As a young man, I learned the craft of vegetable production. I also developed my point of view from the conversations in the field.
Sitting on my knees and propped up on my Red Wing boots in a bed of radishes, I’d engage in conversation with my farm mentors and fellow apprentices, all the while pulling out and banding the pink-red orbs without thinking. Our talk could be light and cheery or simply perfunctory, but we often landed on conversation about the meaning of our work and our lives.
We would bandy about the phrase ‘alternative local economy’ because we felt that operations like ours were creating an alternative for people to buy into, an economy based on cooperation between farms, businesses, and people for the benefit of all. A type of business model where people and the land were more important than profits. Our outlook stood in stark contrast to the mainstream economy, which, at that time, produced the era of suburban sprawl, corporate downsizing, and a whole lot of strip malls. Main Street businesses were folding and Americans were flocking to big boxes on the edge of town for cheap goods and convenient parking.
We felt like a band of Don Quixotes tilting at the windmills of American Capitalism. But we didn’t care that we were out of step. Our work felt good and tangible and human. This was before the soccer moms of America discovered organic food and we were part of an underground community that was quite small and quirky, but, at the same time, motivated and generous. This start of good food movement that would soon burst out of the small clusters of 1970’s holdouts who hung around small food co-ops in the Twin Cities.
Today I’m 43. It’s been 20 years since I was sitting in Paul and Chris Burkhouse’s field picking radishes. I still believe that organic farming can save the world. I’m still adamant that if Americans refocus on building strong local economies and strong local communities, we will create the world we imagined. One where we are again neighbors, not simply consumers. Where independent businesses together build strong local supply chains that can withstand disruptions and create wealth for local communities.
Right now I know that we’re all shaken up by this pandemic and we’re worried about the future, but I also believe that recent events have given us many people an appetite to support an alternative future.
I never directly solicit people on this blog, but now is not the time for polite rules of etiquette. If you’ve had enough of turning your attention and investments to Wall Street and expecting different outcomes, please join me and invest directly in MANNA Food Co-op at https://mannafoodcoop.com/capital/.
We are right now raising investments and accepting charitable contributions to relocate and expand to downtown Detroit Lakes. You can directly invest in this independent business through preferred shares at $500 per share and memberships for $150 for a lifetime. We will certainly not get there without wide support of existing and new members, so please learn more, contribute, and share the opportunity with others, directing them to https://mannafoodcoop.com/capital/