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: Content Framework

How to Do a Consensus Formation Activity with a General Purpose Audience

1. Optional: READ THE DRAFT CONSENSUS DOCUMENT called Creating a New Vision of Farming. This is a long document (17 pages), from which pieces of use for consensus formation are taken for use in the workshop./activity. (Download the PDF version.)

2. Download and print from the Tools page (items 4a and 5a) two documents: 1.) The Process of Stating Farming Values and 2.)The Process of Stating Ethical Principles and its Rationale.

[Notice in these two documents the distinction between the values, which are nouns and ethical principles which are whole sentences. As an example, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, God and neighbor are supreme values. VALUES are nouns, like God or neighbor. PRINCIPLES are complete sentences telling us to protect, honor, or construct those values. E.G. "We must love God" and "We must love our neighbors."]

3. FORM A SUB-COMMITTEE OF YOUR GROUP made up of persons convinced of the importance of having a community and national consensus on the public values of family managed farming. If possible try to get an articulate farmer or rural community member on the committee. . Get your people to draw up lists of all the values and corresponding ethics of family managed farming using the two documents or the overhead projector versions thereof (items 4b and 5b on the Tools page) mainly as a model of how to cast values and principles and so that, where possible, similar language and lengths are used. Do not fail to use the wealth of your community's traditions, church and civic groups, their rural mission statements and so forth.

4. CALL A MEETING OF THE LARGER COMMUNITY, with appropriate permissions and sponsorship, to get a broader input. If your group is mainly farm families, try to include those who have special known expertise or interests such as direct marketing, environmental issues, farm animal welfare, sustainable agriculture.

5. CONDUCT A CONSENSUS FORMATION EXERCISE, starting with the lists of values and corresponding ethical principles developed by the smaller group Determine an appropriate method to insure openness, creativity and consensus but with efficient use of time. Determine democratically a means to establish the outcome of your consensus formation exercise as a "practical consensus". E.G. a two thirds vote, a period of time to allow fundamental and/or language-based differences to be ironed out, the use of minority reports or footnotes containing reservations or any other agreeable means.

6. WRITE UP A POLISHED VERSION of your consensus statement and publish it for your whole community (or restrict it to your official membership first for comment and possible reform).

7. KEEP SOUL OF AGRICULTURE INFORMED of your progress and when you are ready we will post your consensus on our web-site for other groups to emulate and to join to a national consensus.

Finally, remember the goal: A Consensus statement on the multiple values and ethics of family managed farming so broad, so rich and so diverse in its supporters that:

  • Farmers will find it reaffirming.
  • Farm-land preservation efforts will have a solid testimony at hand.
  • School curriculum designers will have an authoritative source on the place of farming in America.
  • Young people will be encouraged to farm.
  • Rural civic and church communities will see the dignity of their farmer members' work and its consistent embodiment of their deepest values.
  • Urban but farm friendly policy makers will have reliable testimony for the value of their efforts and assurance of broad public support for well designed policy.
  • Skeptical policy makers will know what will be lost with the decline of family farming.



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