In Part II of this two-part series, Frank Aragona concludes his interview with Tom Giessel, who is the honorary historian of the National Farmer’s Union. Tom begins with a brief foray into the history and status of farmer cooperatives, and argues that small operations unifying under a cooperative structure is the future of food and agriculture. He also advises listeners to beware of threats to uniform cooperative law, and the further danger of wholesale privatization of cooperative assets. The discussion concludes with a look at the role of commodity groups in the political landscape, and the dwindling role of cooperative extension in the face of persistent budget cuts.
Tom Giessel, honorary historian of the National Farmer’s Union, joins host Frank Aragona for a discussion of the history of the Farmer’s Union. Tom begins with the origins of the Union in the early 20th century amongst cotton farmer’s in Texas. He explains the importance of community organizing and collaboration in an age where farmers had to help one another to survive and prosper. Tom then describes the impact the technological revolution of the 20th century had on the Farmer’s Union, and also shares the the ideas of visionary leaders throughout the Union’s history. Also discussed is the role of Farmer’s Union in the conservation crisis of the 1930’s. Part I of II.
Frank interviews Narendra Varma, founder of Our Table Cooperative located in Oregon. Narendra explains the genesis of the cooperative, and the cultural norms that prevent more cooperative development in the United States. He also describes a food system that is structurally broken, and the challenges individuals and groups face when confronting structural injustice. Narendra outlines the unique elements of Our Table as both a consumer and a producer cooperative, and offers insights into how we can make these organizations successful.
Frank welcomes appropriate technology enthusiast and humanitarian Robert Fairchild, also known as Solar Bob. Bob shares his decades-long journey in the realm of appropriate technology, including the genesis of the movement during the oil crunch of the 1970’s and the now growing interest in all things AT in the Age of Internet. Bob addresses the role appropriate technology can play for the suburbanite in contemporary America who is looking for an alternative lifestyle. He also asserts that appropriate technology has been open source since the beginning, and shares some views from his experiences in Haiti and central Asia.
Frank welcomes back regrarian and permaculture designer Darren Doherty. Darren shares his experiences from his current Regrarians world tour, and then describes the precarious economic situation of the commodity farmer and the often degraded state of the world’s agricultural landscapes. The conversation then launches into the complexities of the current land tenure system as Darren explains the neofeudal character of agricultural economies. The interview concludes with some observations about the need to develop a capable labor force to meet the market demand for sustainably produced food. Useful links below:
Everett Rogers (via Wikipedia)
Earl Butz (via Wikipedia)
Frank concludes his interview with permaculture co-originator David Holmgren. David begins by sharing some strategies people can employ to develop permaculture in their own lives without having to purchase land or go deeply into debt. He then discusses his realization in the very early days of permaculture that freehold land tenure would not be an effective way to implement broad-acre permacultural polycultures. He suggests some why this fact has been so often overlooked, and offers some strategies for the development of intentional communities. David also shares his ideas on the prospects for seasteading and the possibilities for permaculture in the suburbs.
Useful links below:
Frank welcomes permaculture co-originator David Holmgren for a wide ranging discussion on his writings and ideas, including Future Scenarios, Oil vs. Money, and Crash on Demand. In light of the failure of social and political activism to address climate change, David argues that radical reductions in consumption by the middle classes of the industrial countries could in fact crash the global financial system resulting in large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. He asks us to consider that major changes to our lifestyles and working arrangements may be the only thing capable of shifting the momentum of climate change.
Frank concludes his interview with Luis Sierra of the California Center for Cooperative Development. Luis begins by explaining the difference between a worker cooperative and a service cooperative, and then provides some historical examples of agricultural worker cooperatives in the 60’s and 70’s. He then explains why the worker cooperative model has been so sparsely adopted in the agricultural sector, and offers some insights on how to grow the worker cooperative model in agriculture. Frank then concludes by sharing his own thoughts, suggesting that social organization and enterprise management are the holy grail of scalable permaculture.
Frank welcomes Luis Sierra of the California Center for Cooperative Development. Luis introduces the concept of a cooperative, and the rationale for their creation. He also delves into existing cooperative models and their history in the state of California. He then describes some of the pitfalls a cooperative can face in its creation and operation. Part I of II.