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To cultivate a global community for the advancement of ecological agriculture, where farmers, educators, and advocates can come together for information exchange, education and outreach.
A GROWING CULTURE
As you know, today’s industrial farms produce more commodities than in years past, but leave people the world over hungry while also endangering community-based farmers across the globe. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says that, even though globally we produce 17% more calories per person than we did 30 years ago, more than one billion people go to bed hungry every night. Unfortunately, today’s agricultural policies and practices are shaped by a few select sectors, and the farmer community is not one of them. As a result, recent years have brought calls for more direct farmer-to-farmer dissemination of knowledge and skills, but little has been done to make this a reality.
Our organization, A Growing Culture (AGC), is intent upon bringing farmers back to the forefront of agriculture, seeding an agricultural movement where innovation regains its position as the norm among farmers, releasing them from the dictates of practices alien to their culture, soils, and communities. To these ends, building a new platform that both fortifies farmer-led ecological agriculture and generates an unprecedented free exchange of information between farmers by all means digital and analog, both online and on the ground, is crucial.
AGC was founded in 2010 as a way to confront trends that undermine the traditional role of farmers as professional stewards of the land and producers of a diverse and healthy array of foods. Since its conception, AGC has been testing strategies to advance sustainable agricultural development by offering farmers ways that they and their communities can reconnect with their soils, use ecological agricultural principles, and establish a new level of solidarity with like-minded farmers throughout the world.
The AGC approach emerged from the experience of its leadership team and on the knowledge, contributions, and experiences of multiple local farmers, organizations, and communities. In the last four years, with minimal resources, AGC founder Loren Cardeli, has visited more than one thousand farmers in 20 countries, searching for existing techniques and developing new ways to encourage farmer innovation. Cardeli met farmers from Vietnam who fermented "living" bedding for hogs, Malaysian farmers who baited beneficials with glutinous rice and peanut shells, an Indian couple who built soil on top of an abandoned pebble mine, and Bedouins who learned to identify the different nutritional compositions of eroded rocks to fertilize their fruit trees.
All these and other innovations support AGC’s hypothesis that farmers around the world are actively designing new agricultural models that serve their soil, their communities, and themselves. AGC has conducted an array of workshops and lectures, based on an adaptable curriculum designed to engender farmer innovation without patronizing farmers. The organization is now positioned to expand this dynamic model to serve far more communities of farmers.
1.Interactive Digital Platform for Farmers and Others
This element begins with a free, online, interactive library that will host both farmer- and academically generated content that will be instructive, engaging, and accessible--allowing for the cross-cultural exchange of ideas and practices. All data and content will be built upon, expanded, and re-used as an open source peer production, allowing for a "living" database. The content will be diverse: articles, comments, forums, photos, videos, source code, blueprints, documentation, and more.
2.Outreach Collaboration with Farmers’ Organizations
By working with existing farmer and peasant organizations to co-host outreach workshops, AGC will ensure farmers’ access to the digital library. The workshops will provide participating farmers with extensive coaching to help bridge the digital divide. Coaching also will focus on the basic principles of agro-ecology, critical thinking, observational skills, and setting up experiments with the scientific method. At first, workshops will be led by facilitators, where local farmers will be trained, generating an organic domino effect resulting in the many farmers becoming trainers themselves. AGC will conduct evaluative measurements of impact in the field as well as in the use and direct benefit of the online platform. Workshops and facilitating materials will be available online free of charge and accessible to anyone regardless of faith, gender, or race.
OUR CALL TO ACTION
It is up to advocates like you to help advance a fresh tone that values not only the hard work of farmers, but also their potential to innovate in ways that will lead to a safer, more resilient, food system and a healthier planet for all. This begins with leveraging the collective will of people committed to such goals. AGC’s concept is necessarily ambitious, but the support and attention it continues to receive for its work to date emboldens it and invests it with a driving sense of responsibility to proceed full throttle.
It is time to pivot away from a system that has taken nature’s resources for granted, toward one that connects farmers around the world to collectively learn from each other’s successes and failures both locally and virtually, a system with unprecedented collaboration, where insights from scholar and farmer share the same prestige and the same goal: creating a healthy food system. We need YOUR support to ignite the inner-innovator that lies within each and every farmer. Your commitment to the AGC approach will help us achieve the scale needed to better reach and work with farmers around the world.
- Loren Cardeli
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