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

Tools: Time frame for a one day exercise

Plan and Justification for a Day of Consensus Building on the Fundamental Values of Family Farming

I Introduction
The Purpose of the Day is to advance toward a consensus among persons farming and those impacted by farming about the values of family farming.

That consensus can itself serve many purposes. For farmers it may, by a renewed and shared recognition of the importance of what they do, give them courage and resolve to continue their work and defend it before policy makers who are unfamiliar with farming. For those impacted by farming, it can assist by a recognition of what must not be endangered in seeking policy changes and regulations around farming. For those who are supported indirectly by farming or served by it, it may make more clear why the family managed farming is best able to protect their values. Together farmers and the public need to express how family farming is best positioned to provide this nation's food in ways that are gentle to the broadest range of values, be these just working conditions, environmental sensitivity, farm animal welfare, the beauty of the countryside, safe, nutritious food, and the vigor of rural communities.

The Justification for the Day is two fold, and a choice one of those justifications may give a format for the day. These two are: 1.) To secure the beauty and goodness of family farming. 2.) To avoid some threatening harm or set of harms to family farming. Depicted in some creative and imagination-gripping way, either one or both of these will supply the motivation needed to start the day and carry it through with energy. We suggest the following:

II Description of the Day
A.) A motivating experience: This could be supplied by a video such as Farmer's Wife (for those who are not aware of the problems of family farming), or any video or speaker who can call up images of the beauties of family farming and/or the threats thereto.

B.) A partially orchestrated round table discussion aimed at a rough agreement that family farming is in crisis and that its loss would be tragic. Alternatively, the agreement might be that family farming is good in ways that are not easily replaceable by other forms of farming. Make and keep butcher paper lists of the valued, beautiful and productive goods of family farming which are mentioned and lists of the bad (tragic) consequences of the loss of family farming.

C.) A Brief Explanation of the Day. At this point (after 1/2 hour?) the facilitator should bring back the discussion to the issue of the goals of the day already noted above, which now can be reduced to two: 1) A renewed and animating vision of the goodness of family farming and why it is worth fighting to preserve; 2) Organizing that goodness into categories of values which impact particularly on the constituencies at the meeting. E.g. good for rural communities and churches, good for farm families, their workers, farm animals, the environment. And then add a third goal: 3) to discuss and list the ethical obligations that all these groups must agree on to preserve family farms and which the farmers must hold dear to protect all the values listed. A fourth goal, time permitting, to give a practical thrust: 4.) Formulate the values and ethics statements the group agrees to during the day so as to fit them into, or add to, or make a revision of, the "Creating a New Vision of Farming" document to help make it a national consensus document. And then determine and assign tasks to bring this growing consensus to the attention of local policy makers, community leaders and elected representatives.

D.) Divide the Day: Consider the goal #1, refreshing and animating the sense of the goodness of family farming as a product of the whole day. Break the rest of the day into pieces, with the consent of the group, starting with goal #2, the listing and categorization of the values of family farming. Some of the listing has already been done in Activity B above. Ask the audience for guidance, given the makeup of the group, on what categories should be looked at (environment, labor, farm family, clean food issues etc.) and how much time for each. For small groups working as one, commence to list and categorize . For larger groups representing diverse constituencies, break up into subgroups to work each on one category with a final reporting session in one hour.. Reconvene to summarize the values work

E.) Break: 15 minutes

F.) Return to working sub-groups or to the whole group (for smaller audiences) to consider what ethical obligations are needed to protect the values listed.

G.) Reconvene to report and agree on the ethical obligations.

H.) Pass out the Creating a New Vision of Farming Document to see how well the work of the group(s) fits with what is in document with a view to improving, extending, revising the document and moving toward a consensus. This work could be done in break-out groups as well.

I.) Reconvene to firm up the consensus and consider the goal of getting it more broadly known in the community and of reporting it to community leaders and policy makers.

J.) [Special Educational Issue] Consider how the consensus materials might be made into an attractive curriculum piece for local agricultural education components in local K-12 schools. Assign volunteers to do the class-room reformulation.


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