We had anticipated being able to wish you happy holidays, but finding this an inappropriate greeting for January, we must be content with anew year's wish:
"may we know the wonder of small and simple things,
and in our humble reverie grow gentle and good."
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE FALL MLT MEETINGS
At the September meeting the Board of Directors voted to change the by-laws so that "members of the Board of Directors will, in the future, be elected at the annual Trustees' meeting by a majority vote of the MLT members in attendance." In the past a committee of Trustees has drawn up the slate of nominees followedby an election of the slate by the Board.
The October annual meeting of the Michigan Land Trustees elected the following Board of Directors:
Albert (Swan) Huntoon
Maynard KaufmanSally Kaufman
Jonathan Towne (who will take office in May, 1983)
Michael Kruk and Michael Phillips, in addition to Swan Huntoon, are graduates of the 1980 class of the Land Trust Homesteading program.
Michael Kruk moved to Kalamazoo from Detroit in 1976 when he enrolled at Western Michigan University to study nutrition. During the summers of 1980 and 81 he organized Farmer's Markets in Port Huron and Paw Paw. This program was sponsored by the Michigan Rural Health Action, a student group affiliated with Michigan State University. At present he resides on a small farm outside of Lawton withSwan Huntoon where they hope to establish an intentional community.
Michael Phillips graduated with honors from WMU in 1982 where he majored in Religion and Environmental Studies. Currently he lives and works in Kalamazoo. Mike and his wife. Lisa, are planning to establish a farmstead in southwest Michigan thisspring.
Sally Kaufman has been active in MLT since its inception. Maynard and I operate the farm down the road from the Land Trust Farm called the School of Homesteading. In addition to homesteading household arts, my responsibilities and enthusiasms are in small fruit and vegetable production. Having sent off most of my children into the world I am also active in Organic Growers of Michigan and in the Bangor AreaArts and Crafts Council.
In addition to the Board elections the resignation of Jonathan Towne, farm manager of the LT Homesteading Farm, was accepted. Jon will leave the farm May 1, 1983. Maynard Kaufman gave the annual treasurer's report. In the past year MLT has spent more money than it has received, has total assets of $43,036,and total cash on hand of $1,676.
During the November MLT meeting the Board of Directors elected as officers: Chairperson, Swan Huntoon; Managing Director, Maynard Kaufman; Secretary, Michael Kruk; Treasurer, Kenneth Dahlberg. (Membership donations of $5 or more per person can be sent to Ken,or to the address on the Newsletter.)
the farm manager's position was felt to be urgent. Meetings of
the directors were held with applicants. Thom Phillips and Jan
Filonowicz. During the December meeting they were unanimously
approved as joint farm managers beginning May 1, 1983,
for a minimum of one year.
The next meeting of MLT will be January 15 at the Land Trust Homesteading Farm, Bangor. There will be a potluck at 6 P.M. with the meeting starting at 7. All Trustees andothers interested in the Land Trust are invited.
The March issue of the MLT Newsletter will consist of reviews of books relevant to the Land Trust movement, agriculture, and land use.
The following is a summary of the MLT Workshop held in November and written by Juleen Eichinger. An additional notation should be made: John Cooley is Professor of English, Western Michigan University. Organizing the Workshop are Kenneth Dahlberg, Professor of Political Science, WMU, and Maynard Kaufman, Associate Professor of Religion, WMU. Bonnie Morrison, Professor of Human Ecology, is from Michigan StateUniversity.
If you would like a copy of the Workshop video tape arrangements can be made in another month by contacting Ken Dahlberg or Maynard Kaufman.
- Sally Kaufman, Editor
CONDOS, CORNFIELDS AND HOMESTEADS
THE NEW RURAL RESIDENTS AND LAND USE
A summary by Juleen Audrey Eichinger
For the first time in nearly half a century, more people moved from city to country than vice versa, according to the 1980 Census figures. Who are these new rural residents? Why did they move from their urban homes to rural areas? What impact does this population shift have on productivity of cropland; has there been a corresponding loss of prime agricultural land? What impact will this population shift have in theshort run; in the long run?
If you have ever asked yourself these or similar questions, then you probably were or should have been in attendance at the workshop held Saturday, 13 November 1982 at the Village Playhouse in Paw Paw, Michigan. Jointly sponsored by the Michigan Land Trustees (MLT) and the Institute of Public Affairs at Western Michigan University (IOPA/WMU), and funded by a grant from the Michigan Council for the Humanities, Condos, Cornfields and Homesteads: The New Rural Residents and Land Use addressed a variety of current rural issues and attracted a broad spectrum of participants. (The views presented at this workshop do not necessarily represent either the views of the Michigan Council for the Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.) Panel discussions were held by persons well-versed in their related topics,and audience participation was lively.
The Loss of Farmland Issue
After a brief welcome and excellent introduction by Dr. Robert Kaufman (IOPA/WMU), Craig Harris (Department of Sociology, Michigan State University) provided insight into the Loss of Farmland issue, with the summarization and interpretation of some recent surveys and projections. With regard to the fears of many that our productive agricultural farmland is fast being converted to residential tracts, shopping malls, lost to erosion, roads, highways, etc., Mr. Harris presented quite a reassuringperspective.
It is true that nearly 150,000 acres are lost annually to metropolitanization (i.e., urban sprawl), but such land is typically not the most productive land. Rather, it is marginal, woody, hilly land which was not farmed easily. In spite of the growing trend toward rural living, most new rural residents do not build new homes on prime farmland; they convert former recreational dwellings to year-round homes, purchase existing homes, or build homes on plattes of land created from the more marginal land to begin with. Productivity, although it has fluctuated, has remained fairly constant over the years, indicating that metropolitanization and rural, non-farm residences are having little impact on productivity of agricultural land. In fact, many of the non-farm rural residents, after five years or so, begin using at least part of their land for large gardens which are, by definition, not included in any official figures about productivity of farms.
What is serious, though, is the erosion and loss of fertility of our agricultural land. Soil erosion is not a major problem in Southwest Michigan, Mr. Harris stated, but fertility decline and decrease in effectiveness of drainage ditches are very serious. Intensive farming has depleted the natural nutrients in the soil, so that artificial fertilizers are used to compensate. From 1973 to 1981, the amount of fertilizer used per acre in Michigan increased 55%. This may be due in part to depletion of natural nutrients and in part to the fact that some land formerly considered too marginal for farming is now being put to agricultural use. When land is farmed out, it is often sold to developers, thusencouraging metropolitanization of land only apparently marginal.
Mr. Harris suggested that we are not seeing a disappearance of farmland; rather, we are seeing a re-allocation of farmland. Also, because of recent legislation, parcels of land producing less than $1,000. per acre and parcels less than 10 acres in size can no longer be termed "farms". Therefore, about 1,250 small farms just in Southwestern Michigan have been excluded from figures discussing farmland. In reality, these landsare still being used agriculturally and productively.
Cultural Values in Rural Migration
a panel discussion with J. Cooley, K. Dahlberg, & M. Kaufman
Humankind's urge for a more simple, rural life is not a new phenomenon. A survey of western literature reveals a long tradition of pastoral values and ideals, apparent with the Roman Virgil and progressing through the Bible to contemporary literary works. Often, the city is portrayed as corrupting & commercial and the country as pure, simple, idyllic. Interestingly enough, country life tends to be simplified because most literary works of this sort were written by city folk. In our country, Thomas Jefferson was one of the few rural-resident pastoralists. He was a strong advocate of a local, rural, domestic economy in which agriculture plays a significant role. This Jeffersonian vision lost ground over the years to that of Alexander Hamilton, who encouraged a national economy and banking system, international trade and industry, and who based the future upon the industrial revolution. Writers such as A. deToqueville and Robert Frost spoke of the dangers of such an emphasis, and even in Southwestern Michigan, Liberty Hyde Bailey (a horticulturalist and instructor at Cornell University) advocated the need forrural living and an emphasis on pastoral values in our culture. Today, the prevalent Hamiltonian vision is being challenged both intellectually and practically, and a reinterpretation or revival of the Jeffersonian ideals seems to be emerging. Decentralization is occurring in many facets of our economy. There is an increase in local community participation and small scale farming. The emphasis on individualism and commercialization seems to be decreasing among certain segments of our society, perhaps as a result of the counter-culture emphases of the 1960's. The exploitation of workers is being challenged ever more strongly. Although many claim that the population shift to rural areas is spurred by small manufacturing firms and jobs, other studies indicate that the moves are made in advance of such opportunities, particularly in Michigan. Obviously, values are also playing a part in the migration to rural areas. Although we see a loss of the mid-size family farm and the growth of large-scale farms, the corresponding growth of rural housing tracts and small scale farming indicates that many of the new rural residents are part of the challenge to the Hamiltonian ideal, unconsciously orconsciously.
Tom Breznau (MLT) opened the afternoon session with a few remarks about the sometimes-unexpected repercussions of our land use decisions. Using the example of externalities from economics, he cited some externalities of rural migration: increased tax bases; waste disposal problems; need for more schools, roads, social services, recreation areas & activities; an increase in crime and therefore crime protection; etc. Who pays for the cost of these externalities? Often, the government (i.e., citizens) carries the burden. Because of this, the land loss issue involves every citizen, and the short- and long-term implications of such externalities must be considered whenever rural migration andland use are discussed.
Land Losses and Land Use Conflicts
Randy Seelbrede (Van Buren Soil Conservation District), Martin Ross (WMU Sociology department and a small farmer), and Steven Gazdag (Farm Bureau President) addressed the question: "Is overproduction a problem greater than land loss?" They then went on to discuss some of the difficulties posed by the recent increase in rural migration, particularlyfrom a farmer's point of view.
Overproduction is a problem, from many angles. Randy Seelbrede mentioned that soil erosion is the greatest problem he encounters in his visits to area farmers. Southwestern Michigan loses over 50,000 acres of topsoil yearly, and this loss is continuous. Intensive farming, especially of marginal lands, tends to deplete the topsoil layers more quickly, giving the soil no time to replenish itself. Martin Ross presented the viewpoint of the small farmer. He commented that the government encourages production competition, but not price competition among dealers in farm equipment and supplies. This adds to the financial burdens a small farmer must bear and often means she/he must keep production at peak levels, thereby depleting the land's natural resources even more quickly. Steven Gazdag agreed that overproduction is a problem, but felt that to change the mode of production would risk disaster in the event that factors (e.g., population, exports, weather, etc.) ever change
Land loss is an issue, though. Small farmers feel threatened by large farmers; the top 6% (in size) farms produce 53% of our nation's food. Most government aid goes to large farms, which in essence creates a landed aristocracy. Both small and large farms are in opposition to many of the new rural residents, in their philosophy of land use. Farmers use their land for production, and residents use the land for living, recreation, manufacturing, etc. Home ownership is subsidized by tax deductions, which leaves the small farmers unable to compete in land purchases. New technologies and new legistlation are needed to ease the burden on small farmers and, in turn, open up the lines of communication between rural residents, small farmers and large-scalefarmers.
Alternatives for the Future
a panel discussion with K. Dahlberg, M. Kaufman, & B. Morrison
Viewing the future through the eyes of a person concerned about land use and agriculture need not be a discouraging vision. The recent changes in migration patterns and land use may be seen in a positive light also. For example, land sold to "city folk" who don't cultivate it is not lost; it is simply "on hold", as it were, ready to be cultivated again in future years. Actually, metropolitanization has brought about a breakdown of the traditional rural/urban distinction, and the old farmer/food producer vs. consumer distinction is also dissipating. Household economies are growing, as increasing numbers of people producewhat they consume.
We actually stand at an important crossroads leading toward alternative futures. Our choices today will be the basis of future directions. With the increase in unemployment we now are experiencing, involvement in productive work becomes extremely important. Subsistence farming may help alleviate a variety of personal and financial problems brought on by unemployment. Choices between "hard" and "soft" paths of energy are imperative as we look toward the future. High technology, highly centralized, highly subsidized farming methods are not energy efficient. In ten years, will agriculture be faced with imminent obsolescence,as auto companies are today?
Bonnie Morrison (MSU) explained the concept of the Rural Resource Education Center to be developed through Michigan State University and the Kellogg Research Station, located in the Kalamazoo area. The realization that nearly 80% of MSU's Agriculture students are urban led to the idea of an Education Center. The Education Center will feature energy-integrated farm systems (production to household), demonstrated in a "neighborhood" of retrofitted homes in which selected families will live. Observation of these model families and homes, it is hoped, will lead to new ways of perceiving small scale farms and rural residents. Community involvements and infrastructures will be studied, as willhousehold subsystems and agricultural production subsystems.
The trend of migration to rural areas is expected to continue for at least the next decade. By 1995, it is expected that 12 million new rural households will be established in our nation. As we move toward the next century, decisions about land use, productivity of agricultural land, energy consumption, and externalities of all of these will become increasingly important and difficult. Consideration of these and similar issues must continue, public debate about them is essential. As we investigate the bases and implications of the recent rural migration, we can project, perhaps, some of the needs, trends and problems whichmight be encountered in the future.