MorethanOrganic's Blog

May 19, 2010

Currency of Connectedness

Filed under: Uncategorized — morethanorganic @ 11:23 am

It seems that for many people in over-consuming countries, there is a definite divide between their work and home life.  Many people see work as a necessary evil, and spend much of their time wishing they were doing something else, and in many cases money is the only motivator to continue doing a job.  I like money and it does motivate me, but it seems that when it becomes the only motivator, we can accentuate a sense of disconnection.  But disconnection from what?

Disconnection from reality, from some sort of feeling of authenticity, some sense of being present and involved with the world just as it is, and not needing to dress it or ourselves up in superficial clothing.

We can rediscover this sense of connectedness, of being completely into it.  For me, organic farming is a good way because my interest is the starting point for getting me out there working.  Hard physical work with the earth can help our minds to settle down, bringing us back to being present.  When we are present and feel into what we are doing, we can accomplish more in less time and we start to feel stronger, in body and mind.  Increasing strength can help bring creativity and help us break the chains that have been holding us back.

So for those people interested in starting small new farms, you won’t earn a fortune and the work may well exhaust you, but you will have the opportunity to rediscover the authentic riches of being completely connected to and into what you are doing.  Possibly you will start to feel like you fit into the world and that the world isn’t so much of a problem.

So then how you develop your farm will depend on how you see your world and how into it you get.  Your farm is a canvas, and the piece of work you create is a reflection of you and your style: don’t hold back, show the world who you really are!

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Keeping it simple

Filed under: Uncategorized — morethanorganic @ 11:22 am

As your farm is a business, you need to communicate with your customers.  People will buy our foods if what we offer matches their needs, is the right price and offers better value than the alternatives.  As small-scale farmers, we have the advantage of having to put ourselves whole-heartedly into this process of communication:  whether it works or not is down to us.

As a farmer, your customers are interested in you, as you control how your food is being grown or produced.  For this reason, you have to put yourself into this communication process – there has to be a direct connection.  You can´t get away with employing a marketing company to do it for you even if you had the money, because the marketing company isn´t intimately connected with you and your processes of producing food.  For the communication to be authentic, your customers need to trust you, they need to know who you are and what you value!

Authenticity is paramount in developing any long term relationship, and as farmers that´s what we want: we want customers to keep coming back and buying more.  So putting some time in at the start as a base for a long term relationship is a good investment.

We may believe that how we present our foods and label them gives them authenticity?  True authenticity gets underneath the labels – when our foods can be attractive without the hype and labels, then we know we have a strong offering.  Actually, I believe many organic companies are over-marketing their products. Claims of super foods or health panaceas have gone too far: they lack authenticity and adversly affect the reputation of the organic movement.

If the organic movement is to break out of the niche it has jailed itself in, it needs to be viewed as a common-sense solution providing sane, wholesome, ordinary food, that meets the needs of all people.  Organic is ordinary in that it is close to nature: pesticides and genetic modification are far from ordinary!

Communicating genuine sustainability is important because all other qualities – taste, personal, community & planet health are included within it.  So we bring our communication message back to the level of how we care for the land.  We tell people about how we nurture living soil and how our animals eat the natural pasture.

So as farmers communicating with customers, we would do well to moderate our use of labels and claims, bring organic back to earth and let the quality of our food speak for itself.

Strawberries & Cream

Filed under: Uncategorized — morethanorganic @ 11:21 am

Social Enterprises (SE), are those that benefit a defined cause, often at grass-roots level, and usually seek to empower people to help themselves.

Most new SE, face the challenge of effectively communicating their mission to a pre-defined target group of people who must be convinced to part with more of their hard earned cash, that they currently have less of, and are more likely to give to well established charities.

But for SE, being small has it´s advantages, as they can be completely transparent, and use that openness to enguage in communication with new sources of funding – businesses that share a common value. There is the potential for mutual benefit when both the SE and the business seek to communicate or sell (as that´s what both are doing) their benefits to a similar target market of people.  For example, an SE, whose mission is to train new organic farmers, would have much in common with an organic retailer or restaurant.  Here the SE is selling their mission or benefits to supporters of organic food, which is the same as the business.

Those businesses and SE that understand that Web 2.0 is about enabling  two-way communication and openness, tend to be the smaller, dynamic ones. These are usually managed by one or two strong people who are not afraid to get out there and chat with people because they have the confidence in the value of their business or mission. Web 2.0 can bring SE and businesses together because both are out there seeking to communicate.  Bringing the two together is therefore a natural result of the improved communication offered with Web 2.0.

For astute businesses that see the benefits of working with SE, the payback in increased brand awareness and PR will bring immediate and long term benefits.  But a more tangible benefit is that the SE, will already be directly communicating with a target group of people, who happen to be new potential customers for the partner business.

This mutual benefit can start working for you right now, without the need for expensive market research.  You´re both already out there selling your benefits, you just need to get together.

The Heritage Gap

Filed under: Uncategorized — morethanorganic @ 11:20 am

Working pruning olive trees brings a sense of heritage: a heritage of extraordinary value.  Many of these trees are well over 100 years old, some possibly several hundreds.  Each knarled trunk and crooked branch come together to give each tree a character of it´s own.  So many seasons have gone into creating these characters, yet they are still only young adults and with care could well still be around in the next millenium.

The noble generations that planted these trees must have nurtured an intimate connection with the land.  These trees were not a get rich quick scheme for the people who planted them.  Sure, these people will have seen some crop during the first 50 years of tree growth, but the olives produced would have been greater for the second and third generations of people tending the trees.  So they were planted with a long term view that included sucessive generations.

The older Catalan people continue to nurture a great respect for their olive trees and will spend time pruning and picking their crop each year.  But the younger people here are loosing interest as the labour to profit ratio makes it increasingly difficult to support or even substantially contribute to a modern lifestyle: mortgages have to be paid and cars serviced even during poor crop years.

This move away from the land is more developed in the UK, where many smaller farms struggle to survive in a food system that rewards the quantity and profit driven producers.

In the UK, we seldom hear of new apple orchards being planted, because they are viewed as economically unviable.  Instead, the UK, imports most of it´s apples including “organic” from USA, and even as far away as New Zealand.  One wonders how it can be profitable to import organic apples from New Zealand and yet not be profitable to create new organic orchards in the UK: which happens to grow the best apples in the world!

Another example of our living heritage is the soil, as what we do with it will be inherited by our future farmers.  Quite often the reason farms have good living soil is because past generations of farmers have added copius amounts of manure to give the soil it´s fertility.

So with our modern day view driven only by short term gain, what are we nurturing or creating to pass onto future generations?  Leaving the soil full of chemicals and genetically modified DNA? What a legacy!  Fruit trees are not being re-planted at a sustainable rate, water sources are contaminated:  just what goodness are we passing onto our future generations?

Those farmers and people that see themselves as stewards of the land, working to preseve the heritage: tending and planting trees, enriching living soils and preserving natural resources: these people can rest assured they will be passing on something incredibly valuable.  This living heritage is beyond financial value and knowing this can help us through what may be difficult times in our own lives, by helping to set our motivation and keep us working for what can sometimes seem like little financial reward.

But our living heritage is even more than tangible living resources: it encompasses the living experience of the people of each successive generation.  At home here in Spain, on Saturday, my neighbour, his father and myself rebuilt an area of dry stone  retaining wall on my neighbour´s land.  The Catalan tradition is to use is to use limestone rocks from the land to construct a rough wall, then infill behind with smaller stones between the outer layer of rocks and the earth that is being contained.  This type of wall can be seen across Catalunya, with some of them dating back hundreds of years.  Using the stone from the land itself served to create the wall and also clear the land for cultivation.

Now, generally the Spaniards have a reputation for being a little lazy when it comes to labour: this is certainly not the case for the Catalans, who will often be found working seven days per week and are known to be tight with their money.  My dry stome walling experience was to help Josep, my neighbour´s father, who was managing this little project.  With Josep directing and doing the lion´s share of the physical work, the wall quickly began to regain it´s form.  I love this type of work, but on Saturday, I was more struck with Josep´s focus and physical determination to get the job done: extraordinary considering this man is in his 7th decade!  Working with that stone, dragging out places for new rocks, Josep was completely connected, completely enguaged, almost a part of the land itself!

In the Catalan tradition, the older generations are still greatly respected, and Josep is a prime example of why this respect is justified.  Tradition and experience count for a great deal, especially with Josep being of a generation that has lived their entire lives close to the land.  I´ve great respect for the man and feel inspired to turn my fleeting experiences with being really into working my own land into something more stable.  It seems that with that deep connection and focus we can accomplish our goals more easily, as much of the thought processes are not needed: we slot into place almost becoming a part of the land and a seamless part of the work itself.

In coming back to the land, this connection with physical work as part of the land itself is something most of us have to re-learn.  I´m sure we can all do it, but it develops with experience.  This connectedness cannot be obtained from books, we definitely need the real experience.  We can develop it on our own, but working with someone like Josep, we get te benefit of hundreds of years of tradition, that has forged a given technique for given conditions.  This tradition and experience is invaluable, just like the older people themselves.

Our modern societies are accelerating away from being connected to the land at lightening speed.  There are many people who can see the problems this is creating and are seeking to regain connection and preserve that connection for future generations.  Whether we achieve this is entirely down to ourselves.

Romantic to Practical

Filed under: Uncategorized — morethanorganic @ 11:18 am

Ever consider why society developed like it has?  Here, society means over-consuming countries such as UK and USA, where life is automated.  Make no mistake about this, making a living from farming the land is probably the hardest phyiscal work you´ll get.  Manual building work may be more intense, but that´s a 9-5 job, whereas farming is a lifestyle, all hours, all weathers, all days.

By now you´re wondering where this is going?  You know farming is hard physical work, right?  You´ve been here, done it, you know it?  Unless you have experienced at least a month of living this lifestyle, you have no idea of the work involved.  This was my level of experience four years ago, planning to start an organic farming business.  I´d read the visionary work by the likes of Fukuoka and Steiner, I was educated, there was a growing market for organic, the time was right, I had my vision, I had the drive, so I plunged in.

Four years on, the romance has gone, along with many of my impossibly high standards.  That´s what prolonged hardship does, it flattens us, both physically and mentally.  We are forced into being realistic and practical.  The romantic view of farming, of the good life, is far removed from reality.  Unless of course, you already have pots of money and you´re not dependant on the land to earn a living: you´re a hobby farmer, you´re playing, enjoy your fantasy!

So back to the question about society developing how it has, it´s logical right?  Most sane people don´t feel the need to work with their hands till they bleed, right?  People want nice houses, cars and holidays, right?  In a way it´s all so hypercritical, those of us who fight against the dominance of big agriculture, we are products of that system: we didn´t need to toil in the field, so we went and got a nice office job and shopped at Sainsbury, at the weekend.  At the same time, we developed idylic ideas about  how good life could be, if all farming was organic, we could always eat food of that quality, and hey, we might even be prepared to pay a little more for it, but only if we´re convinced of some personal health gain: so we turn to the marketing people´s message, and yes, that reassures us, so we spend a little more on our certified organic labels, if we have the money to do so.

Yes, organic has health benefits, simply because it´s closer to nature, but supporters of organic would do well to focus on it´s sustainable system benefits for local communities and multiple generations.  It´s for these reasons I´ll continue to develop certified organic farming, and not simply to make you feel good because you´re buying something that´s more healthy for you.  Oh, and yes, it will cost more than your average supermarket fare: why wouldn´t it?

So to the next question, can organic farming feed the world? Technically it may be possible, but this isn´t a realistic question to be asking right now.  This is no longer a battle between organic and big agriculture.  The important question now is how to develop more independent and sustainable food systems. In the West, this means, more people getting involved in farming with more smaller farms selling food more locally.  It means not being reliant on artificial fertilizers and developing community banks of natural seeds.  It means communicating between farmers and communities and the re-building of trust.  Organic certification does all this in one hit, but I´ll not sit and preach organic standards to farmers who want to start moving towards more sustainable values.  If farmers see a business opportunity in certifying organic, they will do so, but otherwise, meeting some exact standard is not the issue here.

November 23, 2009

Makin simple Biochar

Filed under: post — morethanorganic @ 6:13 pm

Started experimenting making charcoal to add to my soil here. Much hype about Biochar engineering & scientific research. Don´t think the Amazonians needed such a complex view .. they just made it .. and it worked.

Starting small, so that can get a good idea of the making of biochar…if it works will do it on bigger scale. Have old wood burning stove. Filled as if making a normal fire, with main material from pruned tree branches. Lit the fire and let it take hold, before covering all the opening where the air gets in.

Embed Sustainable Value Into Your Food Business

Filed under: post — morethanorganic @ 6:04 pm

Prior to creating and working on my own organic farm business, I spent six years in sales roles for computer software companies. The process of communicating how our software solutions would add value to our customers’ business, can be adapted to uncover the real business value at the heart of a Sustainable Farm. This value goes much deeper than providing quality produce. This article suggests how we can begin to recognise and pro-actively communicate this value for the benefit of farms, local businesses and individuals.

As sustainable food producers and co-producers (food business and individual consumers), we are in the enviable position of being alligned with the essential point shaping the future of food: Sustainability. I’ve already written about how sustainability is like the essence at the heart of many niche markets for food. Indeed, sustainability goes further, beyond niches, it is the immovable foundation that will support the structure of our future food systems. Whats more, we are an integral part of creating this future through what we are doing right now!

The Sustainable Farm is like an interface with nature itself, an anchor point for local communities and a catalyst for restoring balance to our environment. Prior to the age of oil fuelled, inexpensive transport, local farms were a corner stone of local communities. As such, they were viewed as very valuable. I’m not suggesting we’re returning to old fashioned ways. Rather, that we are already in the process of having to restore some balance to our developed societies, in terms of how we have become less connected with natural systems.

This process of restoring balance already has considerable momentum. In alligning your farms and food businesses with it right now, you create the means for your own sustainable business future. The importance of the sustainable farm, as a symbol of this restorative process, cannot be underestimated. The sustainable farm is working with natural systems to produce food for local communities. There is a workable balance between letting nature happen and living comfortably ourselves. So the sustainable farm represents or symbolises the process of maintaining natural balance. More than this, the farm represents that this global yearning for restoring balance is possible!

So then we can begin to view the sustainable farm as an irreplaceable holder of huge and long term (sustainable) business value. By connecting your business directly with a sustainable farm, this value flows into your service, product and brand.

The more direct this connection, the more value the business recieves through the connection with the sustainable farm. The farm experience and story can be woven into the marketing of the food business or service. The more tangible and real this experience for the customers of the food business, the more business benefit.

I’ll be writing about the ways sustainable farmers can communicate this business value and also how businesses can embed such value into their product, service and brand.

Stay tuned .. the future for sustainable farms and businesses looks great!

WEB 2.0: Four Steps To Driving Interest In Your Cause

Filed under: post — morethanorganic @ 5:39 pm

The GM Food discussions on Twitter recently, are interesting not only because they help progress our understanding of the subject, but also to guage how responsive people are to different ways of driving interest in our causes.

Over the last couple of years, the GM debate seems to have become clouded by a smog of public helplessness, so it´s important to get people talking again. But how?

1.Before we start, it´s essential to have strength in our own view point and have a clear objective about the direction we want to move the discussion along.

Without this basis, you will be pushed and pulled by other people and not achieve anything. Base your objective on the most immovable point in your entire argument. Is this immovable point, connected to any current drivers of public mood? If you can link in this way, you are more likely to see your discussion expand.

2. Create an atmosphere of openness where we can work to progress our cause.

We can make a start by creating an atmosphere for meaningful discussion,through inviting all people with a view on the subject to add their voice. So we structure our invites and suggestions to other people, in a way that suggests that their input is important (which it is). At this stage, whether we personally agree with the views of the other people we are inviting to the discussion is irrelevant.

Conversation begins to flow when people feel comfortable enough. So let´s not launch our scud-missile attack of facts at people as part of our opening dialogue! For one thing, it isn´t polite, and people may find it difficult to connect with facts that don´t directly concern them. So we can try to give plenty of space to each person that has done us the great courtesy of responding to our invites.

Much of our impulsive need to annahilate other people´s views may well be connected to how we have positioned ourselves on Twitter. ¨Our¨ view is commendable, right? We´re the good guys, right? We know when we´re doing this, as we´re overly concerned with how we appear to those people we believe share “our” view point. This mafioso approach may well make us feel comfortable, but unless we can develop view points that stand up to scrutiny by everyone, are we not just kidding ourselves? With this in mind, is it so useful to spend lots of our time making endless lists that catogorize people, based only on our understanding of a few of their tweets?

Consider what goes into the other peoples´ view points. Have we made an attempt to figure out what is going in to other peoples´ perspectives? It maybe that further dialogue moves all parties to a more agreeable position. The main point is that people are far more interesting than the label that pops into our minds through initial contact.

3. Test your hypothesis

Next, if we´re bold enough to believe our view point stands up to scrutiny, we can begin to test our hypothesis. It´s good to hear from people with similar views as us, but it´s far more useful to hear from people with different and opposing view points. Different views to our own are the hooks that enable us to develop and progress our cause. This only works when we can use other people´s objections as gateways to introduce driving points that move us towards our objective.

Of course, in such an open environment, we can expect that people will be finding holes in our view point. This isn´t such a problem, providing we´ve done our home work and can base our view on universally recognised truthful qualities and simple common sense. When another person does find a hole in our view, we go back to the drawing board, use the experience to broaden our own perspective, make any necessary adjustments and continue.

4. Thank everyone

It´s incredible that people have taken the time to respond, thank them no matter what.

The purpose of all this work is that Twitter, in enabling almost instant connection, interaction and coverage of our discussions, is an ideal vehicle for the rapid coverage and expansion of our causes.

November 17, 2009

GM Food Discussion: Why Your Input Is Important

Filed under: Uncategorized — morethanorganic @ 1:11 pm

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of yesterday´s Twitter discussion on Genetically Modified (GM) foods, was the general apathy towards the subject.

 

Those people sharing their views helped the conversation to develop and bloom, but considering we are now instantly connected with hundreds of others tweeters, involvement was disappointing. Our discussion was an opportunity when many different views could have been expressed.  To hear more pro-GM views and those in-between would have been very useful.  If we´re not connecting and talking how can we begin to understand different perspectives?  By embracing Web 2.0,  we have a collective opportunity to go beyond the limited space of a two sided debate.  Through connection and discussion we can come together to develop creative strategies based on simple, common sense truth.

 

Especially concerning is that yesterday´s apathy may be a symptom of our dis-connection with food and nature.  This works in a similar way to the alarming trend of young people not bothering to vote in elections, because they don´t connect with politics and politicians.  Farming and food production are viewed as topics that don´t directly affect people, because we don´t see and understand how our food is grown and produced.  For many people the closest connection they have with the origin of their food, is when they buy it from the supermarket.

 

Is our dis-connection from nature so severe that we´re blinded from considering the view that the latest generation of GM crops, as the forefront of intensive agriculture´s march, pose a considerable threat to the long term food security of our nations?

 

Genetically manipulating plants with material from animals for the purpose of improving hardiness, productivity and drought tolerance, symbolizes the progress of intensive farming techniques.  Whether you applaud, are repulsed or simply dont give a damn, depends how you view the situation.  Interestingly, our views on this may well be significantly influenced by the severity of our disconnection from nature. With this in mind, please forgive my crude, finger painting view of nature that follows:

 

 

(Nature is the limitless inter-related causes and conditions resulting in the process of continually restoring balance)

 

Wild plants springing up on your nicely dug flower bed, are an example of this process of continually restoring balance. Naked earth is vunerable to erosion, so nature strives to cover it.  There isn´t anyone in charge of this process, but it´s happening all the time.

 

 

Of course, where farming is concerned, there has to be some disruption to this state of balance.  I´m not proposing we set sail towards an unrealistic view of farming as some Utopian paradise.  But,  it´s important to understand that the closer we adhere to working with the natural balance of nature, the more sustainable our agriculture will become.

 

 

There is no doubt, that the advances in agricultural science made in the 19th and first half of the 20th century, helped feed many millions of people.  This is a very wonderful result of the research and focus of many people.  Indeed, our modern society of today, would look very different if we had not gone through these changes, changes that were implemented through the hard work of farmers.  However, the unfavourable results of relentless progress are now smacking us in the face:

 

1. Arguably long term decrease in crop quality.  Based on the living vitality of crops.

2. Severe environmental pollution, through leaching of chemically produced nitrogen fertilizers.

3. Increasing reliance on chemical products and systems controlled by big corporations.

 

 

By disecting nature to focus on small pieces of it, science, in response to our society´s relentless pursuit of progress, has pushed intensive farming to develop in the direction of operating independantly of  the bigger picture of nature. Again, depending on your view, you may applaud this progress.  You might say, wow, what a phenomenal achievement,  as humans, we´ve used our intelligence to distance ourselves from nature.  You might think that somehow humans are now superior to nature.  The problem with this view, is that nature is constantly at work to restore balance to everything.  Vast monoculture farming operations have to rely on ever increasing sophisticated approaches like GM crops, to deliver the necessary yield because new viruses, pests, soil exhaustion and  other conditions have to be contended with.  These so called ´adverse´ conditions are nature at work to restore balance. Until we can begin to view and connect with this bigger picture of nature,  our intensive farming will have to continue to develop more and more complex approaches to counter the ´adverse´ conditions of nature restoring balance.

 

This situation is indeed a precarious one for farmers, consumers and societies in general.  Especially when we consider the power to continue developing intensive farming techniques lies in the hands of big corporations.  Corporations that patent their GM seed.

 

Fortunately, there is a way we (consumers, farmers & societies), can win back control of our food security.  This way is intimately tied to our re-connection with the bigger picture of nature to create sustainable food production.

 

You are a part of this bigger picture of nature, your actions, no matter how insignificant, affect everyone else on this planet and further.  This is your land, your society, your Earth, your children´s future: please make sure you have your say.

http://www.more-than-organic.com

http://www.twitter.com/morethanorganic

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under: Uncategorized — morethanorganic @ 12:36 pm

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