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Fukuoka believed organic food should be cheaper than commercial food. Is this possible?

Willy Kerlang


Joined: Apr 29, 2011
Posts: 106
I was really struck in reading ONE STRAW REVOLUTION that Fukuoka was disgusted when he learned shops in the city were selling his organic produce for higher prices than commercially-grown produce. His philosophy of organically grown food was that it should cost LESS than what big agri and supermarkets charge, not more. Of course today we have the opposite scenario in North America, and I'm guessing other places as well. Why is this?

Theoretically, it seems to me that if one were really to practice his methods, one could justify lower prices by the fact that far less inputs of time and equipment (and no chemical inputs at all) are needed. If you are an organic farmer and you find you must sell your produce at higher prices just to cover your costs, then I am curious to know what it is about your practice that is making your costs higher. I'm not trying to start an argument here or put anyone on the defensive--I really just want to ask the question. Thanks.
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3884
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  56
If a product is more valuable, it should bring more money. For me, input cost is not important.

A farm raised salmon has a high input cost. The native guy who sells me fish, grabs his as they swim past his house. His boat is tied to the shore with no motor. His fish are better so he can charge more.

Suppose 2 craftsmen each make a chair. One fiddles around for a week and produces a crappy chair, while the other more skilled guy spends a day producing a quality product. I'm willing to pay more for the good product. It won't bother me at all that one guy will earn 10 times as much per hour. Let the market decide, and educate your market about why your product is better.


QUOTES FROM MEMBERS --- In my veterinary opinion, pets should be fed the diet they are biologically designed to eat. Su Ba...The "redistribution" aspect is an "Urban Myth" as far as I know. I have only heard it uttered by those who do not have a food forest, and are unlikely to create one. John Polk ...Even as we sit here, wondering what to do, soil fungi are degrading the chemicals that were applied. John Elliott ... O.K., I originally came to Permies to talk about Rocket Mass Heaters RMHs, and now I have less and less time in my life, and more and more Good People to Help ! Al Lumley...I think with the right use of permie principles, most of Wyoming could be turned into a paradise. Miles Flansburg... Then you must do the pig's work. Sepp Holzer
Brad Davies
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2011
Posts: 212
Location: Clarkston, MI
    
    8
Good point Dale.

I think I read in Michael Pollan's book, "The Omnivores Dilema" a quote from Joel Salatin.

It went something like this, When people say farm produced food is too expensive I say on the contrary, it's the least expensive food you can buy, because all the costs are accounted for and paid. It's not subsidized by cheap oil, cheap corn, and tax money. It's also not causing damage to the enviroment that must be cleaned up by a later generation.

I'm sure I bastardized that quote, but that's the general idea. Mass produced food only seems cheaper because it's so heavily subsidized. If the mass produced crap wasn't so heavily subsidized it would be far more expensive than the naturaly produced product and the free market would adjust accordingly. I think I have heard that it takes 9cal of oil to get 1cal of food in the "modern" system.


SE, MI, Zone 5b "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
~Thomas Edison
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
the way i see it a permaculture farm has

no need for million dollar combines
no need for pesticides
no need for herbicides
no need for planting machines
no need for gmo seed

so essentially the farmer should still make more profit even if he sells it cheaper than agribiz food because he is dependent on less inputs.


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
David Goodman
volunteer

Joined: Dec 14, 2011
Posts: 345
Location: Zone 9a/8b
    
  14
Fukuoka probably didn't factor in the subsidies on factory-farmed food in this country. This allows many conventional farmers to sell food for less than its cost of production - and still make a "profit" thanks to Uncle Sam's redistributive schemes.

We who farm organically on a small scale are subject to actual market conditions.


Permaculture, bio-accumulators, rare plants, tool reviews and lots and lots of gardening inspiration - a new post every day: http://www.floridasurvivalgardening.com
Willy Kerlang


Joined: Apr 29, 2011
Posts: 106
Vidad, this is what I am curious about. You and Brad are right about subsidies (though I would guess that the Japanese government is also subsidizing their rice industry), but as Jordan pointed out, a farmer who is practicing Fukuoka-style will not have any of the expenses that need to be subsidized in the first place, or at least very few. I realize that "organic" does not equal "Fukuoka" and so I am asking organic farmers to share about the inputs that go into their production. If you wouldn't mind telling us, what do you produce and what kind of expenses do you face?
David Goodman
volunteer

Joined: Dec 14, 2011
Posts: 345
Location: Zone 9a/8b
    
  14
At this point, I've just about worked up to feeding my family off our land. By late summer, we hope to start selling. I'm sure there are more experiences folk with better insight than me that could share their stories.

The Florida "Right to Farm" Act has actually made it better for small farms here... I'm just getting my head around some of the regulations now.
Brad Davies
volunteer

Joined: Sep 22, 2011
Posts: 212
Location: Clarkston, MI
    
    8
Willy your absolutely right it's a combination of things.

There are far less inputs in a Fukuoka or "farm produced" system which makes the cost of production cheaper.

There are also heavy subsides on the inputs into "Modern Ag" which lowers the price of production substantially.

Very much like how Paul pointed out the true cost of CFL vs Incandescent. With subsidues they are comparable in price but the true cost is not even close.

So then you factor in supply and demand.

There is a larger supply of "modern ag" food, with a steady demand so the market price is low.

There is a much smaller, but growing, demand for "farm produced" food and also a small supply so it fetches a premium market price.

If all things were equal, with the free market able to determine the price, the natrally produced food would be far cheaper, as the production cost is much lower.

* I don't want anyone to think I am saying that naturally produced food should be this or should be that. The market determines the value, and the value is what someone is willing to pay.
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 907
    
  18
Ah, supply and demand. It's that simple.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop

Check out our Kickstarting the Butcher Shop project at:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sugarmtnfarm/building-a-butcher-shop-on-sugarmountainfarm
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 972
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  12
There is an intersect between supply and demand, and cost of production vs retail price. Sometimes the supply is low, the demand is high, so so is the price. And other times, the price doesn't cover the cost of production, and then people stop producing it.

If the demand for a product exceeds the supply, the price will be higher, but often it won't be the grower who sees it - it will be the retailer. But, to be fair, the retailer runs the risk of a "fad" dying, and they end up with a product they have paid for, but can't sell.

Food is a commodity, organic / free range / grass fed / etc. is custom, therefore, the price should be higher. The worse mistake someone can make is selling a custom product for commodity prices. Fukuoka is brilliant regarding growing things, doesn't know a thing about marketing... :


Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I think Fukuoka's idea of naturally-grown food being cheaper was philosophical rather than practical. Most people in our modern society aren't going to be willing to live in a simple hut with no modern conveniences like he had at his farm. If we did our expenses would be minimal and so we wouldn't need to sell produce for more. From my own point of view, in an ideal world we wouldn't need to sell it at all but could just give it away, with our work and our produce being of such value that people would give us the resources we need to live (like money for property tax). This is my ideal of the Sharing or Gift economy, but is difficult to implement in the present society and is considered impractical by many.


Idle dreamer

Kate Nudd


Joined: Dec 09, 2010
Posts: 106
Interesting thread.
Food for thought......
'The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.' Masanobu Fukuoka


There is a U.S. community ( Possibility Alliance) that is thriving from such a philosophy that you mention Tyler. An amazing example of the gifting way of life. I applaud their choice to believe and work with abundance.

What stands out for me about permaculture is its philosophy of Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share ( or is it sharing of the abundance?)....perhaps we( as a society) need to further define what really is people care,what is fair share? and shift our thinking away from the need for monetary gain to one more closely related to wholeness and interconnection.
Even in the lives of Helen and Scott Nearing, they strived to earn money enough for what they needed.( perhaps it is our definition of needs and wants which gets us into difficulty...maybe one day we won't have so many choices and therefore a more clearly defined understanding of needs and wants)
I work to shift my perspective on the need for money...to have enough for my needs, to evaluate what my 'true' needs really are, and to cultivate myself as a human being. This is my contribution to my health and well being and I believe to that of the surrounding community and world.
I look forward to others comments.
Willy Kerlang


Joined: Apr 29, 2011
Posts: 106
I am in the process of re-reading The Good Life and the sequel right now. Although the Nearings did believe they needed to make enough money to live, they strongly deplored the need to do so, especially on the terms of a capitalist society. And in everything they did, they kept their expenses down and priced whatever they sold at what I believe could be called below market value. For them the concept of market value was practically offensive. They had no difficulty selling something without realizing a profit on it, and preferred to barter when possible.

Is it possible for an organic farmer practicing Fukuoka's method of growing to sell produce in the current economy below market value, but still realizing a profit? It seems to me that theoretically it is possible, considering the minimal inputs, but that few would be willing to do it, considering how very expensive it is to live in our world.

In a developing or third-world nation, perhaps it would be a different story.
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 907
    
  18
Willy Kerlang wrote:I am in the process of re-reading The Good Life and the sequel right now. Although the Nearings did believe they needed to make enough money to live, they strongly deplored the need to do so, especially on the terms of a capitalist society.


Keep in mind that the Nearings had a lot of money that had come from capitalism and they were given a lot more money, that again came from capitalism, by supporters. They're quite hypocritical in this respect.

There is nothing wrong with making a profit. A profit means your business can be sustainable and have reserves to weather down times, be able to get needed equipment, buy land to farm on, pay your workers, pay yourself, be ready for disasters. Without a profit you can't be in business next year to continue providing product to your customers. Without profit you can't weather the doldrums of winter. Without profit you can't pay the costs of doing business because sometimes you won't be making profit so you'll need to dip into the cash savings you have that resulted in past profits.

Realize that if a farm is not profitable it will go out of business eventually, the land will get bought up by developers, paved over and then the habitat is lost to the unsustainable parking lots. This is the bad result of no profit.

Profit is good. Obscene profit is a matter of opinion so be careful of arguing even that.

Of course, people like the Nearings who are independently wealthy can rail all they want against profit and capitalism. Free speech and all that.
Willy Kerlang


Joined: Apr 29, 2011
Posts: 106
My main interest in pursuing this topic is not to criticize people who make a profit or charge top prices for their products, but to determine whether it's actually possible to use Fukuoka's method in our society for the purpose I believe he intended, that is, to grow enough food to feed everyone healthily and cheaply. I realize there are several reasons why this would not work, short of the entire power grid disappearing and our entire society reverting to an agrarian one. But I think it's a fascinating topic.

I do feel rather strongly that healthy, natural food is a basic right and not a luxury. This is the only part of this conversation that gives me pause. I think, though, that the only thing that would make the price of natural food drop would be if the supply were to go up--hugely up. Some people in this thread seemed to think I was confused about the basic law of supply and demand, which I assure you I am not. What I was really asking about was more on the levels of philosophy and practicality. Is it not true that natural, organic food is a right and not a luxury? You may agree or disagree, but I would like to know why.

And what if all farms in the US and Canada were to magically switch over to Fukuoka-style growing tomorrow, just for the sake of argument--would they not find their costs drop significantly, regardless of subsidies, while at the same time their yields stayed the same or went up? Would this not therefore mean that healthy, organic food would then be able to be sold at a lower price than agribiz food is today?

Hey, I can dream.
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 907
    
  18
Willy Kerlang wrote:I do feel rather strongly that healthy, natural food is a basic right and not a luxury.


I'll have to differ with you on that. According to nature, evolution and natural selection we have no basic right to any of that. If you want it you'll need to work for it. If someone works harder they'll get it. If the resource is limited and they work harder than you then you may not get it. That is the natural order of things. The only reason the lion lays down with the lamb is to dine on it. This is pretty fundamental. People can idealize all they want but billions of years of nature prove otherwise. Ideology is fleeting and tends to be the dogmatic death of karma.

the only thing that would make the price of natural food drop would be if the supply were to go up--hugely up.


Agreed.

Is it not true that natural, organic food is a right and not a luxury?


It is a luxury. Food is a luxury. One should work to get these needs met. Those who work harder, better, faster, smarter will tend to get first pick. There are other factors too, including shear luck. Life's not fair. To wish otherwise is to waste time.

What if all farms in the US and Canada were to magically switch over to Fukuoka-style growing tomorrow, just for the sake of argument--would they not find their costs drop significantly, regardless of subsidies, while at the same time their yields stayed the same or went up? Would this not therefore mean that healthy, organic food would then be able to be sold at a lower price than agribiz food is today?


It would take a lot more change than that. They are based on being big, serving corporate investors, working in commodity markets, sucking at the subsidy teat. The whole system would need changing. Just changing the production method won't fix it.

Hey, I can dream.


Dreams are good. Keep dreaming. Make small differences. Make change. Just don't expect the retailer to follow your ideals. We farm. Once the product leaves our hands the retailer sets the prices and we have no control. I make no more money from the high end white table cloth restaurant that sells four ounces of our pastured pork for $100 than I do from the deli that sells the same four ounces for $10. I only control what is in my process. But that is a big part of why I'm building a butcher shop. The processing costs us half our income and by bringing it under our control I can make more money making our farm more sustainable. I doubt I'll ever go to the level of opening a restaurant though - that's not my sort of gig. Do what you enjoy.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop

Check out our Kickstarting the Butcher Shop project at:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sugarmtnfarm/building-a-butcher-shop-on-sugarmountainfarm
John Meshna


Joined: Jul 22, 2006
Posts: 111
Location: Vermont
I think if we took away all the subsidies involved with conventional agriculture things would change. There is a small movement in that direction with the first feeble attempt to eliminate 4 billion and 24 billion in direct and indirect tax subsidies to the oil companies. If we downsized the military so it was incapable of fighting multiple wars for oil and other resources around the world at once the fossil fuel CEO's couldn't run down to Washington every time they create problems overseas and get the marines to fix it and hundreds of billions of dollars would suddenly be available in the private sector to pay the labor costs of organic farms, substituted for other life threatening processes like we have now. Synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides are all made from oil and created by the consumption of oil at a very low rate of return which only survives because the true cost of the product is not reflected in the price. Attempts are finally being made to try and turn the tide of responsibility for contamination of crops with GMO pollen back to Monsanto instead of allowing them to sue farmers who did nothing but have a field next to one of theirs.
This is a huge fight and let's not kid ourselves, people are dieing fighting it but it's a fight humanity must win for it's own sake. The earth cares not whether we survive or perish. GAI is a passive observer in all things and barring destruction by an asteroid will continue without us in some form no matter what. Our redemption and deliverance into the future is in our hands. The sea refuses no river. It's up to us to decide what's in it.


John Meshna (owner)
Green State Hydroponics
1195 Dog Team Road
New Haven, Vt 05472
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
John Meshna wrote:I think if we took away all the subsidies involved with conventional agriculture things would change.


What might change is the remaining 1% of people who farm in the US would give up. There is no way they could continue farming the way they do without government support. But maybe they could then become permaculturists instead of breaking their hearts and going bankrupt anyway in a system which doesn't give a rat's ass about farmers, only about profit.
Alex Ames


Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 353
    
    1
Tyler Ludens wrote:I think Fukuoka's idea of naturally-grown food being cheaper was philosophical rather than practical. Most people in our modern society aren't going to be willing to live in a simple hut with no modern conveniences like he had at his farm. If we did our expenses would be minimal and so we wouldn't need to sell produce for more. From my own point of view, in an ideal world we wouldn't need to sell it at all but could just give it away, with our work and our produce being of such value that people would give us the resources we need to live (like money for property tax). This is my ideal of the Sharing or Gift economy, but is difficult to implement in the present society and is considered impractical by many.



You are correct Idle Dreamer. Fukuoka did not live or think like the people of modern society.
Duncan Dalby


Joined: Jan 22, 2012
Posts: 36
Location: England, Midlands.
From what I understand the reason organic food is more expensive in the shops is because its more expensive to produce, it's that simple. I think there are a few reasons. Traditional organic farming, unlike permaculture, still requires quite a lot of inputs. Weeding, tilling, spreading manure and other composts, most of which needs manual labor and that costs money. There's also the fact that they tend to be smaller and more diverse which means they dont have the economies of scale you get from a couple of people farming hundreds of acres of the same crop from atop big machines. And then there is the fact that in most cases acre for acre organic doesn't produce as much as conventional, so if there are two farms of the same size growing the same things the organic one will have to charge more for his produce than his neighbor to get the same income.

Also, on top of the active subsidies big farmers can get there are the unseen costs which most farmers probably dont even know about. The damage to ecosystem services like water purification, soil stabilization and carbon sequestration etc, which once damaged need to be replaced by human intervention at huge cost. If they were paid for by the people that caused them conventional farming as well as a few other industries would see there costs go up quite a bit.
John Seay


Joined: Mar 31, 2012
Posts: 23
This is very possible. With a move to a more perennial crop system and a little bit of luck there could be plenty of cheap food if those producing it were willing to take less money. This is exactly what I'm trying to do now. I live with almost zero cost (compared to most people) and have been blessed with my parents allowing me to farm their ten acres of land. This isn't a lot of land by any means; but it is enough to produce food for my family, my friends, and myself. I'm working towards being able to produce more, longer to be able to sell food much cheaper than anyone I've seen. My idea is that I currently live off of $400 a month. If I make more than that selling produce then I'm making a profit. I would like to still be able to buy more land so I would need much more than that to be able to save up enough. I believe a lot of the issues is that people aren't getting into natural farming young enough. Starting young, networking, and refusing to use banks is key to producing cheap food. Not everyone would be able to do this of course; butsomecan. If some can then yes, it is possible.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
John Seay wrote: ten acres of land. This isn't a lot of land by any means; but it is enough to produce food for my family, my friends, and myself.


Ten acres is a lot, especially for one person to manage. Using Biointensive, which is compatible with permaculture ethics and principles (in my opinion ), enough food for 100 people could be grown on ten acres! Except ten acres in Biointensive would be far more land than one person could manage alone....

http://growbiointensive.org/
paul sanass


Joined: Mar 18, 2012
Posts: 16
Dale Hodgins wrote: His fish are better so he can charge more.



I think this is the answer ... 'so he can' we've got great ideals on how to grow food and care for the earth, but we've yet to overcome greed! a wise man knows when he has 'enough' because otherwise there will never be enough for his greed.
Cheers
paul sanass


Joined: Mar 18, 2012
Posts: 16
John Seay wrote:This is very possible. With a move to a more perennial crop system and a little bit of luck there could be plenty of cheap food if those producing it were willing to take less money. This is exactly what I'm trying to do now. I live with almost zero cost (compared to most people) and have been blessed with my parents allowing me to farm their ten acres of land. This isn't a lot of land by any means; but it is enough to produce food for my family, my friends, and myself. I'm working towards being able to produce more, longer to be able to sell food much cheaper than anyone I've seen. My idea is that I currently live off of $400 a month. If I make more than that selling produce then I'm making a profit. I would like to still be able to buy more land so I would need much more than that to be able to save up enough. I believe a lot of the issues is that people aren't getting into natural farming young enough. Starting young, networking, and refusing to use banks is key to producing cheap food. Not everyone would be able to do this of course; butsomecan. If some can then yes, it is possible.


I admire your ideals, and I wish you every success ... you're one of the few who know when they have 'enough' more like you will make a difference, I wouldn't want to try and change things, but like you making a difference is 'enough' for me too.
Cheers
Willy Kerlang


Joined: Apr 29, 2011
Posts: 106
Walter Jeffries wrote:
Willy Kerlang wrote:I do feel rather strongly that healthy, natural food is a basic right and not a luxury.


Walter Jeffries wrote:I'll have to differ with you on that. According to nature, evolution and natural selection we have no basic right to any of that. If you want it you'll need to work for it. If someone works harder they'll get it. If the resource is limited and they work harder than you then you may not get it. That is the natural order of things. The only reason the lion lays down with the lamb is to dine on it. This is pretty fundamental. People can idealize all they want but billions of years of nature prove otherwise. Ideology is fleeting and tends to be the dogmatic death of karma.


I've been thinking about this response for a couple of days, and I've come to the conclusion that there is something inherently troubling in it for me. I won't deny that you are right. It is certainly true to say that access to food has always been a bone of contention among different groups sharing the same territory, and has been one of the root causes of many a war. It's probably always been true that the more powerful a person or group, the readier access they have to food that is higher in both quantity and quality. And it's true to say that access to food has never been guaranteed to anyone, by the ancient law of might makes right. If I am stronger than you, and my tribe is more numerous than yours, then I am going to take over your hunting lands or your fields, and you are either going to be destroyed or assimilated. This is essentially the law of the jungle.

So I am not disputing the accuracy of what you are saying. This is not what troubles me. I think what troubles me is simply that it's true. These days, in our society, the law of the jungle is played out economically rather than physically. The poor and weak of our society don't eat as well as the rich and powerful. The pie-eyed hippie in me thinks it would be very nice indeed if everyone could afford a free-range chicken or a bowl of greens guaranteed to be pesticide free. The cynical observer in me (I will not use the term "realist", since that is always how people refer to themselves, while people who disagree with them are always accused of "not living in reality") understands that the societal changes required to guarantee good, cheap food are probably insurmountably hard to achieve, and in fact likely go against human nature.

This is why someone like Fukuoka holds such fascination for me, because here he is holding up what is essentially a solution not only to the problem of world hunger, but also to ill health in affluent societies such as our own. I am not offering my own brilliant solution, because I don't have one, nor am I even making much of a point here. I just think that Fukuoka's method was about far more than growing healthy food efficiently, and that he understood the law of the market quite well but chose to disregard it. He was trying to be the change he wanted to see in the world, and at that I think he succeeded.

So, I don't think it's reasonable to tell organic farmers that they should start charging less for their food because it would be the virtuous thing to do. But I do think that Fukuoka-style farming should be promoted above all other methods, with adaptations as necessary for climate. As others have pointed out, if the supply goes up, the cost will go down. More people eating healthier food means a healthier society, and in that scenario everyone wins.

And that's what I have to say about that. Thank you all for participating in this most interesting discussion. It's proven to be very enlightening.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Humans spent most of our 100,000 to 1 million years on this earth (depending on when you want to start calling us "humans") working only a few hours a day for our needs. Hunter-gatherers average around 4 hours a day, horticulturists probably less. Permaculture food-growing is similar to and inspired by horticulture, so it seems permaculturists should be able to work very little for our needs, and even easily produce a surplus.

http://kennysideshow.blogspot.com/2008/05/agriculture-or-permaculture-why-words.html

http://rewild.info/anthropik/2005/10/thesis-9-agriculture-is-difficult-dangerous-and-unhealthy/index.html
Jonathan Fuller


Joined: Feb 17, 2012
Posts: 29
Willy,

I like your post. it is very clear and goes a long way towards expressing my frustration at the world as well. I do think, though, that there in one thing people sometimes forget when they talk about survival of the fittest and the law of the jungle;

1) Very rarely in 'nature' does one group or species make an effort to deny another's access to resources just for the sake of it. Only in times of local shortage is that an issue. I would argue that we do not have a local shortage of... anything on this planet.
2) Very rarely in 'nature' does one member of a given tribe/pack/group attempt to deny another member of that group access to resources except in times of extreme shortage. And I would argue that, with the afore mentioned exception, such behaviour would have to be looked on as pathological and detrimental to the chances of survival of the group as a whole. When extreme shortages do occur it is generally true that the weak, sickly or young are the first to lose out.

both of these items are modified by the fact that, as human individuals, we are capable of making choices that seem contrary to 'nature'. Everytime a parent loses their own life to save an offspring that is human mind overcoming human nature. so it is possible on an individual level. The 'natural' behaviour in that situation is to extend yourself as far as you can without risking all. The bird that does the broken wing dance to draw predators away from it's nest will not actually give itself up to the predator to save it's young because that will almost certainly mean the death of both parent and offspring.

But I am pretty sure (no way to tell unless it happens) that I would not only risk but forfeit my life for that of my child.

That being said, I think organic farmers should charge just as much as the market will bear for the products they produce if for no other reason than because when a conventional farmer sees his/her organic neighbor pulling twice the profit of the same size land they will think strongly about switching.

in response to the earlier post about the cost of production being the only motivator in higher prices, I have to respectfully disagree. While the cost of production comes into play when decideing if a given product/service is a viable business opportunity that is where it ends. Actuall market price, in a 'free market' system depends purely on supply/demand. What will the market bear? if it's more than the cost of production it doesn't really matter how much more, a profit can be made. granted profits can be increased by lowering cost of production but that doesn't mean market price will decrease. That will only happen if supply increases.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Jonathan Fuller wrote: Actuall market price, in a 'free market' system depends purely on supply/demand.


But such a market has never existed. It's an ideal, or an idea. Prices are set by humans. I can, as a human, decide to price my product lower than a competitor's price for a variety of reasons; my costs are lower, I don't feel like charging my customers up the wazoo, I have a sharing philosophy, etc.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3095
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
money is an external motivator. there are many folks who are, instead, more powerfully driven by internal motivation. if such a person were a practitioner of permaculture, that person might sell food for less than retail prices of conventional food while still easily covering expenses. there is a lot of waste and associated expense in industrial food production and distribution that is easily avoided by conscientious folks.

personally, the abolition of capitalism wouldn't bother me one bit. but since that doesn't appear to be on the immediate horizon, I can participate to the minimum degree necessary to get by comfortably. if that means I occasionally undercut other regional food producers, well, I've seen the way some of them live, and I wouldn't lose any sleep over it. I do this because I love it, not because I'm after riches. if other folks are only in it for the money, my guess is that they would be better off finding ways to spend their time that they find more enjoyable. fair compensation for labor is one thing. charging the maximum "the market" will bear is quite another.


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Terri Matthews


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 409
Location: Eastern Kansas
    
    3
Willy, I read that book and I have watched youtubes where he talks about it.

He was selling his fruit for LESS than his competitors, because it cost him less to produce it. But, the people he sold it to were putting a higher price on it because it was organic, so the middlman was making a killing!

Fukuoka thought this was unfair, and so the next year he sold his fruit to a different middlman. He thought that good food SHOULD be affordable!

In my opinion, he was able to sell the fruit for less because he did not pay his pickers anything other than a hut to sleep in and a vegetarian diet. He also was greatly experienced and he could see an illness before it hurt the trees very much. In short, almost free labor and his decades of experience in farming meant that he had few inputs.

In my own garden, most years I can run my 50 foot by 100 foot garden for about $20 plus water. Some years I go organic and mulch and some ears I just sprinkle on fertilizer: both work. I get away with such low inputs because dollar store seeds are 3/$1, the tools have long since depreciated, the mulch is from my own land and it is free, and I do not count my labor costs because I love it. The biggest problem with organic is labor: it takes longer and more effort to mulch than to sprinkle chemicals!

There is not necessarily more cost in organic, there is more labor. IMHO. For example, I have perhaps $100 in my 50 plum trees, but you KNOW those trees will never be mechnically harvested! if I had to hire a picker it would really cost! But I intend to do it myself and so the fruit will be very cheap indeed!
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3095
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
Terri Matthews wrote:
In my opinion, he was able to sell the fruit for less because he did not pay his pickers anything other than a hut to sleep in and a vegetarian diet.


reminds me of the widespread practice of interning people on organic farms around here. or taking on interns. or something like that. I'm not a fan.
Terri Matthews


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 409
Location: Eastern Kansas
    
    3
tel jetson wrote:
Terri Matthews wrote:
In my opinion, he was able to sell the fruit for less because he did not pay his pickers anything other than a hut to sleep in and a vegetarian diet.


reminds me of the widespread practice of interning people on organic farms around here. or taking on interns. or something like that. I'm not a fan.
That is exactly what they were: they worked for him without pay and then they went off and very often started their own farms.
Willy Kerlang


Joined: Apr 29, 2011
Posts: 106
Actually I was just wondering recently what happened to all the people who lived with Fukuoka. I was curious how many of them went on to farm and if so whether they were able to use his methods. I know of Larry Korn, but I don't know of anyone else.
Terri Matthews


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 409
Location: Eastern Kansas
    
    3
Alas, it has been too long since I heard: I do not remember any details!
Jonathan Fuller


Joined: Feb 17, 2012
Posts: 29
Tyler Ludens wrote:
Jonathan Fuller wrote: Actuall market price, in a 'free market' system depends purely on supply/demand.


But such a market has never existed. It's an ideal, or an idea. Prices are set by humans. I can, as a human, decide to price my product lower than a competitor's price for a variety of reasons; my costs are lower, I don't feel like charging my customers up the wazoo, I have a sharing philosophy, etc.


I too hav a sharing philosophy. I don't disagree with you at all. I will say that when I was an independent computer contractor I charged what I thought the market would bear without concern for what my actual costs were beyond making sure I didn't lose money. I did however offer my services free of charge to organizations I wanted to help. If I were a farmer it would likely be no different. I would strive to give something back to the community that supports me and in order to do that I would charge Whole Foods up the wazoo for my produce. If I can subsidize my charitable work with my for profit work I'm happy.
S Haze


Joined: Feb 14, 2012
Posts: 161
Location: Southern Minnesota, USA, zone 4/5
    
    6
When I read this part of one straw revolution it really made me smile. What a wise man he was! And I love the way he ended this book and farming the natural way with sort of ironic sounding, a bit self-degrading and humorous statements.

If anyone cares what I think about this its just that one should think hard about how you're pricing product, or perhaps in a more zen-like approach DON'T think about it too much. charging less because it costs less to produce could be interpreted as a simple-minded and childish way of thinking, but that may be the point when it comes from someone who believes that nature is the unknowable source of everything (sorry Masanobu if my interpretation is off a bit). Just do something or better yet don't do something and then try to see the results. sorry if i'm not making any sense, i'm not always the most articulate.

That being said, I think organic farmers should charge just as much as the market will bear for the products they produce if for no other reason than because when a conventional farmer sees his/her organic neighbor pulling twice the profit of the same size land they will think strongly about switching.


I like this this answer because you thought about it and have a good reason. I may choose to do the opposite because I would want more people to have access and would see it as doing my little part (or "feeble attempt") to challenge BAU. Smash it Up!

But wait! I feel that observation is the most important virtue in permaculture. So hypothetically, if I price product low and undercut the competition making it hard for other organic farmers to make a living (and manage to observe or detect this before it's too late!) I would probably change my strategy if it meant there would be less high-quality food available in the area beyond the short-term.

This is a great discussion and it's wonderful to read everyones opinions.


Scott Haase
Check out my house project!
 
 
subject: Fukuoka believed organic food should be cheaper than commercial food. Is this possible?
 
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