Over the holidays I had it out with a friend whom was intent upon
extolling the marvels of personal computers and modems. He said that
from the PC monitor in his home he could connect with individuals from
as far away as England. He blathered on about access to information and
speed and the sharing of new ideas. Finally, I snapped: “Yeah,
but when was the last time you talked with your next-door
neighbor?” He fell silent. After a while he muttered something
about his having little in common with his neighbors.
I admit that I don’t see enough of my neighbors. It doesn’t
help that our books, music, and politics may differ. Nonetheless, we
always seem available to help one another. I believe that neighbors
everywhere want to feel useful to one another. Some things come to mind
when I think of what has recently transpired between the people in my
——The neighbor will gladly lend a cup of sugar or a tablespoon of baking soda or a two-inch carriage bolt.
——The neighbor will look after your home and animals while you are away.
——The -neighbor will sometimes bring a grocery bag filled
with new potatoes or fresh—picked rhubarb when she drops by just
to say hello.
—The neighbor will trade herbs, perennials, and gardening tips.
-—The neighbor will let you know when one of the cows gets through the fencing.
——The neighbor will lend a rototiller in spring and plow your drive in winter.
-—The neighbor will always lend a hand when you have to move something really heavy.
——The neighbor will watch your child while you run an errand or go to the dentist.
—-The neighbor will ask if you want to crush some grapes and make wine.
Technology is sweet. Modems can connect persons (Personas?) from
thousands of miles away—providing a sense of intimacy and even
community without us ever having to unlock our front doors. And soon we
will all have access to the “information super highway,” or
what ever it’s called. I keep wondering if the folks touting all
this stuff are making any connections with the people next door?
An Age is not like
one of our modern children
before it is born.
Not christened before the episode
of pain which serves as
a down payment
a Foreword to the
Rule Book of Life.
An Age is more like a child
of those primitive cultures
a name is spiritual
as part of the passage
There pain becomes
woven into the fabric
as a curse and a blessing bond.
We yearn for
the simplicity of
But we need
the diversity of
An Age too complex to allow
would be a good thing.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO WHEN WE SELL THE FARM?
Members of Michigan Land Trustees and its Board of Directors are asking
this question as the sale process moves toward its closing. I am
writing this to share my thoughts and to express my urgent feeling
about one possibility.
When the likelihood of a sale first emerged I felt we should look for
another farm and develop a “clustered housing” project for
people interested in self-provisioning and, in the process, preserve
open space for its residents. The problem with this idea is that few
people seem to be interested in what we have called
“homesteading.” Also, few of us on the Board have the time,
energy or interest to coordinate such a project. This also inhibits the
prospect of buying another run-down farm and improving it as was done
on the Land Trust Farm. In fact most of the improvement there was done
by several classes of homesteading students, and we no longer have such
students or a dedicated instructor to facilitate a homesteading course.
I am now proposing that we should gradually phase out
Michigan Land Trustees as a corporation and transfer the major portion
or all of its assets to another tax-exempt organizaton doing similar
work. The transfer could be made over two or three years so that we
would be able to evaluate reports from the receiving organization on
the use of the funds. As it happens I am deeply involved in the work of
an organization with purposes similar to Michigan Land Trustees, and I
want to make a case for it here.
When Sally was dying in 1990 she requested that Organic Growers of
Michigan be designated as a recipient of memorial gifts. Her children
and I decided to use the fund that accumulated to set up a tax-exempt
organization to help 0GM with its educational outreach and, if
possible, secure funding to hire an executive director. In 1991 I began
organizing a Board of Directors and early in 1992 the new organization
was incorporated as Michigan Organic Growers Advancement Project, Inc.,
(MOGAP). It was recognized by the IRS as a tax-exempt charitable
organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code. I am still
serving as chairperson of the statewide Board of Directors.
This summer and fall the Board of MOGAP met in some marathon strategic
planning sessions. These meetings 12 to 18 hours long, were expertly
coordinated by Lynne Blahnik who, with her husband, Ed Marks, had
advised us on legal matters when we organized. (Lynne and Ed had
earlier served as Project Coordinator and Executive Director,
respectively, of the North American Farm Alliance.)
One outcome of these strategic planning sessions was the adoption of a
Mission statement: “to promote the development of a viable food
system that relies on organic methods of food production and that
revitalizes and sustains rural communities.”
In the second part of this statement MOGAP was moving beyond the
concerns of 0GM and closer to our concerns in MLT for a society which
is sustainable in economic as well as ecological ways. MOGAP’s
concern for local food systems includes household food production.
Current issues of the MOGAP newsletter have carried articles on
permaculture. In order to reflect this broader vision, MOGAP also
changed its name to Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance (MOFFA).
Finally, MOFFA engaged Lynne Blahnik as its executive director. She is
currently coordinating the Board of MOFFA in a variety of
Aware that a food system which is controlled by a few trans-national
corporations and dependent on vast amounts of fossil fuel energy is
neither dependable or sustainable, MOFFA encourages more farmers to use
organic methods and more eaters to seek out organically—grown
food in their local areas. MOFFA supports direct grower—eater
interaction, farm related enterprises, community supported agriculture
and food self—reliance on a local and regional basis.
In addition to the regular publication of Michigan Organic News MOFFA is active in several specific ways.
---MOFFA sponsors state-wide programs on methods of organic farming, on
the importance of chemically—free food and on the advantages of
local food systems in both rural and urban areas. For example, MOFFA
selects and makes arrangements for the speakers on the organic farming
program during Agriculture and Natural Resources Week at MSU each March.
---MOFFA maintains a library of resource materials on organic food and farming systems.
---MOFFA coordinates a speaker’s bureau on these topics.
---MOFFA is building networks and alliances between organic farmers and food activists throughout Michigan.
---MOFFA is working to educate environmentalists on food issues.
---MOFFA also functions as a kind of think tank and is currently
developing a “-white paper” on food and agricultural policy
issues for Candidate Howard Wolpe who is running for governer of
MOFFA has a hard—working and enthusiastic board of directors.
Each member has pledged at least 20 hours of volunteer work per month.
While many of the activities reviewed above depend on volunteers, they
also require money. Our membership is growing but we know it would grow
much more rapidly if we could contact more prospective members. We need
funding for a series of series of at least four direct mail membership
campaigns: first, past and present members of 0GM (now already in
progress), second, members of garden clubs, third, consumers of
organic food through food coops and other outlets, and fourth, members
of environmental groups. Obviously a large membership base can provide
not only regular monetary support but the political clout needed to
help shape public policy on food and agricultural issues.
We also need funding to upgrade our newsletter which is now done on a
typewriter. The editor has been volunteering her time but she deserves
a special stipend for her efforts in seeking out news. More
importantly, she needs a computer and laser printer to improve the
appearance and layout of the newsletter. Finally, we need additional
funding to support our executive director. Although we have already
received a couple of small grants, they were earmarked for promotion of
organic food and for conference organizing. Board members and other
volunteers do a lot of work, but paid professional staff is essential
for an organization which hopes to be heard as a respected voice in the
promotion of local food systems.
I am hoping for a chance to answer questions and to discuss this
proposal in greater detail at our January meeting. Perhaps other
representatives of MOFFA will also attend the meeting. In the meantime,
please call me if you have any questions.