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In December of 1986 the newspaper "Successful Farming" from Des Moines, Iowa, sponsored and paid transportation for North American farmers to attend a conference with 100 sessions on opportunities for diversification in agriculture (Fig. l). In the words of the organizer and editor, Richard Krumne, "There is not one solution to what ails agriculture, there are 10,000 solutions. They are not in Washington DC, your state capital or county seat, but right there on your own farm." He continued, "The Conference (acronym ADAPT for Agriculture Diversification Adds Profit Today) is not only about the economics of diversifying your farm, but also about courage...the courage to change." He noted that "Most people, farmers included, prefer that things either stay the same or that the rest of the world change to suit our needs. It is much easier to hope grain prices would only go up, or that the government would do something, than to take control of our own destiny." What is exciting is that most of the 75 speakers were farmers who have demonstrated that they have the courage to change and whose diversification efforts have already paid off.
Twists on Traditional Crops
1 Sweet Corn 2 Corn Nuts 3 Garbanzo and Navy Beans 4 Gourmet Vegetables 5 Corn Snack Foods 6 Oats for Food 7 Edible Soybeans 8 Bagging and Selling Birdseed 9 Sorghum Molasses 10 Grain Alcohol for Lighter Fluid 11 Cubing Straw into Fuel Logs 12 Premiums for Organic Products 13 Alternate Row Crops and Legumes 14 Corn for Cereal
15 Broccoli and Cauliflower 16 Pumpkins 17 Melons 18 Okra 19 Asparagus 20 Squash and Cucumbers 21 Sweet and White Potatoes 22 Other Vegetables (Onions, Lettuce, Greens, Peas, Beans and More) 23 Processed Tomatoes 24 Beets, Carrots 25 Peppers
Other Specialty Crops
26 Crambe 27 Amaranth 28 Ginseng 29 Shiitake Mushroom 30 Specialty Seeds (Flower, Vegetable, Turf and Others) 31 Herbs 32 Hydroponics 33 Flowers
34 Bedding Plants 35 Landscape and Nursery Plants 36 Harvesting Your Woods for Landscape Plants 37 Sod 38 Greenhouse 39 Extending Growing Seasons With Plastics
40 Strawberries 41 Raspberries and Blackberries 42 Blueberries 43 Wine Grapes 44 Table Grapes 45 Selling Flavoring and Jam
Trees and Products
46 Apples 47 Other Tree Fruits 48 Pecans 49 Black Walnuts 50 Forestry 51 Firewood 52 Maple Syrup 53 Christmas Trees
54 Catfish 55 Trout and Bass 56 Fishing Bait 57 Crayfish
Animals and Animal Products
58 Retailing Specialty Beef 59 Selling Livestock Waste 60 Embryo Recipients: Cows, Ewes and Sows 61 "Natural" Beef 62 Llamas 63 Rabbits 64 Alligators
65 Draft Horses 66 Angora Goats 67 Sheep and Goat Milk Products 68 Specialty Milks 69 On-Farm Cheese Production 70 Raising Deer for Venison 71 Bees and Honey 72 Stock Dogs 73 Hunting Dogs 74 Gamebirds for Restaurants 75 Trapping Your Farm 76 Raising Fur Animals 77 Escargot 78 Money from Horse Markets 79 Producing Laboratory Animals 80 Selling Ducks to Restaurants
81 Leasing Hunting Rights 82 Moonlighting with Computers 83 Bed and Breakfast 84 Farm Vacations 85 Selling Your Farm Skills
86 Farmer's Markets 87 Is Your Farm Suited to Pick-Your-Own? 88 Roadside Marketing 89 Marketing Co-ops 90 Mail-Order Sales 91 Selling to Restaurants 92 Direct Exports 93 Selling Your Machinery Ideas 94 Advertising 95 Pricing 96 Using Computers in Marketing 97 $100,000 from 25 Acres 98 Pick-Your-Own Customer Clubs 99 Markets Within 30 Miles 100 Inventory Your Farm's Options
This raises a number of important questions: is this the beginning of a trend towards diversification; what are the driving forces and benefits; is it part of a larger trend; if it is widely adopted will its value decrease; how will it affect the structure of the food system, rural life, international trade and relations; what are its disadvantages; what are the barriers to diversification and how can they be overcome; what are the variables that determine its benefits; what are reliable indicators of optimal levels of diversification and commodity mixes; what is its relation to farm size, capital, technology, market structures including distance from urban centres, ethnic background of target populations for commodities, etc.
To answer such questions it may help to view diversification in a broader context than is usual (Fig. 2). In this paper I will focus particularly on the ecological and psychological aspects of diversification; but first, some historical background.
|HIGH SELF-ESTEEM||LOW SELF-ESTEEM|
|ACTIVE LISTENER||INTERRUPT OTHERS|
|ALLOW OTHERS TO OWN THEIR PROBLEMS||TRY TO SOLVE OTHERS PROBLEMS|
|GIVE ADVICE WITH PERMISSION||OFTEN GIVE ADVICE|
|SUPPORTIVE, ALLY||JUDGEMENTAL, CRITICAL|
|ASK FOR HELP||POSTPONE SEEKING HELP|
|EXPRESS FULL RANGE OF FEELINGS OPENLY||SHY, INHIBITED, OR PERPETUALLY "NICE" OR ANGRY, DEFENDED|
|INTERRUPT MISINFORMATION & OPPRESSION||PARALYSED, AVOID CONFRONTATION PASS ON MISINFORMATION, GOSSIP|
|EAT, REST, EXERCISE APPROPRIATELY||EATING AND SLEEPING DISORDERS LACK OF OR EXCESS REST/ EXERCISE|
|PREVENT PROBLEMS & RESPOND TO CAUSES WITH MULTIFACETED SOLUTIONS||ATTRACTED TO CURATIVE MAGIC BULLET SOLUTIONS TO PROBLEMS|
|COMFORTABLE WITH LONG TIME-FRAME||MORE COMFORTABLE WITH SHORT DURATION PROJECTS|
|MANY CLOSE FRIENDS||FEW OR NO FRIENDS|
As long as there have been farm management texts, diversification has been advocated as a useful strategy to buffer the effects of unpredictable variations (Heady, 1952). Specific conventional objectives usually include reducing variability of income, preventing net income falling below some minimum level, and increasing the ability of the farm enterprise to withstand unfavourable conditions (Harsh et al, 1981; see also Cornman et al, 1982; Pope and Prescott, 1980; Shertz, 1979). Such objectives have been likened to the portfolio problem of the investor (Johnson, 1967) While concern for the relatively short-term effects of risk and instability have been the most obvious driving forces for diversification, other less tangible forces such as boredom and the need for a change or for more flexibility, the tendency to copy a neighbour or behave in accordance with nature or some "higher authority," may in certain cases be major factors. More "global" and long-term objectives might include restoration of the natural capital of the farm (soil health, natural pest controls, etc.; Hill, 1985), reduction of dependence on imported inputs which may then be conserved for higher priorities, increased efficiency in resource use (Cox, 1984), increased resilience (Holling, 1973), reduced environmental impact, prevention of species extinction related to habitat simplification (Miller et al, 1985), and the evolution of more benign systems of food production that can provide meaningful work and nourishment for local communities without compromising the long-term sustainability of the agroecosystem, equity or justice (Hill, 1985; see also Altieri, 1987; Fukuoka, 1985; Mollison, 1979; Reddich, 1982; Todd, 1976; U.S.D.A., 1981). These and certain other "advantages" of diversification are listed in Fig. 3.
Agroecosystem Design & Management Diversity means:
Markets and Economics Diversity means:
Human Needs Diversity:
Our best models for diversified cropping systems occur among the traditional tropical systems such as those found in parts of Java. Although these have been long neglected by modern agriculturists, there is a growing interest in combining the best of both traditional and modern agriculture to "help stabilize and improve rural life (in developing countries), free capital resources for industrialization and...stem the migration from rural areas" (Conway, 1973). A more local example is provided by Gavitt (1986).
Although the wisdom of diversification is universal, the following factors that have operated against it since World War II still remain as driving forces for expansion of farm size, mechanization, intensification and specialization (USDA, 1981): cost-price squeeze, short planning horizon, low relative energy prices, inflationary land market, certain tax and commodity policies, preferential access to credit by large operators, and emphasis on research and development, science and technology, and education and extension for large-scale, capital-intensive agriculture (Youngberg & Buttel, 1984). Partly by reducing risk, these factors have lessened the imperative for achieving this through diversification (Todd, 1984). Over the long term, however, most of these factors are likely to become less and less effective means for protecting against risk. The causes of this are the decreasing availability and associated increasing cost of non-renewable resources, increasing erosion of the natural capital of agroecosystems, growing public awareness of the connections between environment, food quality and human health, the failure of so many agricultural and food policies to achieve their stated objectives, and the empowerment of working people who are becoming less and less willing for their lives to be dictated by centralized governments and multi-national corporations.
In ecology there is much debate concerning the relationships between diversity, stability and resilience, e.g., May (1972). Unfortunately there is also much confusion, most of this being the result of the failure of researchers to distinguish between diversity (number of different species present) and functional diversity (i.e., taking into account what the organisms do and how they interrelate, particularly their mutualistic relations). It seems obvious to me that there is a clear positive relation between functional diversity and resilience (see Holling, 1973).
In an effort to generate locally relevant data concerning this, the audience participated in a brainstorming exercise in which they wrote down their first thoughts under the following headings: key realities for you about agricultural diversification; rational long-term goals that follow from the above; barriers to their achievement and ways to weaken or remove these; policies, plans, actions and initiatives for implementing agricultural diversification; immediate actions (including what you will/would like to do). Respondents, of which there were about 40, noted the province or state in which they reside and whether they were answering as a farmer, academic, consumer, etc. The results of this exercise are given in Appendix 1. What was particularly evident in the responses was the clear understanding among the audience of advantages of diversification, the problems associated with its implementation, and of the dependence of change on the external provision of support and the internal willingness to take risks.
I will conclude by dealing with what I consider to be the major restraining factor for both diversification and the establishment of a rational sustainable agriculture. Usually such discussions focus, on the one hand, on knowledge, skills, resources and technology and, on the other hand, on institutional policies and supports.
Although these are both essential areas for concern, they are dependent on the collective state of mind of those involved, what I have called our "human beingness" (Fig. 4). This is determined largely within the family, primarily during our early childhood (Fig. 5). The systematic, although largely unintentional, oppression of children causes them to develop a defensive and adaptive false public image that reacts to cues from outside (Bradshaw, 1986; Jackins, 1965; Miller, 1984; Solter, 1984). This is in contrast to the unoppressed child who acts spontaneously from within (Pearse and Crocker, 1946). While the former child has been disempowered and seeks compensatory symbols of power from outside, the latter child becomes increasingly powerful (yet benign) and is content even to act anonymously, needing no compensatory recognition. The implications of this with respect to agriculture and diversification are that whereas the disempowered individual will be more likely to be attracted to highly simplified, and therefore readily controllable, large, resource input and technology intensive farm operations, the powerful individual will be freer to design and manage agroecosystems to achieve more long-term, less spectacular goals such as nourishment, fulfillment, justice, flexibility, evolution, efficiency and sustainability.
This concept has been developed into a hypothetical scheme that links early childhood events to farm design and management (Fig. 6). I believe that only when we pay equal attention to this human factor will we be in a position to achieve sustainable benign change, including the development of diverse farming systems.
Altieri, M.A. 1987. Agroecology: The Scientific Basic of Alternative Agriculture 2nd ed. Westview Pr., Boulder, CO.
Bradshaw, J. 1986. Bradshaw on: The Family. (Transcripts of a series of ten lectures on video.) 5003 Mandell, Houston, TX 77006.
Conway, G. 1973. Aftermath of the Green Revolution (restoring diversity). pp. 226-35 in N. Calder, Ed. Nature in the Round. Wiedenfield & Nicholson, London.
Cornman, J.M. et al. 1982. Conserving Options: An Overview of Small Farm Concerns. pp. 219-226 in: H.W. Kerr & L. Knutson, Eds. Research for Small Farms, U.S.D.A. Washington, DC.
Cox, G.W. 1984. The Linkage of Inputs and Outputs in Agroecosystems. pp. 187-208 in: R. Lowrance et al, Eds. Agricultural Ecosystems: Unifying Concepts. John Wiley & Sons, New York.
Fukuoka, M. 1985. The Natural Way of Farming: the theory and practice of green philosophy. Japan Publications, Tokyo, Japan.
Gavitt, B. 1986. Variety of Crops Grown. New England Farmer, Sept. 1986:30-32.
Harsh, S.B. et al. 1981. Managing the Farm Business. Prentice Hall, Engelwood Cliffs, NJ.
Heady, E. 1952. Diversification in resource allocation and minimization of income variability. J. Farm Econ. 34:482-496.
Hill, S.B. 1985. Redesigning the food system for Sustainability. Alternatives 12(3/4)32-36.
Hill, S.B. 1985. Preventative Pest Control. 16 pp. Manuscript for Biol. Contr. Inst., Beijing, China.
Holling, C.S. 1973. Resilience and stability in ecological systems. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 4:1-23.
Jackins, H. 1965. The Human Side of Human Beings. Rational Is. Publ., Seattle, WA.
Johnson, S.B. 1967. A re-examination of the farm diversification problem. J. Farm Econ. 49:610-21.
May, R.M. Will a large complex system be stable? Nature (London) 238:413-414.
-Miller, A. 1984. Thou Shalt Not Be Aware: society's betrayal of the child. Farrar, Straus, Groux, New York, NY.
Miller, K.R. et al. 1985. Issues on the preservation of biological diversity. pp. 337-361 in R. Repetto, Ed. The Global Possible: Resources, Development, and the New Century. Yale Univ. Pr., New Haven, CT.
Mollison, B. 1979. Permaculture Two. Tagari, Stanley, Tasmania.
Pearse, I.H. and L.H. Crocker. 1946. The Peckham Experiment: a study in the living structure of society. Yale Univ. Pr., New Haven, CT.
Pope, R.D. & R. Prescott, 1980. Diversification in relation to farm size and Other socioeconomic characteristics. Amer. J. Econ. :554--54.
Reddich, S. 1982. Strengthening the Regional Food Economy of the Northeast. 8 pp. manuscript for Amer. Acad. Arts Sci. Ann. Meet.
Shertz, L.P. 1979. The Major Forces. pp. 42-75 in L.P. Shertz, Ed. Another Revolution in U.S. Farming. U.S.D.A., Washington, DC.
Solter, A.J. 1984. The Aware Baby: a new approach to parenting. Shining Star Pr., Galeta, CA.
Todd, J. 1976. A Modest Proposal. pp. 259-83 in R. Merrill, Ed. Radical Agriculture. Harper & Row, New York, NY.
Todd, R.M. 1984. Effects of Federal Grain Programs on the Livestock Sector. 46 pp. Am. Int. Inst. Pub. Poll Res. Washington, DC.
U.S.D.A. 1981. A Time to Choose: Summary Report on the Structure of Agriculture. 164 pp. U.S.D.A., Washington, DC.
Youngberg, G. & F.H. Buttel. 1984. Public Policy & Socio-Political Factors Affecting the Future of Sustainable Farming Systems. Proc. Amer. Soc. Agron. 167-85. Madison, WI.
ANALYSIS OF BRAINSTORMING SESSIONS AT SUNRISE AGRICULTURE CONFERENCE
1. Key Realities for You About Agriculture Diversification - Ecological Factors
Human / Demographic Factors
2. Rational Long-Term Goals that Follow from Above Ecological Realities
Human / Demographic Goals
3. Barriers to Their Achievement and Ways to Weaken or Remove These
A. Barriers Management Problems
Financial / Economic Considerations
Lack of Knowledge
B. Ways to Weaken or Remove the Barriers
Education / Information
Financial / Economic Solutions
4. Policies, Plans, Actions & Initiatives for Implementing Agricultural Diversification Education / Information
5. Immediate Actions
Individual Actions / Management Initiatives
Education / Information / Research
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