9, 2004: Well here we are, and another year has just
flown by. I know last year when I wrote my December column
I wrote about making lists. I mentioned lists of repairs,
lists of things to improve on your farm operation and yes,
even that Christmas list. In that regard this year is no different
from last year. I'm still making those lists. But this year
my list is a little different. The whole Institute is in the
process of forming a new strategic plan and the farm is no
different. So my list today has to do with lists of resources
and a list of items in need of change.
In many ways the Institute's farm is no different than your
farm or your neighbor's. We grow crops, market and sell what
we grow, and try to show a profit. But in many ways we couldn't
be more different. We have scientifically and statistically
relevant research plots, we host tours for guests from every
corner of the world, and we work with other departments within
the Institute and other outside organizations to move organic
ideals forward with the goal of nothing less than changing
the food system. And, maybe like you, we have a mission and
a vision of how we want the world to look. So, from time to
time we need to step back, take a look at where we are and
decide whether or not we're making the type of progress we'd
like. We also need to make an honest evaluation of how we
are putting our resources to work to realize our vision.
You need to perform the same activities on your own farm.
I know it's tough work. Often tougher than farm work itself.
I know because I'm doing it right now! The corn is in the
bin, the soybeans are too. The apple crop is sold. The pumpkins
left over from Halloween have been made into pumpkin butter
and it is "RE-EVALUATION TIME." That's where the
list comes in. First I'm making a list of all the resources
I have to work with. That includes the land, the staff, the
equipment and even the support of wonderful people like you,
the readers of New Farm. My second list contains all the goals
and objectives I have for the farm. And my final list contains
actual projects that will be put into action starting in the
New Year. While my list may differ drastically from yours,
the concepts are the same: What you're going to do with the
resources you have at your disposal to realize the vision
you have for your farm, your life, and your family.
Our vision of the world is one where individuals have a voice
in their food system. One where farmers have an actual relationship
with the people who eat their food. And one where family farms
can successfully compete in the market place. In order for
that to happen, thousands and thousands of us need to work
hand in hand. We helping you and you helping us.
Our farm needs to be an inspiration to farmers and non-farmers
alike. My list needs to contain activities that not only produce
food and conduct scientific research but also reach out to
consumers to move them in a direction that advances our mission.
Now the question I've been asking myself is how the farm,
with all its resources, can best be put to work to accomplish
this. Well, I know I need to make some changes. There are
activities I've been pursuing that have probably missed the
mark. Of course the natural tendency is to ignore them and
keep on doing the same thing I've been doing. It is easier.
But I can't afford that luxury. Similarly you too need to
evaluate your own activities and not just repeat them next
year because “that’s what we've always done."
Next year, if you visit the farm you will see some physical
changes in how those resources are being applied. Some of
the activities on the 2004 list just won't make it to the
2005 list. And there will be improvements in how we use the
farm to inspire you and those who eat the food you produce
to change our food system. Change can be tough, but positive
changes can generate excitement for what we do.
Its 5:30 in the evening, it's already dark outside and I
need to get back to my list writing. It probably won't be
till this time next year—when I again re-evaluate my
efforts—that I'll know if my new list did what I wanted
it to do. I know we'll still be growing crops, conducting
exciting research, and visiting with all of you through The
New Farm. The big question is, will the way we do it inspire
you and your neighbors to have a positive impact on our food
system and will it inspire consumers to use their voice in
the market place to support your efforts? I hope so.
Any thoughts you have that will help me shape my list will
be greatly appreciated.
Now for that Christmas list. Let me see....More tools for
the shop, a new flail mower and oh yea, a new tractor would
be nice. Have a joyous holiday season and I'll talk to you
From one farm to another,