2/22/2004 12:33 AM
Rural America Safe Net
Micro-farm co-operative ecosystem and economy
There appears to be a wonderful opportunity to combine three or four (or five or six) appreciative fields to produce an ecosystem of interacting system influences having sustainability and resilience. The concept of an appreciative social field is developed in the AIC (appreciative, influence, control) process development methodology (www.odii.com). The concept is rooted also in physics and biology and is important in the discipline of bio-agricultural control systems.
Clearly one can grow tubers and produce sugars and ethanol with a minimum of theoretical formalism. However, the deep concepts related to chemical farming and healthy foods do require an advanced understanding of field theories, and metaphoric linkage to string theory. To bring back a Jeffersonian sense of agrarian community, one needs to increase the technical knowledge freely available to rural citizens.
Where are the natural lines of influence that afford collaborative processes to take a product to market and receive a return on the investment made?
There are some natural synergies that look to create strengths for two processes where now there are specific weaknesses or constraint is each process. Within bio-agriculture, one example might be that distilleries need crop and framers need distilleries. Both of these ecological affordances (J. J. Gibson’s term – ecological psychology) have a need for a rural culture, accepting of bio-agriculture, and a market to convert product to cash.
Critical mass and alignment or strengths require flexibility and creativity - to alter the outline of what is to be proposed. As more stakeholders are considered, extending our appreciative field, we find a presenting purpose that brings the needs of each stakeholder into the emerging ecosystem/economic system. In this way, if it is easy then it is likely correct.
For example planning for a one to one ratio between distilleries and small farms may, or may not, be ecologically optimal. Some will make this judgment quickly and easily, whereas others could just only guess. There is a resilient social value, however, to having an entire process self contained and then replicated.
Resilience is a presenting purpose. Perhaps sustainability comes also with a single distillery for each farm. Storage and supplies are likely to be at a different order of scale. This goes to a set of problems that might arise both in the cultural acceptance of a new bio-agricultural industry in rural Indiana and in safety concerns related to storage tanks and distribution to the market.
One interesting aspect has to do with mental health, since part of the possible funding is ear marked from HHS as "bioterrorism preparedness". The concept is of community resilience under mental health stress caused by crisis. For example, what mental health type reactions might occur in the event of widespread sudden SARS outbreaks in many locations in rural America? The planning work on the Indiana Rural Safe Net is directed at providing a measurement and response to mental health issues in time of great cultural stress.
As preliminary work on crisis management resources, one can look closely at experienced memetic structure related to the introduction of agricultural innovations. The specific innovation can be seen as the introduction of a specific antigen into a biological organism. As you know, utility functions govern the responsiveness, leading to positive or negative results and often having event structure where tipping points are observable.