"Farmers are the only indispensable people on the face of the earth."
- Li Zhaoxing
MOF&G Cover Spring 2012


  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerSpring 2012Letters – Spring 2012   
 Letters – Spring 2012 Minimize

Protect Nature
Energy and Population
A Better Financial Harvest?

Protect Nature

To the editor:

“Axis Natural Foods,” an independent food store article in The MOF&G, Autumn 2011, brought back memories when Maine probably had 50 food cooperative storefronts, and who knows how many buyers’ clubs and a Federation of Food Cooperatives – Fedco. And look what Fedco Seeds and Trees has evolved to.

I am so glad to see articles of local folks following their dreams and still living close to their principles. Our nature needs protection, and that protection is us. Thank you all, including the international community of seeking prosperity through rightful living.

In peace,
– Jim Stockwell
Burnsville, North Carolina

P.S. By “our nature,” I mean many things: that humanity puts an overburden of need on our planet Earth. Even organic farming practices with season extender infrastructures and the materials we purchase might not be sustainable as we evolve in this 21st century. Our forests, our water, our air, the land which is destroyed due to natural resources extractions, are all under attack, primarily by corporations that make profits because we buy their products. I know the difficulties of living without electricity, inside running water (pressurized), telephone, etc. All these needs require resources extracted from our Earth and put together in manufacturing facilities, causing huge disposal problems in concentrated forms in small locations. This is referred to as pollution. In years past it took care of itself, because the solution was released into our environment, dilution of the pollution was the solution. Since then EPA regulations and acts by Congress to clean up these point-source problems didn’t take care of the pollution, because polluters made greater profits by paying the fines and continuing practices as usual. When will the breaking point come? We don’t know. But life on Earth for humans will become progressively more difficult.


Energy and Population

To the editor:

As a retired engineer/farmer, I continue to learn and teach about energy, specifically oil, as the backbone of our modern existence and economy, and on population.

The winter 2011-2012 MOF&G – jam-packed and well edited – includes a story about farming with horses. I grew up on a farm and experienced real “ horsepower” – addressed in a handout (at www.solarcarandtractor.com/CGF/ASPO-USA 2011) I prepared for my Common Ground Fair workshops and for a meeting of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas. On the same site, a journal paper from the U.K. compares horses, solar-electric tractors and biofuels for farm power. Simply put, the few farms that may be lucky to have animal-husbandry skills, salvaged equipment and excess land can feed only a nearby community.

Allusions to animal power making a significant difference, as oil winds down and population grows, are counterproductive. The reader infers that a future is possible if we just “go local,” even if that takes about one-quarter of available crop land to “fuel” horses with grain and hay in lieu of “ people-fuel.”

In the same issue, Barbara Damrosch and Russell Libby’s keynote speech thoughts are great and generally warm and comforting, but they avoid the perfect storm of finite energy, population and an industrial-economic system that depends on continued growth. Domestic heating is already a nightmare in New England because of peak oil.

At least six factions focus on their own interpretation of the world’s ills:

1. environmentalists who are fighting to restrict development. I believe continued growth and encroachment on nature in rural Maine are diminishing because the required intensive energy is starting to contract;

2. localized farming movements, which can feed only personal and local needs;

3. energy and Peak Oil advocates who defer to energy as the context for all our ills;

4. demographers who tackle the population problem;

5. economist, corporate, financial, political and military-industrial leaders who are in control and seem to have only two goals: Keep the short-term party growing no matter what, and make money on the way up or down. This half of the population seems to realize better than the left that future debt and entitlements cannot continue, and they demonize mass movements such as Occupy Wall Street as lazy, socialist freeloaders unwilling to work;

6. the faith-based segment that believes that a higher power will intervene, so why worry about increasing population and diminishing carrying capacity?

I identify less with the latter two, but they add to the diversity of the first four and make it impossible to understand the basic energy problem, let alone agree to mind-boggling responses such as gas rationing combined with serious birth control.

Time has almost run out for meaningful, corrective action. The independent factions are counterproductive because “experts” in each infer the possibility of continuing our high-energy lifestyle. Segments that identify with one or more groups assume that if only their solutions are heard, then “problem solved.” The majority public just hears self-canceling noise, while we drift toward the demise of western civilization.

The big-picture message in my handout, available on my website or by mail, includes rationing and a serious discussion about population.

– John Howe
298 McIntire Rd., Waterford, ME 04088


A Better Financial Harvest?

To the editor:

Could a federal credit union organized around members of organizations such as MOFGA and NOFA help spur the growth of small, sustainable farms and agricultural businesses in the Northeast? This is the key question I’m trying to answer through a nine-month research project, using a grant from the John Merck Fund in Boston, to create a proposed Better Harvest Federal Credit Union.

Research and anecdotes note that local organic farmers often have trouble getting reasonable loans. Many mainstream banks – even small ones – ignore small farms and agricultural businesses, saying they are too risky, too unusual, not “standardized” around one business model and too spread out geographically. Also, banks just can’t (or won’t) take the time to understand factors such as land restrictions or the presence of a CSA.

A credit union created around membership organizations such as MOFGA could provide better terms for loans and deposits. Credit unions are tax-exempt, nonprofit cooperatives; as a member-oriented cooperative, Better Harvest would take the time to work with its members on appropriate loans and deposits.

Of course Better Harvest FCU would have to become sustainable as well.  It would need to make solid business and lending decisions and be successful enough to support a small staff. As I continue to research the need to create this new type of Credit Union, I would be happy to supply additional information to MOFGA members on my Sustainable Agricultural Credit Union Research Project or the concept of Better Harvest Federal Credit Union.

– Scott Budde
Certified Financial Analyst, New York, N.Y.



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