Center for Respect of Life and Environment (CRLE)
Thomas Berry Award & Lecture
Center for Respect of Life and Environment (CRLE)


Towards A New Production Ethic

Consensus Formation Proposals

Included on this page:
Values and Ethics Proposals,
- Community Food Security Coalition Workshop, Chicago, October 1999.
- California Farm Conference, Berkeley, CA, November 1999.
- Heartland Conference, Ecological Farming Association, Turlock, CA, June 2001.
   a) Values Proposals
   b) Ethical Principles Proposals

Proposed Statements for a Consensus on the Value and Ethics
of Family Managed Farming

The purpose of this page is manifold:

1.) to allow collaborators in the Soul of Agriculture project to see what other groups have produced in their workshops. So far we have the products of one ninty minute workshop and two longer (2 and 3 hour) workshops. The outcome of the three-day conference constitutes a significant portion of the draft Creating a New Vision of Farming.

2.) to provide a suggested format and classification system for groups who have run their own workshops to use in submitting the outcomes of their work for inclusion on this page.

3.) to serve as a foundation for comments which readers may submit to [email protected] for inclusion on Soul's DISCUSS page.

4.) to provide the "raw materials" for an eventual national consensus statement on the public values of family managed farming, a resounding statement of what our nation stands to lose if we do not make the commitments needed to sustain this form of farming as a productive, rewarding and vigorous portion of our food production system.

5.) to provide a set of broad, essentially ethical and mutual (between the public and farmers) commitments needed to sustain the values of family managed farming, to be used by public advocates and policy makers to form a solid yet flexible foundation for public policy.

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Proposed Statements of Public Values of Family Farming

The initial grand collection of statements of the fundamental values and ethical commitments of family managed farming were gathered in Minneapolis in 1997 and published as part of the draft Creating a New Vision of Farming in 1998. Almost immediately workshops aimed at broadening, enriching and publicizing those values and ethics were held and continue to be held, with the most recent to be at Dartmouth in November of 2001. The details can be read at Activities. The page you are reading will be a growing collection of the statements of values and ethical principles proposed at those and future workshops and conferences. A Glossary of symbols will be given to indicate the origin of the statements by workshop but no effort will be made to attribute the original statements to specific speakers. This was the consistent practice at three workshops:

  • Community Food Security Coalition Chicago, October 1999,
  • California Farm Conference, Berkeley, November 1999, and
  • Heartland Conference (Ecological Farming Association) Turlock, California, June 2001.

The statements recorded on this page were presented by the speakers and were generally accepted by the audiences, but at none of these were any actual votes taken. Thus these are very much still proposals.

Editorial Privilege
As would be expected, locally urgent issues affected many of the workshop participants. Since there was no way of making the special pre-policy focus of the Soul of Agriculture project clear many recommendations were made which constituted fairly detailed policies. For example, in Turlock (California State University, Stanislaus) an experienced shipper of farm-gate products dealt with the complaint that small farmers cannot get truckers to pick up small shipments to deliver to super-market chains or other outlets. He stated that this is largely a matter of inexperience by the management of the companies. Most experienced truckers would have no difficulty planning a route which would allow the profitable pick-up and delivery of a full load made up of partial loads or simply as an alternative to driving empty. He recommended a policy: "Management of large trucking firms should allow more discretion to drivers experienced in local routes, farmers and outlets." This is an eminently sensible policy recommendation, and may be a specific application of a general principle such as: "To support family farming, centralized decision making in all segments of the market should allow a flexibility which can meet the needs of those farms to plant, cultivate and deliver their products to the market."

Generally the postings on this page will aim at the more general and more clearly ethical principles rather than detailed policies, using purely practical policies as examples and leaving them to local groups to record and emphasize as they wish.

As each workshop's results are delivered for posting an acronym to identify the workshop of origin will be assigned to each of its proposed values and ethical commitments. These will be listed under the headings used in Creating a New Vision of Farming to retain a consistent classification system.

1.) Community Food Security Coalition Chicago, October, 1999; CFSC (CFSC/ELCA will mean a value promoted by rural Lutheran ELCA traditions)
2.) California Farm Conference, Berkeley, November, 1999, CalF
3.) Heartland Conference (Ecological Farming Association) Turlock, California, June 2001. EFA

Workshop Proposed Values of Family Farming

The values and later the ethical principles proposed in workshops and other deliberative formats will be listed in the categories which appear in Creating New Vision of Farming. The proposals will be in normal typeface. The category-headings will be in italics.

A. Sufficient food and fiber supplies
B. Sustainable supplies
C. Healthy

(from "sufficient")

(from "sustainable")
Knowledge of local market needs (less wasted production).
Caring for food needs of local consumers

(from "healthy")
Awareness of local taste and nutrition preferences
Ability to respond to special nutritional objectives
Neighborly trust-based food safety

I.) General Tool Values
    A. Efficient in use of resources

       1. Small farms are more efficient than industrial farms (CalF)
    A. Sustainable (tools and practices which secure permanent attainment of the basic         goal values of agriculture).

II.) Specific Tool Values
    A. Impacting Human Producers
       o Values without which farmers and laborers will not work at all

          1. Good rural wages. CFSC/ELCA
       o Values without which producers will not be able to farm with excellence
          1. Deep-seated vocational commitment to good farming. CFSC/ELCA
          2. Constituency for human-value oriented food and agricultural sciences in our               land-grant universities. CSFC
          3. Commitment to explicit moral norms. CFSC/ELCA
    A. Impacting Animals and Living Systems
       o Impacting Animals

          1. Economic motive for having thriving animals. CalF
          2. Animal husbandry scale small enough to protect human compassion for individual               animals. CalF
          3. Family tradition of care for animals as a bulwark against technological               intensification cruelties. CalF (e.g. Basque sheep farmers)
       o Impacting other living systems
          1. Preserving open space by providing an economically viable outcome for its               preservation. CalF
          2. Inventiveness in environmental protection. CalF

III.) Values in Farmer to Farmer Relationships
    o Community with and caring for neighboring farmers(a "sacred value")
    o Professional/technical cohesiveness and helpfulness (a "useful" value)
    o Shared innovativeness:

       1. Creativity in design of locally useful farm machinery (CalF)
           (e.g. Stockton Plow, Walnut Shaker, various harvesters)

IV.) Values in Community and Consumer Relations
    o Pleasure in being appreciated by the consumer for a healthy and delicious product
    o Living in peace with one's community
    o Mutual sharing of community needs and the burdens of farming activity
(in other        words: a tendency to mitigate or negotiate mutual impacts on neighbors in a friendly        way,)

V.) (new category, suggested at CalF) Community development and enrichment
    1. Creating ethic diversity in the community (ethnically diverse farming and farm product         types.) CalF
    2. Farm employment as first step on economic ladder for newly arriving ethnic groups.         CalF
    3. Creating minority farming opportunities in sustainable farming and in organic and         specialty crops. CalF
    4. Preservation of grass-roots democracy by keeping an active, independent         population.("Jeffersonian Ideal") CalF
    5. Preservation of a base for economic survival of businesses, churches, schools and         civic organizations. CalF
    6. Better wealth and income distribution for the society (local and national).CalF
    7. Enabling educational continuity/success for some farm-workers' children. CalF
    8. Farm children as source of well prepared young adults;, responsible, industrious and         innovative. CFSC
    9. Tradition of regionally loyal political and social action. CFSC

VI.) (new category from CalF) Values in Farm-Family--Farm labor Relationship
    1. Multi generational continuity of ownership of farm. CalF, CFSC/ELCA
    2. Potential of Retirement Funds. CalF
    3. Residential Stability. CalF, CFSC/ELCA
    4. Personally felt connection of injustice to farmer in low prices and to labor in low         wages. EFA (Empathy for "co-workers.")

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Proposed Statements of Mutual Ethical Commitments for Family Farming


    1. We should bring about an explicit recognition of human values in the economics of         agriculture. CFSC
        A. Farmers and Workers:
           1. Means must be found to have food prices reflect the actual costs of production.                EFA
        B. Impacts on Animals and Other Living Systems:
           1. Means should be found to create an effective interest in farm animal welfare.                CalF
           2. Family Farmers should seek animal welfare certification. CalF
           3. Public education on the animal cruelty in "factory farms" should be promoted.                CalF
           4. Effective alternatives to "factory farming" for meat, dairy and poultry supplies                must be developed. CalF
        C. Farmer to Farmer Relations:
        D. Farmer /Community Relations:

            1. We should formulate explicit codes of family-farming ethics. CFSC/ELCA
            2. Community and Consumer should support the environmental and social benefits                 of family managed farming (e.g. by patronizing their products and political                 advocacy.) CFSC, EFA
            3. Communities should provide market access to local farmers (farmers' markets                 and space in regular markets) CalF
            4. Communities should be given realistic pictures of farming operations (odors,                 noises, occasional dust etc.) CalF
            5. Farmers should make reasonable efforts to mitigate community impacts of their                 necessary operations,. CalF
            6. Local Schools should educate about the role of family managed farming.(e.g.                 development of a K-12 curriculum package) CalF\
            7. Farm tours should be realistic. CalF
        E. Farmer /Consumer Relations
            1. We should develop market demand for both local and distant family-farm                 products (e.g. farm-type origin labels). CFSC
            2. Farmers should reserve a portion of their production for local needs. CalF
            3. Local schools and government offices should use local farm products. CalF
            4. Farmers should assure that their food products are ecologically and nutritionally                 excellent.

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