Sunday, May 29, 2005

Peace Through Strength

“I teach self-reliance, the world’s most subversive practice. I teach people how to grow their own food, which is shockingly subversive. Yes, it’s seditious. But it’s peaceful sedition.”
- Bill Mollison

We sell veggies. In the regular sort of capitalistic mindset, it would seem counterproductive to encourage others to also sell veggies. Except that, truthfully, if lots of people aren't growing things, then lots of people aren't eating them, and the more people who are eating them, the more stable your market is. Not a fad.

For awhile I sold bread & veggies through a local farmer's market. Someone else sold what I call junk food there, cakes and cookies and quick breads mostly. It was fine with me that she sold that stuff, just because I wasn't buying it, it was no skin off my back. Besides, freshly ground whole wheat naturally fermented hearth baked sourdough bread is not everyone's cup of tea. In other words, most likely, our customer base was not the same.

Still, my convictions were tested when another woman came and wanted to sell freshly ground whole wheat yeast risen bread. I encouraged her, even though her customer base was the same as mine. Why? Because the more people eat whole grains, the healthier the world is. It is the bigger picture, not the short-term profit.

But ironically, it is the short-term profit too, it is just counter-intuitive. The more people who get used to eating a mild, sweet whole grain bread, the more their tastes are opened up to be willing to taste a wildly radical whole grain sourdough. Besides, everyone needs variety -- there is room in the world for more than one bread baker.

In the end we decided that that method of marketing wasn't the best for us -- it forced too many days off the farm, too much gambling (on what people would want to buy in what quantities and what the weather would be like), and really encouraged specialization. Our whole schtick is that we are growing for ourselves and selling the excess only. We don't grow a crop just for sale, much less a whole field of corn plus a whole field of cabbages like one farmer did just so he could sell them for less than WM.

Still, I love to see others gardening. I'm thrilled to help people learn how to make their own cheese or put up their own pickles. I can do something else besides sell a few vegetables if everyone has enough, that is fine.

That is more than fine: That is strength for the world.

1 comment:

Dan Trabue said...

How cool. Peaceful, seditious capitalism. And it works, to boot. Who could ask for anything more?