This kind of reflection on the goals of production
farming demonstrates how, in any vocation or profession, the
first and controlling examination and choice of means must
be goal based. Much current dissatisfaction in the medical
profession is based on the experience among doctors that the
means of making medical care available are beginning to degrade
the quality of that care. Means are starting to take on a
higher priority than the ends they are supposed to serve.
A fundamental ethical absurdity! This has happened in agriculture,
notably in the Third World.
General Tool Values:
Due to the obvious priority of the goals, the first values
to be considered in the choice of tools, practices and institutions
are those that are efficient in the use of resources, sustainable
and safe. But each of you and your groups considering
these values must examine the meaning of true efficiency,
not neglecting resources which are limited but unpriced. Similarly
the meaning of sustainability and safety must be elaborated
and expressed in terms which fit local circumstances. These
values may not be the first to consider in the order of time,
since others more specific, such as the economic survival
of the farmer, could be more urgent. But because their consistent
neglect threatens the very purpose of farming, human life
and health, they must never be absent from our new vision
of farming. They are controlling values due to their unbreakable
connection with the goals of agriculture.
Specific Tool Values:
1.)Those who do the work
It is intuitively obvious that tools are less important
than their products, since they exist for their products.
But the principal "tool" of farming is the labor
of the farmer and farm worker. Humans cannot be treated as
"tools" totally. Since they will not function well
or consistently in a free society as producers if their human
needs are not met with dignity, in the order of time their
values come first. Almost any essential good needed in some
modest proportion for a full human life is a legitimate value
to consider. Since these are so many and so diverse anything
pretending to be a full list would be presumptuous. Moreover
the reasonableness of expecting a farming way of life to provide
them will differ sharply from place to place. Just the lists
produced in our consultations would take pages. Our purpose
here is simply to help in your deliberations by a classification
that may remind you of important elements.
a.) Values without which farmers and workers
will not work at all
b.) Values without which they will not be
able to farm with excellence
Under (a) are clearly adequate family income,
income security, health, and bearable levels
of stress and many others depending on local conditions.
Under (b) are the knowledge and caring which
make excellence both possible and attractive. Under knowledge
and promoting it are such values as long-term familiarity
with soils, cropping systems, markets and weather of a
given region. Under caring and promoting it are the rewards
that come to families from the promise of long-term living
in a safe, beautiful, and reliably productive environment.
These values are all captured by local continuity of caring,
intelligent personnel. The family farm is clearly one very
natural form of this continuity, but others are possible.
2.) Impacts on Animals and Other Living Systems
a.) Animals: Caring, even love, for animals
who serve human needs, like most forms of caring, is most
commonly and naturally found in those who know and work with
the animals. For others such caring may be a kind of abstract
commitment . Effective knowing and caring for animals is clearly
diluted as the scale of animal agriculture grows. It is not
impossible to maintain it in very large operations, but it
is increasingly difficult to make that caring effective. The
inherent value which animals have and which we recognize even
while accepting their appropriate use by humans is a value
which in turn gives value to continuity of management
and moderate scale in animal husbandry.
b.) Other living systems: These, insects,
plants, even soil micro flora and fauna, have intrinsic value
also, but they are too mysterious for us to penetrate their
inner lives. It is the stunning beauty of their individual
outward structures and the harmony of their collective
ecology which bring us to our knees in admiration. This
unity in diversity serves the ongoing vitality of nature,
and serves humans too who recognize its potential. It is useful.
But it is above all beautiful and it calls for a response
of caring from the human heart. It is a value within which
agriculture can be located in a non-destructive fashion and
from whose fertile diversity it can learn. Our new vision
of agriculture includes holding that value as both sacred
A comment here is appropriate. The Soul of Agriculture
project has had the goal of involving sympathetic environmentally
concerned members of the public in its work. The environmentalism
of intelligent farmers and workers who, with their families,
must live in the farming environment is a very reliable environmentalism
of the heart, provided only that they have the means to
practice it. Poverty and suffering in the farmers will lead
to poverty and suffering in nature. They are often more personally
and directly affected by environmental disasters in agriculture
than any other group. If their identification with a local
environment is secure and their ability to protect it is also
secure, to that extent the environment will be secure. Given
that they live on the land and know it, their intelligent
caring can be relied on.
Without moving to the statement of ethical principles,
these reflections already suggest a preferential value for
forms of farm management which are local and of a humanly
graspable scale. To that extent they are also prima facie
assumptions against any kind of "absentee management"
whether by automation, centralization or plain neglect.
Many consultants pointed out that there are many ways of "living
on the land" and that while land ownership is a natural
way to secure it, in today's world it cannot be the only way.
Some of these alternatives are discussed below. But the value
of presence and intimacy with the land and environment would
be common to these alternatives.
3.) Values of Farmer to Farmer Relationships
a.) Sacred: Friendship is a sacred value,
i.e. a good enjoyed for its own sake and not for some use
to be made of it. Life is hardly worth living without it.
But nothing prevents good friends from being useful to each
other. Helpfulness, in fact, is the most natural and happy
expression of the love we call friendship. In spite of its
claim to some basic Judeo-Christian values, industrial agriculture
contains among its contradictions a corrosive level of competition
which weakens friendship, instead of being a friendly stimulus
toward excellence. It attacks one core value of the Judeo-Christian
tradition, the love of neighbor.
b.) Useful: The consultations and meetings
of the Soul of Agriculture were laced references to the need
for cohesiveness among farmers in the pursuit of the
new vision. The powerlessness of the isolated individual in
the face of economic and policy forces is obvious. But the
solidarity needed is not just political, it is as a source
of helpfulness, of sharing of knowledge and skills, of mutual
support with the uncertainties and risks of innovation and
a foundation for certain cooperative farming practices.
4.) Values in Community and Consumer Relationships
In the scenarios depicted in the Third Task (in the full version
of Creating a New Vision
of Farming) are new ways in which farmers may reach
their clientele. The underlying value of these innovations
is clearly the very human pleasure in being appreciated
for a good product, the outcome of one's intelligence, labor
and caring. It is another priceless value. But like friendship,
it is a useful value in restoring consumer confidence and
in giving a farmer guidance in reaching and securing a loyal
There is an equally pleasurable value in living
in peace with one's community. As a kind of friendship,
it is both priceless and useful. By maintaining this value
the mutual benefits and mutual sharing of burdens of farming
activities and community needs between farmers and their communities
Integration of Values:
The values noted separately above are interlaced and mutually
reinforcing. If one is significantly neglected, the others
are likely to suffer. And they all share the coloring of
friendship. Like friendship they cannot exist without
deliberate cultivation by both sides in the relationship.
Many of the innovations, both existing and imaginative, suggested
at consultations were motivated by the desire to create or
strengthen these values.
STRUCTURING THE WORKSHOP
At the PROPOSE page you will notice the outcomes
of some early workshops. You can show your presenters items
#4B and #5b to help them organize their presentations. (Or
down-load them and edit them to suit your purposes.) Also
you will find there some materials prepared for an overhead
projector transparency which guided a farmer discussing the
values of family farming for the local community. If presenters
have such guides and outcomes in mind they will be able to
structure their remarks so as to make moving on to the exercise
of stating principles quite natural.