Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Scale and Efficiency

Last night's roundtable, moderated by Severine von Tscharner Fleming, of The Greenhorns, featured nearly a dozen farmers from around the region, including:
We were all engaged in the range of stories and experiences represented by this group of active, young farmers (all of whom were under the age of 40). Among the issues discussed in the 90-minute dialogue among participants and audience members was the distinction between efficiency and scale. Princess MacLean responded to a question from Matthew Hoffman about whether large scale industrial agriculture was truly more efficient (and could thus outcompete small local producers) or if that competition is simply a matter of scale.

The discussion turned to address Michael Pollan's use of the term "efficient" in his descriptions of large scale agriculture (for instance in the Progressive and on his own website). A number of participants disagreed with this notion and sought to redefine efficiency to include community, holistic farm management practices, and closing the system with regard to inputs/outputs - rather than the massive volume or inputs and outputs and the long supply chain required by the industrial model.

There was also a clear need to develop new partnerships, continue dialogues, and move toward collaborative distribution networks both locally and regionally (as well as marketing nationally if that model can support the local enterprise). The true efficiency in the models presented by the farmers last night was one based in cooperation, collaboration, and community--The 3 Cs of efficient and sustainable farming.


Please welcome to the Food, Farms, and Community dialogue Ulla Kjarval, who will be presenting on Social Media and the New Food and Agrarian Movement with Annie Connole this afternoon. Visit Ulla's blog, Goldilocks Finds Manhattan, for her reflections on the event (not to mention really yummy recipies and more about food, place, and culture).

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