ReSounding the Call of the Land

January 31, 2013

In the early morning hours of January 31, 2013, I’m alive with the idea of publishing again the original essay* for The Call of the Land. As we move into the waning phase of Winter, feels like it’s time to join the chorus of visionary voices across North America, and to re-sound the basic broad call of the land. – S.M.

*Contemplations on The Call of the Land
by Steven McFadden
Published to start this blog in 2009

In Jack London’s classic novel The Call of the Wild, the alpha dog Buck faces a moment of truth in response to nature, as he stands amid the towering trees of a Northern forest. He must make a choice about the direction of his life.

Similarly, standing both individually and collectively on our earth, we human beings also face a moment of truth. Our call is not from the wild, but from the land. We must make a choice.

callofland

Impending matters of finance, transport, oil supply, climate stability, water availability, and diet, necessitate—right now—a clear, visionary look at our relationship with our land and an immediate wholehearted response.

Worldwide, agricultural and financial systems are mutating at breakneck speed. More change is coming. That is certain in response to fundamental shifts in the global economy and environment. These changes impact not just food cost, but also food quality and food availability.

On our land and within the context of our economy, we have commenced a transition the likes of which few are prepared for, but to which we all can respond with intelligence to attain clean, stable and enduring results.

The call of the land is exceedingly loud and urgent. In response to the call, we have the possibility of manifesting a renewed agrarian foundation for our global human culture  that is rooted in experience, adapted to the specific, contemporary needs of our earth, oriented to the future, and capable of integrating high-tech, sustainable energy, tools, and practices. This is the basic vision articulated in The Call of the Land.

The transition to a food system free of fossil fuels is in no way a utopian reverie. It is, rather, an immediate, immense, and unavoidable challenge that calls for unprecedented levels of creativity at all levels of society. While there is no single remedy for the many problems affecting our farms and our food, there are many positive paths and possibilities. Citizens in communities across North America are already deep into pioneering territory via a host of creative associations. Dozens of books on the theme have come forward, in particular, over the last 10 years.

The movement toward clean, local gardens, farms, and food is already well underway and has potential to gain further momentum as old economic forms wobble and shift. We already are beneficiaries of a great number of positive agrarian developments. Sustainable initiatives have been coming forward for over 60 years, building steadily on the agrarian traditions of earlier centuries. By now we have a host of workable models that individuals, communities, corporations, churches, and associative networks can learn from and emulate.

The economic and natural worlds are mutating around us. Inescapably, immediately, we must mobilize our strength, will, and intelligence on the essential matter of producing clean food for ourselves in a way that stabilizes and heals the land. This is the most basic and necessary idea of 21st century agrarianism.

While there may be no single remedy for the many challenges we face, there are many possible pathways that lead to healing the land. My intent with The Call of the Land is to help illuminate some of those paths by surveying the work of 21st century agrarian pioneers to reveal the many ways a sustainable agrarian foundation can serve the fragile high-tech, digital-wave culture that is emerging so dynamically in our world.

* Minor changes and corrections on 12/31/13 – SM

 END –

Copyright 2009 – by Steven McFadden

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Model Modern Barn Raising: An All-American Community Project Aboard Spaceship Earth

January 23, 2013

“The only true and effective ‘operator’s manual for spaceship earth’ is not a book that any human will ever write; it is hundreds of thousands of local cultures.”  ― Wendell Berry, What are People For?

This structure will be re-habbed and 'raised' to serve anew as a community hub.

This barn will be ‘raised’ (rehabbed) to serve anew as a community hub. 

For over a century there has been a steady pulling back from the land in North America. People have been replaced by increasingly mechanized means as the industrial agriculture model, with its focus on profits rather than people, has proliferated. Social roots have been ripped out.

But as modeled by a ‘barn raising’ project at the Angelic Organics Farm in Caledonia, Illinois, it is time to bring local communities of human beings – the local cultures Wendell Berry speaks of — back into active relationship with the land that feeds them.

This is not an philosophical ideal or an armchair theory, but rather a crucial and present necessity brought on by stark social, environmental, and economic realities.

Farmer Trauger Groh of the Temple-Wilton Community Farm expressed the ideas eloquently over 20 years ago when we teamed up to write Farms of Tomorrow. Our book contained basic essays on new structures for community supported farms.

Driven by Tauger’s insights, those essays acknowledged that farming is not just a business like any other profit-making business, but a precondition of all human life on earth, and a precondition of all economic activity. As such, farming is everyone’s responsibility, and has likewise to be accessible for everyone. Community farms (CSA) are an increasingly useful and popular way to meet this responsibility.

By ‘raising’ a beautiful old barn to become an active community hub for their CSA and the local community at large, Angelic Organics is creating a model for deeper, more meaningful, and more practically powerful community involvement with the land and the farmers who tend it – their ambassadors to the earth.

The farm is home to the non-profit Angelic Organics Learning Center, a resource for adults and children seeking to connect to the land, and to renew our ecology, economy and culture. Many of the farm’s classes are held in the dairy barn and the corn crib that the farmers have begun to transform into majestic community spaces, filled with light and vibrant color and breathtaking panoramic views of the Midwestern prairie.

To finish the barn, the farm has launched a Kickstarter campaign (Barns are for People, Too) complete with a delightful and educational video clip. The video shows how they will complete the necessary construction and safety measures to convert the barn and corn crib into public spaces with a stage, fire escapes, emergency lighting and stairwells.

spaceship_earthThe improvements will transform the space into a beautifully crafted gathering place for children’s groups, beginner farmers, members of the farm’s successful CSA, and people who naturally yearn for a direct connection with the land that sustains them. It will also serve as a model, as Wendell Berry encourages, for agrarian initiatives in North America and around the world, thereby aiding local cultures to navigate wisely aboard spaceship earth.


Coming soon in 2013

January 22, 2013

Musingsfinal

My new eBook will be available by the end of January.


Organic Entanglements: Costly Case with a Big Chill

January 17, 2013

*entanglementsAt a court hearing in Lincoln, Nebraska this week, a judge granted a continuance, again pushing back the date for resolving a controversial legal matter that is having an ongoing chilling impact upon US organic inspectors. The first case of its kind, it involves an organic farm inspector and a farm claiming to be organic.

The plaintiff claims the organic inspector conspired with the US government and the inspection company to prevent his business from having a valued organic certification.

Plaintiff farmer Paul A. Rosberg is suing organic inspector Evrett Lunquist (and International Certification Services, Inc.) for $7.6 million. Judge Paul D. Merritt of Lancaster County Court set March 20, 2013 as the date for a hearing on summary judgment of this entangled matter. A summary judgment could end the case without a full trial.

Judge Merritt had no choice but to grant the continuance and postpone. The plaintiff will be on trial in a criminal case scheduled to start January 28, and would likely be unable to appear in Merritt’s court on January 29 for the hearing that had been scheduled for that date. Rosberg’s criminal case involves federal grand jury indictments on six counts stemming from his alleged sale of non-inspected meat to the Omaha Public Schools.

Defendant Lunquist and attorney have filed motions requesting summary judgment dating back to May, 2012 and again in October.  But a steady flow of motions filed by Rosberg has kept the matter unsettled, and the meter running on Lunquist’s attorney. As the case drags on into its second year – and the severe drought gripping The Great Plains intensifies — Lunquist’s legal bills continue to mount. The latest entanglements in the case have driven the defense costs over $30,000.

My original story on this case, with background details, can be found here.

At the hearing in Lancaster County Court on January 15, the judge read off a numbingly long list of motions in the case, including Rosberg’s latest motions asking for sanctions on the defendant’s attorney, and for further delay in resolving his case against the inspector.

Rosberg, who represents himself pro se, has been involved in dozens of lawsuits over the past 28 years.  He said his impending federal case in Omaha will involve 70 witnesses. If the federal judge allows that many witnesses, that criminal case could drag on for weeks and thus Rosberg would be unavailable to press his latest lawsuits.

This $7.6 million lawsuit in Nebraska is sending a piercing legal chill through the nation’s network of organic inspectors. The case calls into question the willingness of the USDA and its National Organic Program (NOP) to stand behind inspectors.  After inspector Lunquist acted independently and notified NOP of his concerns, the NOP investigated and found that Rosberg’s operation indeed failed to qualify for organic certification. Lunquist’s complaint should have been kept confidential under NOP policy. But they inadvertently released his identity, leading directly to this lawsuit.

Although the NOP has provided a Declaration corroborating the accuracy of Lunquist’s original complaint, they have declined to help with Lunquist’s ballooning legal costs or to issue a public apology.

Judge Merritt granted plaintiff Rosberg a continuance until March 20, but said this was the last delay. In the interim, he allowed Rosberg to compel inspector Lunquist to provide further documentation, an action that will inevitably drive the defense legal bill even higher.

Lunquist, himself a Biodynamic CSA farmer with his wife and family at Common Good Farm, has established a website to keep people informed and to try and raise money to cover the cost of his legal defense

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AUTHOR’S DISCLOSURE: I serve on the board of Open Harvest Co-op in Lincoln, Nebraska. Common Good Farm is among 110+ local vendors that do business with our co-op. The coop has been helping to raise funds to cover the cost of Lunquist’s defense.


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