Friday, May 30, 2008

Amish, Mennonites, and Tom Philpott

From the Brownfield Network, this report:
Amish and Mennonite farmers currently produce about 10 percent of Missouri’s fresh commercial vegetables, but 15 years ago that market didn’t exist. That’s according to the University of Missouri Extension, which has hosted workshops to teach growers about new farming techniques.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided a grant to help develop the workshops with MU. Extension Horticulture Specialist James Quinn says the EPA was interested in helping emphasize reduced pesticide applications with the Amish and Mennonite growers.
It's not clear from the broadcast whether the growers have been moving into the area or whether the market is new. The Amish have been expanding, courtesy of their high birth rate. And I know they've moved into new areas for them, like upstate New York, where they can find cheaper land to support their life style.

Meanwhile, from the organic ag movement, comes the news (a bit late) Tom Philpott has moved on from the NC farm he ran. No doubt he has good reasons for the change of occupation--he's now full time at Grist. But it fuels my cynicism, nurtured over the years of community gardening watching people come and go, that for many in the movement it's a phase, rather than a livelihood. That's not the case for the Amish--it's a way of life. One might view the organic /locavore niche as the scene of a contest between Amish and "crunchies". Given the rate of natural increase and the community share, the Amish will win. In another 50 years farming in the U.S. will be divided between the Amish and the Mennonites, and a few surviving megafarms.

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