A Small Medium at Large 6.28.2018

Today’s edition, the last of a four part series, continues looking at the Farm Resettlement Congress 20 Year Plan to restore food independence to the Ozarks, return jobs, and kick-start local economies.  A Transfer of Wealth (TOW) mechanism, put in our wills, is the funding powerhouse of the re-localization movement and was introduced previously. 

Benefits would accrue almost immediately to any community that directs its TOW assets towards a credibly conceived build-out plan.  Moreover, a phased re-localization of food security would redesign and reconfigure Missouri’s baseline preparedness for all of its citizens.  For this reason alone, the Plan for rural self-organization and resilience cannot begin too soon.  

The “man on the street” knows that the corporate consolidation of agriculture has been a raw deal for American culture and values.  Also, given the vulnerability of our just-in-time delivery pipeline, he knows we’d better start organizing in a new direction.  Reaction to The 20 Year Plan is highly positive, but the question comes down to this: “Who’s gonna do the work?   We’re a narcissistic nation of jobless thirty year-olds, sitting on their parents’ couch, playing on iPhones!”  

For starters, there needs to be qualifying procedures for recruiting young agronomists, and some kind of selection criteria for their mentor/hosts.  Fortunately there are many self-help models and volunteer programs that can be tied to the creation of farms and food hubs.  Beyond local civic and church efforts, Cultivating Veterans has ideas for bringing vets into the farm economy.  The Federal Corrections Facility in Sikeston has developed a farm vocation program for model inmates. Also, many “back to the landers” are searching for a connection to nature, employment, and rural community.  

Hundreds of young Plain People, already skilled farmers, are leaving their tight-knit communities due to the pressures of modernity.   They are seeking to redefine their farmstead identity, looking for help, but lack both direction and opportunity.  Young urban transplants flood to events like the Baker Creek festival, and many good people are looking to niche farm in the Ozarks.    

“How to Incentivize Recruitment” is included in an open-source volume we call The Whole Watershed Planning Handbook.  This book, currently a “work-in-progress,” is intended for any group committed to organizing TOW opportunities and long-term planning in their own watershed.  Seminal ideas about the Farm Resettlement Congress can be reviewed in earlier columns.

“ . . .  Localization of all the necessities for the survival of rural community stands, at best, at the limits of practical possibility . . . Still, the call to organize watershed communities compels our interest because it offers answers to the hard questions that keep civic, church, and business leaders awake at night.”

The Plan is a non-political alternative to the giddy marvel of Missouri’s career partisans.  Like balloonists plying the intellectual no-fly zone, they putt-putt around the loophole riddled clouds of corporate sponsorship, gassed onwards by a towering lack of ideas.  The distinction between political polarization and biological survival, easily made by everyday people, seems impossible for them to grasp.  They constantly assume that our freedom is contingent on the values and policies of their Big Money sponsors.   

Our grandchildren’s heritage is slipping through our fingers.  Fair Missouri, a land of milk and honey, has declined from its Golden Age of Agriculture for over 100 years.  Democrats and Republicans alike have received the keys of power from the People and hidden them.  They neither challenge the greed of hidden elites, nor permit us to do so when desired.  But, self-sufficiency is the wiser path:  be wise as the serpent, gentle as the dove:  Feed Missouri First!  

 Contrast, if you will, our ongoing leadership by a confederacy of dunces to the Plan’s self-directed spending on regenerative agriculture and rebuilding wealth through soil fertility.  All politics are ultimately local because, to quote Malcom Gadwell: “The fact is . . . we can be law-abiding and peace-loving and tolerant and inventive and committed to freedom and true to our own values and still behave in ways that are biologically suicidal.”

In the book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond defines collapse as a “drastic decrease in human population size and-or political, economic/social complexity.”  Further, a recurrent problem in collapsing societies is a ruling class that creates “a conflict between the short-term interests of those in power, and the long-term interests of the society as a whole.”  Sound familiar?

Diamond answers the ultimate question for which the FRC was created: “What are the choices that we must make if we are to succeed, and not fail?”  There are two crucial choices that distinguish past, failed societies, from those that survived.  One is the absence of long term planning.  Enter the FRC 20 Year Plan to restore food freedom to the Ozarks. 

First, this column is meant to awaken hope and inspire action.  The Plan assumes we have the capacity to make bold and anticipatory decisions because we recognize the time has come.  Our problems have become obvious, and we have to act in concert before they reach crises proportions.  The roadmap to success begins with singing from the same hymn sheet:  Feed Missouri First!

Second, to succeed we must have a willingness to reconsider some core values.  Old habits die hard.  What values that have served us well, at least up to now, can be maintained under new and changed circumstances?  Can the primacy of our single bottom line thinking, and focus on personal problem solving, be subordinated (and ultimately solved) by rebuilding our rural community and serving future generations?   

Yes!  We can turn things around because the 20 Year Plan is based on economics.  Follow the money.  What other point of agreement, or motivation, remains in the American mind?  The TOW transfers mechanism solves funding problems, is a proven vehicle that can carry whole watershed restoration, and greatly empowers local planners.  Self-management and common law, concepts long omitted from party politics, can unite us.  The Plan proposes a model of action that is do-able, lawful, and is commensurate with the urgency and scale of our challenge.

Further, watershed mobilization supposes a triple-bottom line relationship to life, to our Planet and to God.  It introduces an economic platform that distinguishes wealth from money.  The Plan’s three phased program aims for a sustainable future based on a wholesale redemption of soil fertility and the foundational aspects of small scale capitalism (i.e., locally-managed by family, co-op, or worker-owned).  By monetizing bioregional restoration, the Plan is unique: it bridges our current financial system from the optimal concentration of capital into very few hands, into a Nurture Capital paradigm that will again prosper “We, the People.”   

Another key point is that TOW moneys must not be used in speculation, that Foundation books be open to public inspection, and that common sense conservation provisions (designed to protect the donor’s legacy and future community cohesion) be part of the picture.  Re-localization aims for self-funding and local ownership at every step.  We must stop looking for corporate moneys, government grants and handouts, or accepting anything with strings connected to the established debt hierarchies and non-local banks.  

On a personal note, I have no heirs and intend to donate a 7.5 acre parcel (next to Army Corps take-land on Bulls Shoals Lake).  This will be my own TOW opportunity, given to the first watershed community that forms a Charitable Foundation and 20 Year Plan.  Given the location, this property could make a terrific camp ground, recreation/picnic pavilion site, and learning destination. 

There is a small nursery on this land, including American chestnut, paw-paw, grape varieties, heirloom peaches, plums and plants more geared to a Mediterranean climate.  I want to demonstrate income producing, forest garden crops based on organic, permaculture planting techniques.  We can bring real money to these rocky hills. The word permaculture is defined as “permanent, sustainable agriculture that utilizes the patterns and relationships of nature.”  

A successful sesame trial, planted on a resettlement property in the Little North Fork watershed (October 2017 Douglas County Herald), gives us great hope for a valuable crop and well-suited to our drought-prone fields.  This year, we’re trying heirloom sesame varieties again.  A bonus: when broadcast like wheat, the sesame crop completely crowds out fescue after disking the field, without the application of herbicides.  Plant with typical farm equipment, harvest with any combine with a platform header.  Farmers looking to try other crops, take note!    

The Plan starts building a “preparedness culture” from day one.  Several small permaculture nurseries have been started on farms owned by FRC volunteers. These feature native plants with high food value as well as income producing perennials.  This nursery stock will be used to supply TOW lands designated for community food forests, roadside orchards, and foundational stock for income producing nursery operations.   

Coming next: What to do with a Billion Dollar crop of gravel.