shoot an email to jack at agritrue.com and I will send you a link to the private forums
 
Suzy Bean
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Paul and Jocelyn cover more listener questions in this podcast. Some things they talk about include Paul's food rating system, (similar to Jack Spirko's Agritrue), eco-labeling, nurture vs. nature, recycling, legality of things like the clothes line, and pirating copyrighted material.
 
Scott Jackson
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Location: Córdoba, Argentina
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Just wanted to chime in with a slightly left field comment. Very interesting thread.

I grew up in Portland, Oregon , which has a lot of organic / permacultural small farmers and a lot of dialogue and sensitivity about these issues. I'm 33 now, and have been living within the bosom of a more or less ecologically-minded world view for most of my life.

It's been almost a year since I've been living in Argentina, and this thread strikes me as how advanced the discussion is in the US. In Argentina the concept of "Organic Food" or "Ecological Food" simply doesn't exist as a widespread category or option within the market, and living here for a while has made me realize how much choice and information consumers are demanding in the US (even if it is a very vocal minority). Overall, the consciousness about food / environment / agriculture seems in the dark ages compared to what you guys are talking about and trying to implement.

Whether you arrive at a point rating system, tiered certifications, phone app interface, or what have you, seems like it couldn't happen here in Argentina for hundreds of years, and the main reasons are not necessarily technological.

Whatever the outcome, be proud of the fact that you're working on the cutting edge of some very interesting developments. Language creates reality, so you've got that going for you.

Saludos,

Scott

PS - Personally, the three tiered concept sounds a bit too much like a "buy-in" opportunity for producers. I've always appreciated as a buyer and seller, eBay's quantitative rating metrics.
 
Jonathan Hontz
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Location: Denver, CO
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I love it. After reading the lists of substances allowed under organic standards (Organic Certification Gobbledegook ) I am very distrustful of the USDA's efforts. It protects against GMO's, but independent certifications are the way to go. I don't care if it's organic, but I damn sure care if it's been sprayed/irradiated/etc. I don't need a government program to tell me if any of that's been done, and I applaud the efforts of people who take it upon themselves to get better food on their plates without getting wrapped up in the red tape.
 
C Hopper
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Location: Southwest Florida, Zone 10a, Elevation 12ft, 52in precipitation, tropical wet and dry savanna type
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@ Jack Spirco,

Can we have an update to Agritrue?
 
Rick LaJambe
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Has anyone heard anything recently about Agritrue? This is a very exciting idea and gives me hope for the future of our food system. Is anyone still behind the wheel of the Agritrue bus?
 
Matt Vader
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Last time I heard anything on Agritrue was in May on TSP episode 1129: http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/feedback-5-13-13

Jack was looking for a good web developer who wanted a stake in the project. He had some money budgeted for this. I hope that somebody steps up.
I am looking forward to the implementation of this.
 
paul wheaton
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Cassie Langstraat
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Here is the map of AgriTrue producers as of July 8. Needless to say I really hope this project takes off because we are severely lacking over here on the west coast. Still, awesome thing happening here.
 
Erica Wisner
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How about two standards:
- AgriTrue Silver - producer states that they follow all the basic policies.
- AgriTrue Gold - producer states that they follow or exceed all the basics, and someone has independently verified this. Like, all certified organic could be 'gold', but small-scale producers could also have someone else verify their practices.

There's a conservation land trust / network in New Zealand that operates this way:
various people voluntarily put part of their land into conservation status, they have a lot of choice about how much and what they commit to. Many of the same people serve on the board or as verification volunteers, to check that the land is being conserved as described. I went on a walk-through with one board member who was checking out the new signs that another member had put on their trail - noted a few that were damaged, but all were present and nicely informative, trail well-maintained.

A 'gold' standard could be as simple as someone else who is part of AgriTrue confirms that your farm looks like what you said - the pictures are accurate, etc. If there is some deception discovered, both parties (the person who lied, and the person who verified them) lose their standing. There would be some friendly good ol' boy behavior, but the crowd involved is pretty loyal to the cause and probably would promote mostly trustworthy friends. It would also be an incentive for people with 'favorite farmers' to join the network and boost their friends.

Two problems I see that might be an issue for our farmers here:
1) Many of them are very responsive to customers, but don't necessarily have internet or time to maintain another profile. Some are barely on Facebook, or have temporary / permanent problems with rural Internet, phone service, etc.
Does the profile page allow the farmer to specify a way to contact them that works, such as a phone or fax number if Internet is not reliable in their area? Or for people to post an update on behalf of a farmer, such as a farm intern, without being mistaken for the farmer's own statements about how they do things?

2) The pricing scale looks like it could work long-term, but for the start-up phase of the network it seems high. (If there are no members in my area, the AgriTrue label isn't well known, and the benefit to the farmer is marginal at best. An organic farmer I'm working with currently doesn't even bother to display his "certified organic" label at the farmer's market each week; word of mouth is much better advertising.)
Anything that cost money and isn't widely known is a risk; farmers trying to do it right are often cash-poor. Again, I'm in a county that is very low income per-capita, 90% non-organic orchards, and staying true to organic+ principles is a low-margin business this far from big-city markets. It might work better for boutique / activist farms in cities with big markets.

Would you consider doing a trade for farmers in the first 1000 to get more signed up - maybe value-added produce or organic dried flowers for displays when you market AgriTrue at local events?

Would there be any way to run the system on a nomination basis? maybe just to boost initial enrollment, or long-term if it works?
Say, if 3 people nominate a particular farmer with a smaller donation ($5 or something), that farmer is invited to create a profile at no cost for the first year? If they keep getting nominated by different people, maybe they would not have to renew for themselves, or something. There might have to be a list of nominated farmers so people could indicate they are voting for the same one.
Larger numbers of smaller donations are sometimes seen as a standard of integrity. Most small farmers have at least a few dozen customers, unless they have one reliable buyer in which case they should have more of a budget than your average truck farmer. The ones who also do education or host student interns would have a larger network that might make the nomination process easier for the farmer than actually signing up.

On the face of it, a voluntary self-listing for money seems like it's going to be hard to distinguish from various other associations - farmer's market, grange, FFA, organic, fair-trade - and like only the most activist customers are going to care enough to understand what the new standard means.

But if it's also a way to reward good behavior on a social basis, a lot of your moderately-informed activists might do the nomination thing, thus inviting farmers who wouldn't otherwise learn about it to consider whether they meet the standards and that it matters to their customers.

Of five organic or permaculture farmers I can think of in my immediate area, I would guess that right now about one or two might be interested, and you'd be lucky to get any signed up. If it was free (which it could be under the nomination method), and they are able to use it as a referral to their preferred way to communicate, maybe more like two or three. some just have their thing they do, they know they do it right, and they work the markets they know and eat what doesn't sell.

I would be hesitant to recommend it in person, or take a straw poll, among local farmers at this point since I know it's the busy season, and there's no obvious way to know if it will have any direct benefit in our somewhat isolated setting. I could post to my blog, though. There's so much permaculture and sustainability interest here, the person who said the co-op is the place had it pegged. Word of mouth in small towns gets you to reliable people much faster than Internet tools. (Unless you're trying to hire someone with a specific skill set - around here, everyone is like "I could do that.")

Yours,
Erica W
 
Cassie Langstraat
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So I obviously think this is a great thing but I was telling someone about it the other day and they said "Well, that sounds like eatwild.com, how is it different?" And I was like well that is a good question and I have no idea. So I am hoping someone can fill me in. It looks like eatwild.com is the same idea, but there is no money really involved. So I am just curious. Help me out!
 
Trevor Peck
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Cassie Langstraat wrote:So I obviously think this is a great thing but I was telling someone about it the other day and they said "Well, that sounds like eatwild.com, how is it different?"


I'm an AgriTrue Producer (Bushels -N- Pecks, Branch, MI), and after seeing your post I went to eatwild to see about getting listed there as well - and it seems they only register meat, egg, and dairy producers. Since I currently produce only vegetables and herbs (meat and eggs are coming, dairy is unlikely), it doesn't look like I can get listed. So that's one difference. Otherwise they do look similar.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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Hmm, yea that does seem weird that eatingwild doesn't have a place for vegetable only farmers. Well thanks for finding that out. That is helpful.
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