Resilience Evaluation System

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Resilient local food systems Final Report to La Lucha Space In fulfillment of Subcontract for FMPP grant Dr. J. V. Worstell, Delta Land & Community, 920 Hwy 153, Almyra, AR 72003; Phone: 870-673-6346; [email protected]

Introduction: Local food systems are all the rage. Healthy local food is increasingly available nearly everywhere--except, glaringly, in some parts of the most lush and verdant regions of the world, such the Southern United States. Why is this? As early as 19951, constraints on locally owned processing and marketing systems were identified for this region and prototype solutions proposed. Many of these solutions were implemented as state and national programs. However, some parts of the South (e.g., Virginia/North Carolina/Kentucky and Georgia/Florida) consistently receive more SSARE, Farmers Market and Value-Added grants and generate more locally owned processing and marketing enterprises (e.g., CSAs, farmers markets, farm to school systems, local meat processing plants, etc.) than other regions which are very similar geographically and demographically. Yet, in all Southern states, sustainable local/regional food systems have arisen in the last 20 years. How have some managed to succeed?

1 Worstell, J., 1995. Southern Futures: Opportunities for Sustainable Agricultural Systems. Almyra, AR: Delta Land & Community. Also available at: 2 Salatin, J., 2007. Everything I want to do is illegal. Swoope, VA: Polyface Inc. Agricultural systems are managed agroecosystems. Agroecosystems are ecosystems which follow the same processes all ecosystems do. In turn, all ecosystems are systems which follow all the processes systems do. Systems theory and practice has been refined in the 20 years since the first studies of local food systems. Resilience is increasingly seen as the primary quality of sustainable systems. Resilience arises in systems when multiple, often conflicting, adaptive sub-systems unite to form higher level adaptive systems. A farmer who is open to multiple adaptive strategies and tools creates a more resilient farming system. Managers of local/regional processing/marketing systems are the adaptive agents who create and maintain resilience for their systems. Integrated production and marketing systems more efficiently generate and deliver products which are in increasing demand and meet market requirements. A state which encourages a diversity of adaptive marketing/processing businesses is more resilient. All farms are systems within larger processing and marketing systems. Sustainable marketing/processing systems have strong relationships with customers, gatekeepers and other stakeholders. Consumer attitudes have undergone a well-documented shift toward more interest in health and environmental consequences of our food system. Boundary limits on outputs and inputs by gatekeepers and other stakeholders are increasingly seen as key to constructing sustainable food system enterprises. Certain gatekeepers are the nodes through which contact with the policy system is mediated. Gatekeepers in government and industry, especially those influenced by immense food marketing giants are having the unforeseen consequence of encouraging local producers to keep below the radar of government officials2. The qualities of resilient ecosystems (diversity, redundancy, flexibility of response, connectivity and disturbance/reassembly) are our guide, even to systems far removed from any resilient natural ecosystem—such as the offices of multi-national corporations and government bureaucrats. Background " . . . and I'm here to tell you that you're being lied to, by our parents, our doctors, our teachers, all of them. And it's the exact same lie, the same six words over and over again; 'Everything is going to be okay.3'" 3 From the movie The Beaver, 2011, screenplay by Kyle Killen. 4 May, R., 2002. The future of biological diversity in a crowded world. Current Science 82:10. 5 Hebrews 5:12, New English Translation, 2006. 6 Personal communication 6/18/2012 from Julie Donnelly of Deep Woods Farm in Bradley, County, AR who is very pleased with the price from Whole Foods, had to pay $1100 for insurance in order to sell to them.. 7 Jim Hightower, 1973. Hard Times Hard Tomatoes, Rochester, VT: Schenkman Books. 8 Worstell J., 1991. Commodification waxes, sustainability wanes: the case of burley tobacco. Rural Sociological Society Annual Meetings. August 20, 1991, Columbus, Ohio. 9 Obesity (declared a disease in June 2013 by American Medical Association) afflicts 35% of American adults according to the Centers for Disease Control. Where sustainability aims to put the world back into balance, resilience looks for ways to manage in a chaotic, inevitably imbalanced, world. I fear that we may be clever enough to create a world that is grievously biologically impoverished, but nevertheless sustainable4. For though you should in fact be teachers by this time, you need someone to teach you the beginning elements . . . You have gone back to needing milk, not solid food5. There are certain platitudes we all teach our kids. Children do need to grow up in a predictable world. However, adults should know that a predictable world is the easiest world to destroy. A system which does not adapt and change dies. Our industrial food system is no different from any other system. It can and will disassemble and reorganize. The American industrial food system almost seems impervious to such reorganization. Farmers in the US have long been faced by consumers who want cheap food and supermarkets who want high profits. Big box stores competing for market share have learned to force farmers to meet their standards and accept low returns. Even buyers which pay reasonable prices dictate that small farmers must be GAP certified and pay horrendous insurance bills before they can sell one tomato6. The only way to meet both desires is to lower quality and increase volume. So the Hard Times, Hard Tomatoes7 story unfolded where lower quality food was grown on larger and larger farms run by huge corporations. Economies of scale can’t be finessed in commodity production. Once a product or process becomes commodified, those with access to the most capital will win8. Small family farms disappear. Corporate researchers and their lackeys in American universities discovered how to use man’s appetites against him. Overwhelming his taste buds with sweets and fats from childhood, industrial agricultural systems are a key contributor to the obesity epidemic in the US9. Even the portion of the populace interested in health and nutrition has been hoodwinked by industrial nutrition advocates, resulting in industrially produced chemicals (labeled vitamins and nutritional supplements) being added to highly processed food which has been stripped of natural nutritional factors. These artificial “foods” are then considered by many to be more nutritious than natural foods, though the vitamins added have been shown to have either no effect or to increase death rates in those who take them10. 10 Mursu, J. et al. 2011. Dietary supplements and mortality rate in older women. Arch Intern Med, 171:1625-1633. 11 Thirteen examples of recent books on our changing our destructive food system: 12 Eric Schlosser, 2001. Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal. Penguin. 13 13 Ikerd, J. 2005. Eating local: a matter of integrity. Eat%20Local.htm. 14 Christian Shuffield, April 13, 2013, Argenta Farmers Market manager. 15 U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford represents North Central and East Arkansas and spoke in DC and Jonesboro, AR. 16 The industrial food complex has convinced consumers that natural is bad. Unrefrigerated eggs, available in nearly all countries, are seen as highly suspect and not allowed in schools in the US. Raw milk should be treated like poison and processed until all life is removed and most enzymes denatured. Cheap industrial inputs are better, universities and industry have told us for years. Processed raw food commodities again and again until all life is taken out of it and it can be preserved forever. Shelf life is all-important in the industrial system. The result is kids who haven’t experienced real strawberry or apple taste or real milk or real butter. For large corporations to achieve economies of scale in production, they must transport foods long distances. Fruit and vegetable breeders have produced tougher and tougher food which resembles packaging more than the food. Many books and movies, more every day, document this trend. In 2013, it’s a blizzard11. Though best-selling authors may overstate their cases to sell books: the industrial food systems “has triggered the homogenization of our society… has hastened the malling of our landscape, a widening of the chasm between rich and poor, fueled an epidemic of obesity, and propelled the juggernaut of American cultural imperialism abroad.”12 These books thoroughly document how the industrial food system/university complex has “lured us into choosing diets deficient in nearly everything except calories, supporting practices deceptive in every aspect from advertising to flavoring, and systems that degrade nearly everyone and everything involved. The problems arising from the fast food industry are rooted deeply within American society.”13 The result of this cultural blizzard is that local food has become politically correct. Every undergraduate is taught local food is best. The trend has reached such a crescendo, that some contend that, “every church wants a farmers market”14. Even Tea Party Conservatives are on the bandwagon. “The future of food is local” is not the motto of a radical earth mother, but by the sentiment of a conservative Republican Arkansas Congressman in public meetings in both 2012 and 201315. On June 3, 2013, Wal-Mart announced it planned to double sales of locally grown produce by December 201516. Wal-Mart and a rural Republican Congressman are promoting what was once a very suspect alternative agriculture, even among the most ardent sustainable agriculture advocates17. farmers market growth 94 to 07.png 17 Ferd Hoefner, esteemed chief policy analyst for National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, once dismissed local foods as indefinable and unworthy of legislative support. 18 Held in February 1994 at Williamsburg, VA and summarized in Chapter 11 of Worstell (1995). 19 Twenty years ago, local food systems were struggling to be born. The first “local food systems” workshop held in the US18 occurred in the South, but the South is ranked extremely low in prevalence of local food systems. One prominent 2013 index19 puts only Kentucky, at 18, in the top half of all US States in presence of local food systems. Virginia is 28th, North Carolina 31st, Alabama 35th, Arkansas 38th and the other nine Southern states are ranked in the lowest 13 states. Louisiana, Florida and Texas are the states with fewest local food systems in this ranking. National data on growth of local foods. Direct-to-consumer marketing amounted to $1.2 billion in current dollar sales in 2007, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, compared with $551 million in 1997. Direct-to-consumer sales accounted for 0.4 percent of total agricultural sales in 2007, up from 0.3 percent in 1997. If nonedible products are excluded from total agricultural sales, direct-to-consumer sales accounted for 0.8 percent of agricultural sales in 2007. The number of farmers’ markets rose to 5,274 in 2009, up from 2,756 in 1998 and 1,755 in 1994, according to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. In 2005, there were 1,144 community-supported agriculture organizations (CSAs) in operation, up from 400 in 2001 and 2 in 1986, according to a study by the nonprofit, nongovernmental organization National Center for Appropriate Technology. In early 2010, estimates exceeded 1,400, but the number could be much larger. The number of farm to school programs, which use local farms as food suppliers for school meals programs, increased to 2,095 in 2009, up from 400 in 2004 and 2 in the 1996-97 school year, according to the National Farm to School Network. Data from the 2005 School Nutrition and Dietary Assessment Survey, sponsored by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, showed that 14 percent of school districts participated in Farm to School programs, and 16 percent reported having guidelines for purchasing locally grown produce. According to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, most farms that sell directly to consumers are small farms with less than $50,000 in total farm sales, located in urban corridors of the Northeast and the West Coast. In 2007, direct-to-consumer sales accounted for a larger share of sales for small farms, (below $50,000 in total sales), than for medium-sized farms (total farm sales of $50,000 to $499,999) and large farms (total farm sales of $500,000 or more). Produce farms engaged in local marketing made 56 percent of total agricultural direct sales to consumers, while accounting for 26 percent of all farms engaged in direct-to-consumer marketing. Direct-to-consumer sales are higher for the farms engaged in other entrepreneurial activities, such as organic production, tourism, and custom work (planting, plowing, harvesting, etc. for others), than for other farms. In 2007, direct sales by all U.S. farms surpassed custom work to become the leading on-farm entrepreneurial activity in terms of farm household participation. According to USDA’s local food systems review20, barriers to local food-market entry and expansion include: capacity constraints for small farms and lack of distribution systems for moving local food into mainstream markets; limited research, education, and training for marketing local food; and uncertainties related to regulations that may affect local food production, such as food safety requirements. 2007 Ag Census direct sales to consumers.png 20 ERS, 2010. Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, Issues. Washington, D.C.: USDA. 21 Held in February 1994 at Williamsburg, VA and summarized in Chapter 11 of Worstell, 1995. Ibid. The primary conclusion of that first “local food systems” workshop held in the US21 was that “Local food systems will not be created by more research papers by researchers. Rather local food system.png we need more education by mentors22.” Recently one such researcher23, who was also an early advocate of local food systems24, wholeheartedly agreed that that conclusion is still valid. 22 Worstell, 1995. Ibid, p. 142. 23 Gail Feenstra, personal communication, May 2013. 24 Feenstra, G., D. Campbell, and D. Chaney, (Eds.) 1997. Community Food Systems: Sustaining Farms and People in the Emerging Economy. University of California SAREP. 25 Dr. Andrii Ryzhkov, Fulbright Fellow 2012-1013 at University of Colorado from TSATU, Melitopol, Ukraine, personal communications, June 6-9. 26 Sustainable is a term which has been so watered down that virtually any practice or system can achieve the label sustainable nowadays. Resilient is increasingly preferred by organizations such as Soil and Water Conservation Society, whose 2013 national conference focuses on “Resilient landscapes.” Resilience is especially gaining traction in Europe, perhaps because it focuses on outcomes rather than practices—an approach much more in tune with holistic systems theory. 27 Lanford, B. 2011. Local Food: Does it Matter What We Eat? Clemson University Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet. Summary. Increasingly it appears that Americans, especially young Americans, want to be connected to the land and the people who produce their food. They want to know how their food is being produced and often have very specific requirements for any food they buy. This growing consumer desire for higher quality, locally grown food is not enough to change the system. The industrial food system still dominates American life. Foreign visitors often bring their own food, having heard horror stories about American food. McDonalds in foreign countries must serve much higher quality food than in the US because consumers require it25. Figure 1 Common, but inadequate local food system conceptualization. Our purpose is to understand how local food systems can be recreated in such a fashion that they are sustainable and resilient. What is a local food system? To understand how local food systems can become sustainable or resilient26, we need to understand what a local food system is. To understand local food systems, we need to know a little about what a system is. A system is a group of interacting components which have a boundary. However, every system is a part of larger system. Every system has inputs from and outputs to other systems. Simplistic descriptions of local food system, such as in the accompanying graphic27, do not describe a complete system. Evolution of systems Jan Christian Smuts, a Prime Minister and General in South Africa began systems theory when he created the term holism28. Smuts’ approach is most continuous in agriculture with the practical systems work of Holistic Resource Management29 begun in Zimbabwe. However, as von Bertalanffy30 makes clear in his classic General Systems Theory, much of the work labeled systems has little in common with Smuts and Savory’s work. The Aristotelian “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” is the sense in which farmers use the term “systems.” The system is an emergent whole: black box with inputs and outputs and conditions under which both vary. 28 Smuts, J.C., 1926. Holism and Evolution. London: Macmillan. 29 Savory, A., 1988. Holistic Resource Management, Island Press. 30 Von Bertalanffy, L., 1968. General Systems Theory. New York: Braziller. 31 Gleich, J. 1987. Chaos: making of a new science. New York: Viking. 32 Macrae, N. 1992. John von Neumann. New York: Pantheon. p.274. Many researchers, though perhaps even understanding the components they study as systems, lack an understanding of the larger systems which determine the activities of the component they are researching. Academically-oriented researchers are often reflexively reductionist. When confronted by a system, they try to break it down into components to explain the system. Within this tradition, overly mechanistic academics have adopted systems language and created something called “systems analysis.” The august Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton was instrumental in virtually consuming systems with reductionism. World War II was the impetus for development of quantitative approaches for making decisions regarding allocation of scarce resources. The tool of linear programming and the field of operations research (OR) resulted. In the euphoria after the war, OR evolved into system analysis with de facto headquarters at Princeton. Systems analysis is defined largely in terms of quantification of components, simulation and optimization of mathematical models and algorithms. John von Neumann is the father of computers and systems analysis. He contended: “The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which, with the addition of certain verbal interpretations, describes observed phenomena. The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to work31. Von Neumann and other systems analysts believed that if only enough computing power is arrayed to fully describe the components and initial conditions can be described in sufficient detail, any complex phenomenon (such as the weather) can be predicted and controlled. Systems analysts have blind faith that if we can’t predict a complex phenomenon yet, we just need more computing power and we will eventually understand it. However, faster computers often just make the wrong predictions earlier than slower computers32. Just as he was early to appreciate the power of computers, von Neumann was also early to question his former steadfast faith in quantitative, algorithmic understandings of Nature. “Just as Greek and Sanskrit are historical fact and not absolute logical necessities, it is only reasonable to assume that logic and mathematics are similarly historically accidental forms of expression . . .[W]hen we talk mathematics we may be discussing a secondary language built on the prime language used by [Nature].33” 33 Macrae, ibid. p. 370. However, von Neumann’s epiphany continues to be ignored by systems analysts with a vested interest in algorithmic understandings of natural systems. Why has systems analysis not met expectations? Why does it not predict natural phenomena well? Von Bertalanffy ascribed the failure as due to the inability to “deal adequately with open systems, the class to which all living systems belong.” Algorithms and mathematical models required for systems analysis work best in closed systems. Typically they cannot function in open systems. For any algorithm or model to function, the type of inputs is specified. Random, novel input is not allowed. All adaptive life must be drained from all inputs and from the system itself. Since all life is adaptive and chaotic, no algorithms or mathematical models can describe them. Yet we expend immense resources trying to get closer to understanding, prediction and control by applying more of the same medicine which hasn’t worked in the past. Sometimes our models do a little better at predicting (say the weather) and our faith in them is restored (though at the price of ignoring all the times the models fail). The successful manager or engineer does not depend or trust wholly in any mathematical model or algorithm. He tinkers with the system, modifies it and makes it work and adapts his system to changes from outside. He is creating a whole. He is managing chaos. Food system foolishness. Those analyzing our food system have not been immune to the reductionistic thought patterns of systems analysis. They have broken our food system into components, arranged them in simple flow charts of our industrial food system. The adjacent chart shows a linear conceptualization of food systems from both a process and actor perspective. Although the food supply chain is often described in a linear fashion, beginning with production, processing, and distribution and continuing with marketing, retail, and consumption, the specific variables in each of these subsystems interact with each other in a nonlinear fashion, with many interdependencies and both balancing and reinforcing feedback loops34. 34 Malhi, L. et al, 2009. Placed to Intervene to Make Complex Food Systems More Healthy, Green, Fair and Affordable. J of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, 4:466-476. To follow such an always inadequate linear, reductionistic, inanimate conceptualization of the food system is to insure that your thinking in inhibited and controlled by those actors in each of the boxes. You will lose ability to understand the system, much less to change it. Those who think less linearly can see more clearly new ways systems can evolve. A less linear, more realistic vision of the food system shows the interrelationships between various systems (see below). However, this vision still possesses the one assumption alien to resilient local food systems. This assumption is that all food system subsystems eventually become part of the global food distribution system which then provides input to the food retail system which serves the local community. An alternative approach views the local community as encapsulating all subsystems of the food system without need for the global food distribution system or a distinct food retail system which controls access by the local community processes (see below). However, given the inevitability of impact from global actors on local systems, an even more effective approach is to view the food system as a result of interrelated physical and biological processes and human decision making, none of which can be separated from each other and boxed in any algorithmic diagram. "To define is to kill . . ."--Stephane Mallarme In quantum mechanics, it is not possible to observe a system without changing the system. The "observer" must be considered part of the system being observed. In isolation, quantum objects are represented by a wavefunction which often exists in a mixture of different states. However, when an observation is made to determine the actual location or state of the object, it always finds the object in a single state, not a "mixture". The interaction of the observation process appears to "collapse" the wavefunction into a single state. So any interaction between an isolated wavefunction and the external world that results in this wavefunction collapse is called an observation or measurement, whether or not it is part of a deliberate observation. Similarly, our food system can be viewed as a mixture of different states, with the observer intervening to select one of those states as representing reality. In fact, we all may be more effective if we recognize that several distinct states can exist simultaneously in various observers. One ecological economist has labeled this approach conceptual pluralism35. Conceptual pluralism itself has many alternative conceptualizations. The dialectic of thesis.antithesis.synthesis36 expresses some of the same notion. 35 Norgaard, R. B., 1994. Development Betrayed: The End of Progress and a Coevolutionary Revisioning of the Future. London: Routledge. 36Describing simplistically the dialectic materialism of Hegel. See Kauffman, W., 1966. Hegel: A Reinterpretation. Anchor Books. In short, there is no one correct version of our food system. We must understand the many different conceptualizations of food system reality and keep all those perspectives in our minds simultaneously. The perceived reality of many policy gatekeepers is at odds with any local food systems perspective. People in gatekeeper positions, by the nature of their positions, often slip into top-down, uniform, “command and control” management perspectives. To meet their job requirements, they often feel most comfortable believing in the ability to control and predict natural phenomena. If your job is to stop food poisoning and you know food poisoning is caused by contamination from manure, you want to eliminate all animals from every tomato field, for instance37. 37 GAP certification requirements as described by Steve Seideman (University of Arkansas Extension Food Processing Specialist, 479-575-4221) in multiple public meetings in Warren and Little Rock, Arkansas. 38 Okoboi, G., 2011. Ph.D. Dissertation. Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. Many want recipes to follow. They don’t recognize the difference between the formal knowledge which seeks to define systems symbolically and the tacit knowledge required to manage real systems. Implementing programs through formal knowledge just doesn’t work. The manager needs flexibility because systems are adaptive. For the once yearly GAP certification visits, the dogs will be kept in the house and not allowed near the tomato field. But the other 364 days of the year, the dogs are depositing manure where they please, just as do deer and raccoons and other wildlife when the gatekeeper isn’t present. An even more pernicious effect of standard systems analysis by formal knowledge, command and control regulation and recipes is the power it gives those who provide inputs. If they control the regulatory process, they can eliminate competition which might undercut their profits. Standard scientific method, in fact, enshrines the development of independent variables which control dependent variables. In other words, the mechanistic scientific method always assumes that inputs control the system. And by concentrating effort on perfecting those inputs, normal science plays directly into the hands of the industrial input supplier. The effect is seen most dramatically in countries where impoverished smallholders predominate. In Uganda, application of high levels of industrial inputs results in maize yields of upwards of 7.4 metric tonnes per hectare on research farms. The mean output of Ugandan farms is 1.7 metric tonnes per hectare because farmers can’t afford inputs38. If enough capital is available, a given farm can outproduce farms which don’t have the needed capital and lower the price of any commodity such that the farm with less access to capital cannot compete— unless the less wealthy farm is producing a distinct product valued by its customers instead of an industrial commodity. Since most poorer farms don’t possess such the integrated production/marketing expertise to distribute such products widely, in societies which define food as industrial commodities farmers with less access to capital succumb to those with more access to capital even though the latter are often producing an inferior product. However, the two above conditions (poorer farms don’t possess the integrated production/marketing expertise to distribute unique products and society-wide definition of food as an industrial commodity) increasingly are being challenged. We are moving into an era of chaotic change in our food system. Regulation driven by industrial producers with immense access to capital (culminating in the Food Safety Modernization Act39) is a rear guard action to cut the legs from under newly evolving food systems and may succeed—though always countered by the decreasing health of those who buy into the industrial food model. To understand how the food system is changing, we must understand a bit more about systems. 39 As originally written, FSMA would have virtually eliminated legal food production by small farmers due to cost of compliance. Thanks to local food systems advocates, the Tester amendment provided relief: 40 Gleich, J., 1987. Chaos: Making a New Science. Viking Penguin. 41 Lorenz, E., 1963 Deterministic nonperiodic flow. J of Atmos Sci. 20:130-141; Lorenz, E., 1969. Atmospheric predictability as revealed by naturally occurring analogues. J of Atmos Sci., 26:636-646. 42 Mandelbrot, B., 1982. The Fractal Geometry of Nature, San Francisco: W.H.Freeman. All natural systems, all nature, is chaotic. Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not circles, and bark is not smooth, nor does lightning travel in a straight line. —Mandelbrot, in his introduction to The Fractal Geometry of Nature. Chaos theory entered the popular imagination with a bestselling 1987 book40 though Lorenz in 1963 and 1969 papers41 and Mandelbrot in 197942 had laid the foundations much earlier. Mandelbrot created the "theory of roughness", and he saw "roughness" in the shapes of mountains, coastlines and river basins; the structures of plants, blood vessels and lungs; the clustering of galaxies. His personal quest was to create some mathematical formula to measure the overall "roughness" of such objects in nature. He partially succeeded and invented the term fractal to describe how simple mathematical formulae could result in seemingly chaotic results—leading many to see fractals in music, painting, architecture, and stock market prices. Mandelbrot believed that fractals, far from being unnatural, were in many ways more intuitive and natural than the artificially smooth objects of traditional Euclidean geometry. Chaos of the brain. The Electroencephalogram (EEG) is a machine that picks up and records electrical activity through electrodes attached to the scalp. The brain consists of about 20 billion neurons which all generate electrical impulses. The EEG pattern of our brain during wakefulness is very rapid, irregular and low on voltage. This means that many neurons are firing at different intervals and at different times, with different strengths too. It would be like going to a crowded bar and hearing people taking with each other, some here, some there; it's noisy and you can only hear a unified hum of voices without clear differentiation between them. This type of irregular electrical activity in the brain during wakefulness is called beta waves or beta activity. When we are relaxed, sitting in the couch watching T.V. without any mental arousal, the EEG records a waveform called alpha waves or alpha activity, slower than beta waves. These two waves (alpha and beta) represent the irregular firing pattern of large areas of the brain. Brain activity is desynchronized while in alpha and beta activity. These chaotic dynamics offer many functional advantages. These dynamics operate under a wide range of conditions and are therefore adaptable and flexible (i.e., plastic). This plasticity allows systems to cope with the exigencies of an unpredictable and changing environment43. [Plots of two heart rate time series] 43 Sarbadhikari, S. N. and K. Chakrabarty, 2001. Chaos in the brain: a short review alluding to epilepsy, depression, exercise and lateralization. Medical Engineering & Physics 23 (2001) 445–455. 44 Goldberger AL, West BJ. 1987. Fractals in physiology & medicine. Yale J Biol Med, 60:421–35. 45 Garfinkel A, Spano ML, Ditto WL, Weiss JN. Controlling cardiac chaos. Science 1992;257:1230-5. 46 Goldberger, A. L., 1999. Implications for neuroautonomic heart rate control in health and disease. In Bolis, C.L. and J. Lincino (Eds.) The Autonomic Nervous System. Geneva: World Health Organization. Brain disorders are actually too much order. EEGs show pathological periodicities in many disorders like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and manic depressive psychosis44 . Thus the study of nonlinear dynamics is useful in understanding their pathophysiology and thereby modifying the treatment. Epilepsy is characterized by spontaneous bursts of synchronized neuronal activity, which can trigger seizure-like discharges in the neighboring region. Controlling these bursts to make them more periodic may actually increase the seizure activity. Alternately, by using “anticontrol” stimulus to induce chaos, epileptic seizures can be avoided. Chaos of the heart. The surface electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG in original German spelling)) is obtained by recording the potential differences between electrodes placed on the surface of the skin. Conventional conceptualization of the ECG is as an ensemble of P, Q, R, S and T major waves and associates these deflections in ECG with different aspects of heart performance during the cardiac cycle. Ditto first recognized the chaos of the heart45. His project, since abandoned by his move into administrative duties, recognized that heart problems are caused by too much synchronicity not too little. The following diagrams show the much more predictable ECG of patients with heart disease. The two heart rate time series shown here, one from a healthy subject (top) and the other from a patient with severe congestive heart failure (CHF) (middle) have nearly identical means and variances (bottom), yet very different dynamics. Note that according to classical physiological paradigms based on homeostasis, neuroautonomic control systems should be designed to damp out noise and settle down to a constant equilibrium-like state. However, the healthy heartbeat displays highly complex, apparently unpredictable fluctuations even under steady-state conditions. In contrast, the heart rate pattern from the subject with heart failure shows slow, periodic oscillations46. Ditto sought to instill chaos in the heart through electric shock applied to break up the pathological regularity of heart disease patients. Standard defibrillators use large electrical shocks to overwhelm harmful cardiac rhythms and return the heart to a normal pattern. Ditto’s technique applies small electrical signals through an electrode threaded into the heart at carefully chosen points in the heartbeat cycle. These small signals encourage the heart itself to correct the irregularities. "The analogy would be judo. If a very large person attacks you, you could try to overpower him if you had enough energy--which is typical of the way we now do defibrillation--or you could try to make their violence work in your favor. We are hoping this technique will use the energy of the harmful behavior to move the heart back into good behavior. Rather than fight the chaotic pattern, we want to have the chaos do most of the work for us47." 47 Ditto, ibid. 48 Energy is the capacity to do work according to basic definitions of physics. Each subsystem has the capacity to do work, but only if managed properly. And the work is only productive if the right subsystem is encouraged by management. The objective is to take a system that is pathologically regular and kick it back into a more healthy chaotic state, rather than trying to regularize an irregular chaotic system. Limitations of chaos theory. Chaos theory at its heart is a mathematical description of phenomena which show a range of unpredictable results from similar initial conditions. The Lorentz attractor (usually just called attractor today) describes the variety of patterns which emerge in chaotic phenomena. The success of Lorenz, Mandelbrot and their followers is only in describing the chaos of nature or in inducing chaos in systems where too much order has created pathology. Workers in chaos theory never understood its causes. This understanding awaited the transformation of chaos theory into complex adaptive system theory. Our human tendency to seek out order in the Universe leads us to look at chaos as an absence of order. We see something missing, but in fact order is the state which is missing something. Chaos is not an absence of energy48, but energy pushing in lots of different directions. Order eliminates or suppresses all but the desired activities. Chaos theorists looked for order within chaos. They were primarily mathematicians observing data and looking for trends, rather than seeing the cause of chaos in Nature. Our human search for order has also led to an extremely popular concept in ecology: balance of nature. Understanding how the concept of “balance of nature” has confused our perceptions of natural phenomena will lay a solid foundation for our subsequent discussion of complex adaptive systems. No balance of nature In a revision that has far-reaching implications for the way humans see the natural world and their role in it, many scientists are for forsaking one of the most deeply embedded concepts of ecology: the balance of nature. Ecologists have traditionally operated on the assumption that the normal condition of nature is a state of equilibrium, in which organisms compete and coexist in an ecological system whose workings are essentially stable. This concept of natural equilibrium long ruled ecological research and governed the management of such natural resources as forests and fisheries. It led to the doctrine, popular among conservationist, the nature does best and human intervention in it is bad by definition. Simultaneous with the emergence of an "environmental crisis" and attendant widespread environmental consciousness and conscience in the1960s, Eugene Odum, then dean of the field, announced the advent of the "New Ecology." Odum's new ecology was based on the ecosystem concept as its organizing idea and reiterated the classic notion of nature, unperturbed by human disturbance, as in a steady state of dynamic equilibrium. Traditional ecological wisdom, first voiced by the ancient Greeks, assumed that nature undisturbed by human influence is characterized by a certain kind of harmony, balance and order. Wilderness is presumed to have three attributes: (1) It remains in a constant state; (2) when disturbed and then left to its own devices, wild nature returns to that original state and (3) finally, an ethic is attached to this natural state which is assumed to be preferable to all others49. 49 Politically correct wisdom soundly debunked for more than 20 years by Daniel Botkin in such works as Botkin, D. B. and E. A. Keller, 2011. Environmental Science: Earth as a Living Planet. New York: John Wiley and Sons. This view of nature is espoused in popular environmental literature throughout the world. It is the basis of twentieth century scientific theory about populations and ecosystems. It is the basis of our Federal and state laws and international agreements that control our use of wild lands and wild creatures. The accumulation of evidence has led many ecologists to abandon the concept or declare it irrelevant, and others to alter drastically. They say that nature is actually in a continuing state of disturbance and fluctuation. Change and turmoil, more than constancy and balance, is the rule. As a consequence, say many leaders in the field, strategies of conservation and resource management will have to be rethought. The classic "balance-of-nature" paradigm has been replaced by the "flux-of-nature" paradigm in which ecosystems are open, human influence has been ubiquitous and long- standing, and natural disturbance is multifaceted, widespread, and frequent. Everything is subject to periodic disturbance, of which fire is so common an instance as to be symbolic. Every organism in an ecosystem is a unique point of unpredictability striving to manage its environment to make it more comfortable for its self and its offspring. However, most laypersons are unaware of this paradigm shift in ecology, which was consolidated over the last forty years. In some systems the return frequency of disturbance is so long that the impression of equilibrium conditions develops. This is what underlies the traditional idea of climax communities. However, careful observation reveals that disturbance is ubiquitous and frequent relative to the life spans of the dominant taxa. Populations do balance each other by their competition. Wolf numbers will decline when they eat too many caribou, because after caribou numbers get low enough, wolves starve. But neither the wolves nor the caribou populations are striving for equilibrium, but to expand their numbers. Consider the chaparral biome of evergreen scrub oak. The system requires fire to release the chaparral seeds from their pods. No fire, no regeneration, and the chaparral community will be succeeded by a different community. So if the chaparral community is to persist through time, it must "walk" through a sequence of inflammable maturity, fire, regeneration, maturity, etc. Clearly there is no equilibrium at the first level, but there is equilibrium at the second level: a constant, repeated sequence. In this sense, it is like the "equilibrium" of the furnace thermometer: constant change (first order) according to a constant pattern (second order). First order and second order equilibrium. In short, first-order equilibrium -- a return of a disturbed ecosystem to the prior structure, and species population and inventory -- is at worst a myth, and at best an "ideal type" (like a "frictionless machine" in physics), never exemplified in nature. Few ecologists have believed otherwise in the past, and none believe this today. Unfortunately, this understanding has not been universally acknowledged by environmental activists, popular writers, educators, and even some policy-makers. Second-order equilibrium -- the return of an ecosystem to a state of "health" and "integrity," though with an altered structure and component species -- remains a tenable ecological concept, with the constant caveat that even this (higher order) sense of "equilibrium" is also never completely exemplified in nature. Every system is part of a larger system. Every system is part of a larger system which it can influence but never control. The chaparral/fire system is an example and wolves/caribou/vegetation is another. Introduce man into the latter system, killing off the wolves and caribou expand dramatically, denuding the vegetation, which causes a crash in caribou population—certainly not the intended consequence of man’s intervention. In all systems, and especially agricultural systems, man manages his environment. That is the nature of man. We will either manage well or we will manage badly. Man’s management of systems is also influenced by other men’s management of systems outside, but influencing his system. Systems within systems. In agroecosystems the goals and purposes at one level may conflict and even be totally alien with those at another level. Tennessee and Kentucky tobacco farmers had a profitable and environmentally sound system which supported hundreds of communities. Under supply management, each farmer got quota based on past production and anticipated demand in next year. All tobacco was sold at auction with the government buying anything unsold and selling next year while reducing the quota to farmers to match supply to demand. But managers of marketing systems found cheaper tobacco of good quality in Argentina and Malawi and production declined somewhat. Tobacco processors saw the supply management system as increasing their costs and farmers didn’t have the power in Congress to maintain the supply management commodity program. Farmers were bought out by a one-time payment and now only larger farms grow tobacco, the small farmer can’t compete and is out of business and rural communities throughout the former tobacco belt are declining. These examples illustrate how we must understand systems within systems and the complex interrelationships of systems within larger systems. However, we must also understand that living systems are continuously adapting to each other, creating an unpredictable chaos which can’t be captured in simple systems flow charts. Creating resilient food systems requires us to manage these chaotic systems-- farming systems, ecosystems, policy/cultural systems. Adaptive systems Chaos is multiple adaptive systems both cooperating and competing. Replacing chaos theory and complexity theory, Complex Adaptive System (or CAS) theory recognizes that most systems have a capacity for self-organization and adaptation. This conceptual framework recognizes the complexity of systems (ecological, economic, and social) in the hierarchical structures, the interactions and energy flows between these hierarchies and the systems and subsystem self-organization and adaptation which form all systems. A complex adaptive system is a system that has a diversity of “agents” which are connected, with certain behaviors and actions which are interdependent and which exhibit adaptation and self-organization. Multiple competing and cooperating adaptive systems make up each ecosystem and every system. You are a system made up of such subsystems. One part of you wants to read this article. Another part wants to call up that girl in Entomology class. Another part wants to go outside and pick some berries. Another part is mad at an enemy and wants to find him and punch him. Another part wants to throw away this article and go drink a cool one on the porch. These multiple conflicting impulses can be seen as subsystems jockeying to control the larger system—you. All these impulses are useful—when applied at the right time. A student could continue to follow the impulse to read this article when his house was on fire. He could also continue to read this article when a pretty girl walks by and flirts with him. Or he could throw the article away and spend all his time in bars paying attention to the pretty girls who flirt with him. Encouraging the appropriate impulse (adaptive system) is the task of the manager. All resilient systems are chaotic in the sense of having multiple conflicting impulses (or adaptive subsystems) which arise in response to external change. If you’ve ever tried to manage a class of American 15 year old males, you know about chaos. They are the embodiment of multiple competing impulses. They want to get outside and ride their motorcycle. Then want to help their neighbor understand the lesion. They want to ask out that girl in the second row. They want to work hard and get good grades. They want to escape school and never come back. They want to smack that stupid football player. All these energies (capacity to do work) if focused in one direction, represent potential. Freud called it sublimation. The key quality of complex adaptive systems is the management of multiple conflicting impulses. The right impulse must come out at the right time and be suppressed when the time for its expression is not right. Food systems analysts have been slow to adopt this perspective even as many fields, such as physics, medicine, ecology and psychology are rapidly embracing it. All agriculturalists have not been so slow, however. Foresters have been a bit quicker50 due to the widespread influence of forest ecologists in forest management. 50 Messier, C. and K. J. Puettmann, 2011. Forests as complex adaptive systems: implications for forest management and modeling. L’Italia Forestale e Montana, 66:249-258. 51 Messier, C., K. J. Puettmann and Coates, 2012. Managing Forests as complex adaptive systems. Earthscan. Forest management began in Europe “deeply rooted in the old German philosophy of neatness and order when timber production is king”51. Rapid spread of disease in monocultures was one early hint that diversity (multiple adaptive systems) should be CAS diagram from Messier et al book.png encouraged. Extinction of unprofitable forest species and the subsequent howling from those who saw value in those species also led many foresters to realize what makes an ecosystem adaptable and resilient: 1. Diversity of components and interaction, 2. Redundancy (overlap), 3. Flexibility of responses, 4. Connectivity in network structure, 5. Disturbances and reassembly periods. Resilient local food systems display similar qualities: 1. Diversity: larger variety of farms processing and marketing products in many ways. 2. Redundancy: many farms producing similar products so if one fails, the system is intact. 3. Flexibility: farms using a variety of production processes 4. Connectivity: farms connected with each other to share inputs, markets, ideas. 5. Disturbances and reassembly periods: farms constantly seeking to challenge the existing processing/marketing complex. The simple diagram above becomes a bit messier when mapping actual biological systems as in the diagram of a forest below—an illustration of an ecological food web. Ecologists and naturalists have long been aware of the indescribably complex set of animal and plant interactions that make up nature’s ecosystems52. At the same time, ecologists have recognized the remarkable consistency of the species and the structures that compose these tangled networks53. Despite our human pleasure in the notion that the world’s ecosystems harbor a great steadiness, most biologists would be quick to argue that ecological systems are notoriously variable54. In this sense, stability may be more about the non- equilibrium persistence (i.e. species remain above zero densities) of an assemblage than long- standing equilibrium notions of stability. As such, one can envision the natural world as a constantly changing mosaic (i.e. population densities, interaction strength) with a stable assemblage of interacting organisms over ecologically relevant time scales. balsam fir CAS.png 52 Darwin, C. 1859. On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection: Or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. London: John Murray; Polis, G.A., 1991. Complex trophic interactions in deserts: An empirical critique of food-web theory. The American Naturalist, 138:123-155. 53 Dunne J.A. 2006. The network structure of food webs. In: Pascual M. and J. A. Dunne (Eds.), Ecological networks: linking structure to dynamics in food webs. Oxford University Press; Oxford, UK: 2006. pp. 27–86. 54 Elton, C. 1958. The ecology of invasions by plants and animals. London: Methuen; Levin S.A. 1998. Ecosystems and the biosphere as complex adaptive systems. Ecosystems, 1:431–436. 55 May, 1973. Ibid. Early food-web empiricism tended to make the implicit assumption that food webs can be envisioned as static entities, consistent with early theory that relied heavily on equilibrium assumptions55. These early simplifying assumptions are reasonable starting points; however, a number of empirical ecologists have since made cogent arguments for the potential importance of space and time in governing food-web dynamics. Furthermore, a growing body of complex systems theory has argued that some of the most fundamental aspects behind the persistence and functioning of complex systems, in general, may be their ability to adapt in the face of perturbations56. While a very interesting general theory, it has proven somewhat elusive to concretely map this abstract set of ideas to specific food-web structures. Only recently have attempts been made to piece together existing evidence to argue that variability (in space, time and food-web structure) and the ability to rapidly respond to such variation (i.e. organismal behavior) are critical to the resilience of one of nature’s most amazingly diverse and complex entities—the food web57. 56 Levin, ibid. 57 McCann, K.S. and N. Rooney, 2009. The more food webs change, the more they stay the same. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 364:1789-1801. 58 Holling, C.S. 1973. Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 4:14. 59 Walker, B. and D. Salt, 2006. Resilience thinking: sustaining ecosystems and people in a changing world. Washington: Island Press. p.1. 60 Folke, C., S.R. Carpenter, B. Walker, M. Scheffer, T. Chapin and J. Rockström. 2010. Resilience Thinking: Integrating Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability. Ecology and Society 15(4):20. 61 Carpenter, S.R., B.H. Walker, J.M. Anderies and N. Abel. 2001. From metaphor to measurement: resilience of what to what? Ecosystems 4:765–781. 62 Holling, ibid, p.17. Resilience is the new sustainable. The term “resilience” originated in the 1970s in the field of ecology from the research of C.S. Holling, who defined resilience as “a measure of the persistence of systems and of their ability to absorb change and disturbance and still maintain the same relationships between populations or state variables”58 . In short, resilience is best defined as “the ability of a system to absorb disturbances and still retain its basic function and structure” 59 and as “the capacity to change in order to maintain the same identity”60 . Resilience can be described by three crucial characteristics: (1) the amount of disturbance a system can absorb and still remain within the same state or domain of attraction; (2) the degree to which the system is capable of self-organization; and (3) the ability to build and increase the capacity for learning and adaptation61. Or, Holling suggested that this resilient systems behavior could be best defined through two distinct properties: resilience and stability. “Resilience determines the persistence of relationships within a system and is a measure of the ability of these systems to absorb changes of state variables, driving variables, and parameters, and still persist. In this definition resilience is the property of the system and persistence or probability of extinction is the result. Stability, on the other hand, is the ability of a system to return to an equilibrium state after a temporary disturbance. The more rapidly it returns, and with the least fluctuation, the more stable it is. In this definition stability is the property of the system and the degree of fluctuation around specific states the result”62. Though ecosystem resilience was first explored in the US, resilience as a guiding concept in economic development has especially gained currency in Europe and Australia63 and gaining traction more recently in the US: 63 Pisano, U., 2012. Resilience and sustainable development: Theory of resilience, systems thinking and adaptive governance. European Sustainable Development Network, Quarterly Report No. 26. 64 Zolli, A., 2012. Learning to Bounce Back. New York Times, November 2, 2012. 65 Messier, C. and K. J. Puettmann, 2011. Ibid p.250-253. 66 Waldrop M.M., 1992. Complexity: The emerging science at the edge of order and chaos. Simon & Schuster, New York. For decades, people who concern themselves with the world’s “wicked problems” — interconnected issues like environmental degradation, poverty, food security and climate change — have marched together under the banner of “sustainability”: the idea that with the right mix of incentives, technology substitutions and social change, humanity might finally achieve a lasting equilibrium with our planet, and with one another64. Where sustainability aims to put the world back into balance, resilience looks for ways to manage in a chaotic, never-in-balance world. Complexity theory is based on a holistic view of systems where large-scale measures describing the most probable behavior of the system or its recurrent spatiotemporal patterns are understood as emergent properties resulting from the local interactions among the system’s components65. The science of complexity has a varied history in a variety of scientific fields, such as physics, economics, and neuroscience. Complexity at the “edge of chaos” see figure above, i.e., a system that is sufficiently chaotic to have creativity, novelty, and learning, but at the same time is sufficiently ordered to maintain its identity. The formal development of chaos theory began when it became evident that the prevailing linear systems theory simply could not explain the behavior observed in many systems. This resulted in a shift in our understanding of variation, heterogeneity and predictability. Variation and heterogeneity had been traditionally interpreted in models as imprecision and simple “noise,“ but are beginning to be understood as an integral component of complex systems. An important consequence of this new viewpoint is that chaotic systems are inherently unpredictable, but not random. Behaviors of complex systems have been defined as “a chaos … in which the components of the system never quite lock into place, yet never quite dissolve into turbulence either66”. Internal interactions and feedback processes tend to decrease disorder if the system becomes too chaotic and increase disorder if the system becomes too ordered Two key concepts are: adaptation (leading to “complex adaptive systems”) and attractors. Complex adaptive systems are defined as complex systems in which the individual components are constantly interacting and reacting to one another, thus modifying the system and its response to outside disturbances, thus allowing it to adapt to altered conditions67. 67 Levin S.A., 2005. Self-organization and the emergence of complexity in ecological systems. Bioscience, 55: 1075- 1079. Ecosystems’ adaptation has an obvious link to evolution, but differs in that adaptation is acting at the level of its individual components (the species) and not at the system level itself. However, changes occurring at the individual level can percolate to the whole system and affect its overall functioning. For example, a change in beak length may be viewed as evolution for the finches of Darwin, but may also result in a better dispersal of some plant species and thus modify the structure and composition of the whole system. The second concept of attractors is replacing the traditional notion of equilibrium and steady-state in system theory. Since complex systems are inherently dynamic and unpredictable, attractors can be viewed as a region or basin of state space to which a complex dynamical system evolves after a long enough time. This is similar to the ball-and-cup models often presented when the concept of resilience is discussed in which the attractor remain in the basin even if slightly disturbed. However, attractors are not defined as single or even stable points. Instead they are in constant motion and follow an orbit or even a path that never lead them to the same place twice. It should be evident from this brief description of complex system theory, adaptation, and attractors that viewing local food systems as complex adaptive systems has profound implications for traditional food systems management, which is based on the assumption that food systems are highly predictable and tend to move toward a more stable late successional state. As our understanding of chaos theory and complexity science increases and with the advent of powerful computers, ecological systems including forests and food systems have become increasingly understood and viewed as complex adaptive systems. A food system can therefore be classified as complex and adaptive as it displays the following properties: (1) it is composed of many parts (e.g., trees, insects, soil) and processes (e.g., nutrient cycling, seed dispersal, tree mortality, decay), (2) these parts and processes interact with each other and with the external environment over multiple spatial and temporal scales (e.g., competition, dispersal, disturbance), (3) these interactions give rise to heterogeneous structures and nonlinear relationships (e.g., above and belowground species mixtures and relationship between growth and light), (4) these structures and relationships are neither completely random nor entirely deterministic, but instead represent a combination of randomness and order (e.g., precisely predicting the development of even single species stands is impossible), (5) they contain both negative and positive feedback mechanisms, stabilizing or destabilizing the system, depending on conditions (e.g., N-fixation, rainfall interception, density-dependent mortality), (6) the system is open to the outside world, exchanging energy, materials, and/or information (e.g., nutrient, water cycling, albedo), (7) it is sensitive to the initial conditions following a major disturbance and subsequent perturbations (small differences in starting conditions and in feedback loops can result in large and unexpected differences in development of complex systems68) and (8) it contains many adaptive components and subsystems nested within each other, giving rise to emergent properties (e.g., carbohydrates that form into trees). 68 May, R.M., 1974. Stability and complexity in model ecosystems. Princeton Univ. Press; Solé R.V., and J. Bascompte, 2006. Self-Organization in Complex Ecosystems. Mon. Pop. Biol., 42 69 Drever, C.R., Peterson G., Messier C.M., Bergeron Y., Flannigan M., 2006. Can forest management based on natural disturbances maintain ecological resilience? Can. J. Forest Res., 36: 2285-2299. Viewing ecosystems as complex adaptive systems emphasizes how ecosystems are organized, how interactions and relationships among individual parts or processes can give rise to collective behaviors that cannot be readily predicted by looking only at its individual parts (i.e., emergent properties), and how the interactions between the individual components are altered as the system adapts to changing conditions. No aspect of food systems may ever be highly predictable. In fact, as we learn more about the processes that determine ecosystem dynamics, we learn that they are not united by their predictability, but rather by their innate unpredictability. While qualitative forecasts may be possible, in that we can somewhat accurately predict the short term trends of food system development after a disturbance, precise quantitative predictions of attributes at some particular place and time pose profound challenges which, if pursued, would likely be a waste of time. It should be evident from the brief description above that all food systems--the industrial mega-farm-supermarket, the small farm marketing directly or the small farm marketing to natural food store--possess the attributes of complex adaptive systems. The industrial mega-farm-supermarket system has components within and without which are adapting and require continued “top-down” management inputs to keep them from disrupting the order of the system. If left alone most will likely develop in a way that will prevent achievement of desired profit levels—the main goods and services for which the ecosystem is managed. The focus on single objectives, such as profit, and the associated emphasis on homogeneity and reliance on outside interventions have not altered the ability of food systems to adapt to changing conditions. Instead it has reduced the diversity of system components, altered their interactions, and thus limited the options for ecosystems to change and adapt. These limitations make it less likely that the system can adapt to external challenges, such as the rise of the local food system movement. As we accept that the future ecological, social, and economic conditions are less and less certain and predictable, food system and subsystem managers need new insights and tools that permit the integration of the spatial and temporal range of variation of food systems. Under uncertain future conditions, food system managers will need more flexible objectives and the ability to adapt to outside events and to the dynamical responses of ecosystems. The spatial and temporal limits that are imposed by human management need to be reconsidered in order to improve flexibility, encourage heterogeneity and variation and allow management to operate at many levels69. In ecology, heterogeneity and variation are both important aspects of the resilience of the system. Ecological resilience of ecosystems is defined as “the capacity of an ecosystem to tolerate disturbance without collapsing into a qualitatively different state that is controlled by a different set of processes70”. Ecological resilience emphasizes persistence, variability, and adaptability. It recognizes that ecosystems are in non-equilibrium and that changes in ecological processes occurring at one scale can affect other processes at other scales in non-predictable ways. 70 Holling C.S., 1973. Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst., 4: 1-23. 71 Scheffer M., Bascompte J., Brock W.A., Brovkin V., Carpenter S.R., Dakos V., Held H., Van Nes, E.H., Rietkerk M., Sugihara G., 2009. Early warning signals for critical transitions. Nature, 461: 53. 72 USDA/ERS. 2000. Food and Agricultural Policy, p. 16-35. Viewing food systems as complex adaptive systems provides insights into the sensitivity of food system subsystems revolutions. Quantifying a critical transition when a system shifts from one stability domain to another, provides a measure of the amount of change or disruption that is required to transform a system from being maintained by one set of mutually reinforcing processes and structures to a different set of processes and structures71. This will allow assessment of ecosystems dynamics after disturbances and of impacts of management practices on ecosystems development in terms of whether the ecosystem will respond to these changes in a way that maintains desired levels of ecosystem goods and services. Viewing food systems as complex adaptive systems focuses on persistence, adaptability, and variability – attributes that are at the heart of understanding resilience. In contrast, searching for a single steady or cyclic state focuses on efficiency, control and predictability--all attributes at the core of desires for predictable fail-safe design and optimal performances under a narrow set of conditions. An increased emphasis on ecosystem adaptability means “simple” and “across the board” solutions or “recipe” prescriptions are likely not adequate for sustaining a complex system that must fulfill diverse expectations. Instead, creativity in thoughts and diversity in practices are needed in designing new food system management policies for the future. This overview is part of an effort to prepare food system managers to view and treat food systems as the complex adaptive systems they are. Trends in production and marketing of food in the US As late as 2000, USDA policy papers addressing the evolving food and agriculture system do not mention local foods. USDA viewed our food system as a mature market with changes expected only around the edges. In perplexing contrast to this supposedly stable, mature market, the USDA did recognize a new “consumer driven era” for our food system. They note we are moving toward a more product-based rather than commodity-based system.72 However, there seemed to be not an inkling of insight that a radically different food system is challenging the stable, mature system. Here is a taste of what USDA viewed as important, and which still reflects the pre-local viewpoint of many today: As our markets mature, we have seen an explosion in new product introductions. Over 12,000 new food products have been introduced annually . . . The supermarket share of grocery food sales that was 78 percent in 1992 had fallen to 70 percent by 1997 as mass merchandisers and warehouse club operators increased their market share from 6 to 12 percent73. vertical integration hogs 1970 to 1990.png 73 Ibid., p. 19. 74 Ibid, p.19 75 Burdine, K.H., L. Maynard, and L. Meyer, 2001. Consumer willingness to pay for local meat products. University of Kentucky Extension Publication. Nowhere does local appear in this report. Farmers markets are not mentioned. Likewise food production is characterized as adapting to this mature, stable food system dominated by international processing and marketing entities: The farm and food industry, of course, is enormously affected by the changing profile of this mature market . . . By establishing direct ties to growers through contracts, food retailers can ensure that they provide specific product qualities tailored to consumer demand. For example, the introduction of convenience pork products, such as pre- trimmed and marinated tenderloins of uniform size and quality, has emerged as the pork industry attempts to interpret and respond to consumer signals74. The cognoscenti at USDA saw (and many still see) vertical integration in the pork industry as a feature of the supply chain underpinning creation of products consumers want. No mention is made of the widely observed exploitation and impoverishment of farmers whose only option is to obey the dictates of the giant food integrators. There is no realization in the official USDA position that consumers might want to support local farmers and buy locally produced food direct from farmers—qualities Tyson and Smithfield cannot produce. The vertical integration which dominates most commodity production, can, however, be a tool for profitability for farmers when they integrate production, processing and marketing with a focus on high quality requirements of relationship marketing. The rest of this report will focus on one food sector as an example of how nearly all foods can benefit from an adaptive systems approach. Market for locally produced meat. The profitability of a local meat system is dependent on the willingness of consumers to pay a premium for the types of products delivered. Are consumers willing to pay more? Two studies from the University of Kentucky indicate they are75. Participants were told the price of a grocery store product and asked what they would pay for the same product that was produced and processed in Kentucky. Percent of respondents that would purchase local products at various premiums are shown in the following table. % premium 40% 20% None Ground Beef 15% 63.9% 100% Steak 20% 51.7% 98.3% Sausage 34.4% 52.5% 100% Over half are willing to pay 20% more for any of the locally produced meat products– ground beef, steak or sausage. One third of consumers were willing to pay 40% more for sausage which is locally produced. A second study with less affluent participants also showed a willingness to pay a premium for locally-produced meat with identical quality to non-local meat. In this study, up to 16% were willing to pay 30% more for various meat products. Up to one third were willing to pay a 20% premium. Finally, well over half were willing to pay 10% more for ground beef (60.8%) rib eye steak (57.6%) and sausage (54.1%). Based on the results of these two studies, it is clear that consumers are price sensitive when quality is held constant and the only variable is whether a product is locally-grown. However, there appear to be significant groups of consumers who are willing to pay 10-20% more for locally-grown meat. Further research is needed to determine how to position locally- grown brands to appeal to particular types of customers. Higher quality for locally-produced meat. The above studies indicate customers will pay more for local meat of equivalent quality. However, many studies indicate that locally produced meat is perceived to be of higher quality. One representative study76 had the following results. 76 Burdine, K.H. 2001. Taste panel to evaluate the consumer acceptability of local meat products. University of Kentucky Extension Publication 2001-15F. juiciness flavor texture overall % panelists preferring each product by category locally produced ground meat 86.7% 84.5% 84.5% 88.9% store bought ground meat 13.3% 15.5% 15.5% 11.1% The overall 70% advantage shows the potential, but the potential will be realized only insofar as enough consumers accessible to a particular local meat producer will pay higher prices for sufficient quantities of natural, locally-produced meat. Local farmers can offer these new consumers is a better quality product, transparency, freshness, and responsiveness to consumer needs. Integrating the processing, marketing and production will produce a much more efficient operation than the present system. The economic impact of this increased efficiency in producing direct market meat promises to result in at least a two fold increase in returns to the producer/owners according to those trying the system. Motivation for buying local food. Why would anyone prefer local foods at a higher price? Local food has a number of different aspects that are attractive to a wide variety of consumers: 1. Freshness. Local fruits and vegetables are usually harvested and sold more quickly so they do not contain the preservatives that are added to products shipped long distances and placed in storage. 2. Taste. Produce that is ripened on the vine has better texture and flavor than produce harvested unripe, then treated with chemicals and ripened during shipping. 3. Nutrition. Nutritional value declines — often drastically — as time passes after harvesting. 4. Improving the local economy. When you buy homegrown food, you circulate your food dollars inside the local area. 5. Strengthening producer/consumer relations. When purchasing food locally, consumers can ask how the product was grown and processed, what chemicals (if any) were used, and any other questions they may have. People tend to trust individuals they know, and they become repeat buyers77. 77 Lanford, Ibid. 78 Food Standards Agency, 2003 and 2007. Reported in Pearson, D. and A. Bailey, 2012. Exploring the market potential of ‘Local’ in Food Systems. Locale: The Australasian-Pacific Journal of Regional Food Studies, 2:81-103. 79 Food Marketing Institute. 2009. U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends, Food Marketing Institute: Arlington, VA. 80 Keeling-Bond, J., D. Thilmany, and C. Bond. 2009. “What Influences Consumer Choice of Fresh Produce Purchase Location?” Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, 41(1):61-74; .Zepeda, L., and J. Li. 2006. “Who Buys Local Food?” Journal of Food Distribution Research, 37:1-11. The British Food Standards Agency78 lumps freshness and taste into quality and replaces nutrition with health, and adds three additional motivations to the above. FSA suggests that the motivations of different consumer segments in the local food market are: 1. Quality: The perceived superior freshness, and taste, of the food. 2. Community: Support for the local economy and local services. 3. Confidence: Knowledge of the food’s source or provenance. 4. Health: Perceptions of food being fresh and using fewer chemicals for maintaining freshness. 5. Green: Concern for environmental sustainability. 6. Pluralist: Options for food shopping, rather than dominance by supermarkets. 7. Enrichment: Diversity of food shopping experiences, including some leisure value. The majority of respondents to a national study cited freshness (82 percent), support for the local economy (75 percent), and knowing the source of the product (58 percent) as reasons for buying local food at direct markets or in conventional grocery stores79. Two national studies found that consumers with varying educational and income levels were equally likely to purchase local food80 while other studies have found local food patrons to be more educated and earning above-average income81. Consumers who enjoy cooking, growing a food garden, frequenting health food stores, and purchasing organic food were more likely to buy local food. On the other hand, environmental and health-related attitudes and behaviors, while well received among local food consumers, were not important factors affecting actual food purchases82. Those who frequented direct markets purchased local foods for their quality and freshness83. Not surprisingly, those who placed a greater emphasis on supporting local businesses and producers, or who preferred to purchase fresh rather than processed produce, were more likely to shop at direct markets84. 81 Eastwood, D.B., J.R. Brooker, and M.D. Gray. March 1999. “Location and Other Market Attributes Affecting Farmers’ Market Patronage: The Case of Tennessee,” Journal of Food Distribution Research, Vol. 30, pp. 63-72.; Govindasamy, R., et al., 1998. Farmers’ Markets: Consumer Trends, Preferences, and Characteristics, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Report P-02137-7-98, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ.. 82 Zepeda, L., and J. Li., 2006. “Who Buys Local Food?” Journal of Food Distribution Research, 37:1-11. 83 Keeling-Bond et al., ibid. 84 Keeling-Bond et al., ibid. 85 Eastwood et al., ibid. 86 Zepeda, L., and C. Leviten-Reid. 2004. “Consumers’ Views on Local Foods,” Journal of Food Distribution Research, 35:1-6. 87 Brown, C., 2003. “Consumers’ Preferences for Locally Produced Food: A Study in Southeast Missouri,” American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, 18:213-224. 88 DeCarlo, Thomas, Rich Pirog, and Veronica Franck (2005) Consumer Perceptions of Place-Based Foods, Food Chain Profit Distribution, and Family Farms. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture: Ames, Iowa. 89 Deloitte Development, 2008. Deloitte Food Safety Survey. Deloitte Development: Washington, 90 Pirog, R., 2004. Ecolabel Value Assessment Phase II: Consumer Perceptions of Local Foods. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture: Ames, IA 91 Darby, Kim, Marvin Batte, Stan Ernst and Brian Roe (2008) Decomposing Local: A Conjoint Analysis of Locally Produced Foods. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 90: 476-486. A survey of Tennessee farmers’ markets patrons found that customers frequently visited a farmers’ market to support local farmers; to find locally produced foods; for nutritional reasons; and for the freshness, value, and quality of the produce85. Consumers were found to associate local food with enhancing the local economy and benefiting the environment86. Farm background was also associated with those consumers that purchased local foods87. Geographical indicators. In a 2005 U.S. consumer survey, 72 percent of respondents believed that geographic characteristics such as soils influence the taste and quality of foods and 56 percent were willing to pay 10 to 30 percent more for local grown (in their state)88. A national survey in mid-2008 reports that nearly nine out of ten Americans (89 percent) would like to see food stores sell more fruits and vegetables that come from local farms, and over two thirds (69 percent) said they would pay slightly more for such produce89. Another consumer study notes in the Midwest that local food freshness was a high priority for consumers who were greatly influenced by local food labels with tag lines noting the travel time from the farm to the shop90. A survey of 477 Ohio consumers notes that they were willing to pay at least 30% more for local produce and that the local origin was more important than freshness or farm size91. Of course, results of such surveys on willingness to pay may not necessarily translate to actually paying at the market but other trends support these findings. Some have suggested that the result of our technical advances is more insidious than a loss of diversity and rich flavors. As Wendell Berry92 regularly points out "a vast amnesia” occurs as local food systems decay. Decay of local economies and communities follow. Total number of farms in the US has declined from about 7 million in the 1930's to only about a half million by 2000, losing valuable local knowledge and local culture. However, the emerging adaptive systems of farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operations93 and chefs oriented to local foods are driving “local” forward. 92 Berry, W. 1988. The Work of Local Culture. p. 157. 93 Robyn Van En Center, 2008. Website on CSAs. Wilson College: Chambersburg, PA Available at 94 Sirolli, E., 1995. Ripples in the Zambezi. Murdoch, Australia: Murdoch University. 95 Patrie, W., 1998. Creating Co-op Fever: A rural developer’s guide. USDA/RD publication SR54. 96 Ikerd, J. 2005. Eating local: a matter of integrity. Eat%20Local.htm Local food system producer motivation To establish new enterprises, successful rural enterprise facilitators such as Ernesto Sirolli94 and Bill Patrie95 advise would-be entrepreneurs to focus on three foundations: passion, markets and resources. You must have deep passion for your new business. It must be something you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about and which makes you unable to wait until morning to get to work on. Passion is not enough. Adequate markets and human and physical resources must be available for they advise their clients to embark on an enterprise. However, passion or motivation is a sine qua non. Without it, huge market windows and unlimited resources cannot make an enterprise succeed. Understanding these motivations is necessary to understanding the local food system, which is necessary to intervening to strengthen the local food systems and catalyze resilient local food systems. Explorations of the motivations of local food system entrepreneurs are hard to come by. Some respected analysts say many are “motivated by the deeper historical commitment . . . to building healthy communities and permanence within society96.” Some contend that local food system pioneers want to be part of a movement to transform society. They want to be part of a movement, creating something new, something which makes an impact. How do they get so enthused about this? Where is all this energy coming from? Local food system devotion seems to even take on religious tones at times. Certainly churches have been a stalwart foundation of the local food system movement. I am learning that what farmers like Fred are doing agriculturally, I need to do theologically and pastorally in the church. Like farmers, our lives have become disintegrated and fragmented by rapid cultural and technological change. Maybe we've imagined the whole world as little more than a medium for growing souls, pushing and pushing until we erode the fertile topsoil that's essential to our faith--justice, goodness, mercy, compassion. Imagine what might change if we thought of the earth and everything in it as part of God's redemptive plan, as an integrated process of life breaking out "on earth as it is in heaven." Maybe even our stop at the dairy aisle and our choice of flour could be fertile ground for faithfulness. Parish Collective is one church-based effort specifically focused on establishing local food systems. This group sees: There is a tectonic shift happening under the surface of the church in North America. Parishioners are returning to the parish. The greater our individual mobility extends, the greater the world’s longing and need for a faith that can be lived out collectively – where we can be present, where there is an embodied practice, where the gospel becomes tangible in a particular place. Inhabit is a conference dedicated these new movements toward practice, presence, and place. . . A Parish Initiative begins with a group of Christ-followers who desire to become a faithful presence for parish renewal in their town/village/neighborhood. This effort sees local food system work as a “responses to the converging forces of fragmentation that have divided the church from community engagement for the last century.”97 97 98 A pastor in Washington, D.C. considers food an act of faith98. As the ground begins to thaw, and we start venturing out of the house with a few less layers, I become giddy with thoughts of spring. As a pastor in a local church, I notice that our attention moves to our tables. As Christians, our tables have always been in the center of our worship together. Every month, we celebrate communion, a meal where we take the common food of our daily lives -- the bread and wine -- and remember how the simple act of eating together can become sacred. Inviting people to tables, this simple act of hospitality, is important in our D.C. congregation, especially when we remember that the communion table is connected to the tables in our courtyard room, where we laugh and eat together. It is connected to the tables in our homes, where families of every size and configuration build their lives. It is connected to our tables in Miriam's Kitchen, where we welcome our homeless guests in from the cold, so they can receive a hot, healthy meal. This simple table is central to our worship, and it has become vital for our work in our community. When we look closely at what we put on our tables, it can become frustrating. A head of lettuce takes a journey of a thousand miles before it lands on our plates. The petroleum that we use in shipping and fertilizer is hard on our environment. Local farmers, who rotate and diversify their crops, using methods that are better for our soil, often cannot compete with the low prices of food that is shipped from an agribusiness headquarters. When we look at all of these issues, we know that food is an act of faith. So what can our congregations do in response? Start a Farmers Market. Often our congregations are in a perfect place to start a farmers market, so that we can support local growers. Many of our church buildings come with parking lots, lawns and storage areas. All of that can be put to good use for farmers who want to sell their produce to local communities. Glean for a local soup kitchen. Each Wednesday, when the farmers markets hours are over, members of our church go "gleaning." They aren't in fields, picking up fruits and vegetables as traditional gleaning is done, but they are next to the Foggy Bottom Metro, stopping by each booth, asking the farmers if they have any food that will not be able to sell at the next market. Miriam's Kitchen has saved thousands of dollars on produce because of the generosity of local farmers. Of course, there are many farmers who will let you do some traditional gleaning as well. If you contact the growers in your area, you can schedule a time to gather produce for those who may not otherwise be able to enjoy fruits and vegetables. Encourage farmers market nutrition programs. Income may not affect diets in the way that we think. Often children who grow up below the poverty level will struggle with obesity or diabetes. That's because a parent who is trying to feed a family with limited income and time might reach for more inexpensive, calorie dense food. Likewise, seniors who struggle on limited incomes may not get the nutrition that they need. They might avoid the outer edges of the grocery store, where fresh fruits and vegetables are sold. The organic food feels completely out of reach. In response to some of these issues, the USDA sponsors a nutrition program for low-income seniors, women, infants and children. They can use coupons at farmers markets to buy fresh, local fruits and vegetables. Begin a community garden. Since we're in the city, we don't have any soil to start a community garden -- but that hasn't stopped some congregations. I have heard of urban churches that have planted rooftop gardens. All over the country, congregations are beginning to dig up their pristine laws so that their community can attempt to grow the perfect tomato. Community gardens are not only a source of fresh produce for the neighborhood, but they can also be learning tools for children. As kids cultivate the dirt, we can remind them of how important it is to care for the earth. As they plant seeds and watch that miraculous process of growth, they can begin to have a clearer understanding of where our food originates. Food is at the heart of our practice together. So it's important to remember that what we put on our tables can be an act of faith. If not religious motivation, political motivation. Local food system devotees may deny any religious motivation, but they are not so quick to deny political motivations. Renowned novelist Barbara Kingsolver99 and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. "A majority of North Americans do understand, at some level, that our food choices are politically charged," wrote Kingsolver, "affecting arenas from rural culture to international oil cartels and global climate change." 99Kingsolver, B., 2007. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. New York: Harper , and 100 Guptill, A. and J.L. Wilkins., 2002. Buying into the food system: trends in food retailing in the US and implications for local foods. Agriculture and Human Values 19: 39-51. Kingsolver advocates the pleasures of seasonal eating, but she acknowledges that many people would view this as deprivation "because we've grown accustomed to the botanically outrageous condition of having everything always." Kingsolver points out that eating what we want, when we want comes "at a price." The cost, she says, "is not measured in money, but in untallied debts that will be paid by our children in the currency of extinctions, economic unravelings, and global climate change." Kingsolver asserts: "we have dealt to today's kids the statistical hand of a shorter life expectancy than their parents, which would be us, the ones taking care of them." How is our "thrown-away food culture" a detriment to children's health? "We're raising our children on the definition of promiscuity if we feed them a casual, indiscriminate mingling of foods from every season plucked from the supermarket." "Marketing jingles from every angle lure patrons to turn our backs on our locally owned stores, restaurants, and farms. And nobody considers that unpatriotic." Others attribute the motivation of local food producers to be the result of several movements100. The environmental movement encourages people to consider geographic dimensions in their food choices. Long-distance transport of food is considered to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. The community food-security movement seeks to enhance access to safe, healthy, and culturally appropriate food for all consumers. Challenges to the dominance of large corporations also have contributed to efforts to expand local food. The Slow Food movement, which originated in Italy, is a response to homogenous, mass-produced food production, and the “fast” nature of people’s lives, by encouraging traditional ways of growing, producing, and preparing food. Motivations of producers could provide dozens of social psychological treatises, though none will likely arrive at any definitive conclusion—in part because humans are complex adaptive systems composed of numerous potential states which are modified when measured, as discussed above. Probably more important than the motivations for producing local food are the motivations which keep many farmers from embodying the five qualities of resilient systems: 1. Diversity of components and interaction, 2. Redundancy (overlap), 3. Flexibility of responses, 4. Connectivity in network structure, 5. Disturbances and reassembly periods. Network connectivity is especially undermined by the independence and lack of trust which has become a vicious cycle as shown in the adjacent graphic101. no trust among farmers.png 101 Walsh, R. et al. 2011. North Dakota Local Food Systems Initiative. 102 Swenson, D. 2011. Exploring Small-scale Meat Processing Expansions in Iowa. Ames, IA: Leopold Center. 103 Gwin, L., and A. Thiboumery, 2013. From Convenience to commitment: Securing the Long-term Viability of Local Meat and Poultry Processing. Corvallis, OR: Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network. Specific system of local meat processing/marketing Though the preceding may have given a useful theoretical perspective, systems are only understood by being immersed in them. Every system is unique. Our focus on helping catalyze more resilient local food systems requires in-depth examination of particular systems. It is beyond the scope of anyone to examine all types of local food systems. We have chosen the specific system of local meat production/processing/marketing to attempt to make the concepts of systems resilience more useful. Many have documented how small meat processors add significant growth to local communities. Perhaps the most thorough is an analysis of Iowa102. Farmers are creating local meat production/processing/marketing systems in a variety of ways. Gwin103 has developed a typology to summarize different levels of local meat processing systems as shown in the following table. Bringing local meat and poultry to market requires access to appropriately scaled processing facilities with the skills, inspection status, and other attributes to prepare these products safely, legally, and to customer specifications. Limited local processing infrastructure restricts the supply of local meat and poultry. Many farmers drive multiple hours one way to their nearest inspected processing facility and bring only a few head at a time, resulting in high transportation and opportunity costs per pound of meat. Farmers may have difficulty getting slaughter dates during processors’ busy seasons or they must schedule far in advance. Some small processing facilities may not offer specific services that farmers and their customers desire. At the same time, existing small processors often lack the steady, consistent business they need to be profitable while providing high quality services tailored to individual customers. They often experience significant seasonal variation in demand for their services or animals are not delivered for processing when scheduled. Expense estimates suggest that even a small processing plant providing very basic services must annually process approximately 450 head of cattle or the revenue equivalent in combinations of other livestock, spread out fairly evenly table on 3 types of local Gwin et al 2013.png over the year. Operations that offer more sophisticated services require significantly higher volumes, making it more challenging to reach the critical mass of local livestock to support such plants. As a result, local processing is not always available when farmers want it. Stabilizing and enhancing meat and poultry processing for local markets requires that farmers and processors build more established and predictable business relationships, shifting from “convenience” to longer-term “commitment.” An essential element is that farmers commit, individually or in coordinated groups or brands, to providing the processor with a sufficient, steady supply of livestock to process. Steady business generates steady revenue, which is fundamental to long-term processor viability. Having key “anchor” customers is an important way for processors to assure a steady volume of business; some processors are their own key customers, providing most or all of the animals they process. Brands or “aggregators” that source livestock from multiple farmers and coordinate the rest of the supply chain can be valuable partners for processors. Aggregators create a steady flow of animals and serve as a central point of communication. They are often in a better position to coordinate consistent scheduling than an individual farmer. Processors can use tools like active scheduling systems, variable pricing, or penalties to assure that throughput is steady, week by week and over the year. Commitment matters on both sides: processors must demonstrate a commitment to providing, maintaining, and improving quality services. Processors can also help their producer- customers with advice and support with marketing, distribution, and other aspects of their meat businesses. By building these business relationships, processors work more effectively with their customers, build loyalty, and ultimately increase demand for their own services. Both benefit if producers will commit to 50 or 100 head of cattle a year. The processor can run more efficiently because they know that they can do all 50-100 cattle the same way. The producer gets it cut the way he wants and can have his own processing plant built separately and then not deal with slaughter. Processing businesses are capital-intensive to start, maintain, and expand. Farmer- processor commitment deepens when farmers, individually or in groups, invest time and money into the processing business. Investment can take the form of loans, stock purchases, equipment financing, or hours of expertise and effort. Effective and continuous communication, about scheduling and services, costs and pricing, meat quality and market conditions, and other aspects of their linked businesses, is essential to developing and maintaining strong business relationships. Governmental agencies, non-profits, universities, and others can enhance the resilience of local meat systems by focusing on the five qualities of resilient systems mentioned above— especially establishing high levels of interconnectivity between both farmers and farmers and meat processors. Incubating diverse businesses important to the rest of the supply chain will also contribute to resilience. Livestock farmers are interested in selling locally for many reasons, including the potential to receive premium prices for their products, a direct connection with consumers, and recognition for their production practices and products. Locally produced food often requires new and different supply chains than conventional food. The required structure of local supply chains depends on the product (e.g., perishable or not) and the market channel (whether farm stands, farmers markets, and Community Supported Agriculture or intermediated direct sales to restaurants, retail, and food service). As perishable products governed by a complex and evolving set of food safety regulations, meat and poultry can require equally complex supply chains involving multiple partners. Meat and poultry processors are essential links in local meat supply chains. Local meat farmers need access to appropriately scaled processing facilities with the skills, inspection status, and other attributes to handle these products safely, legally, and to customer specifications. New processing ventures built specifically to handle local product often do not survive. Why is this? A key factor is the lack of expertise of farmers attempting to run their own processing plants. Why do farmers want to build their own plants? Existing custom plants are often too small, they're too far away, they're too costly, they're too antiquated, they're too busy—for example, processing deer in the fall. Another complaint: custom processing fees are too expensive. And then there's just kind of a general attitude: producers think they will have better product control if they have their own plant. In addition, the number of USDA inspected plants offering custom processing services to producers is decreasing. Of those 35 projects assisted by one consultant104, over half of them failed to raise sufficient capital as shown in the figure below. Those in the red slice of the pie raised the 104 DeHaan, K. 2011. “To Build or Not to Build.” Presentation on Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network webinar, “To Build or Not to Build,” 9-28-11. Available at: to-build:-lessons-learned-from-newprocessing-ventures money but are now shut down for a variety of reasons. If you combine the blue slice with the red slice, you've got a failure rate higher than the national average of start-up businesses. There are five of the 35 that are running today, that are considered successful. Those that failed each have unique reasons why they failed. Every system is unique. But there are some common themes among the failures. First is that they ran out of operating capital and have limited opportunities to find more with investors and lenders. They run into a cash crunch. You can’t run the business without cash, so they fold. Second are marketing and sales weaknesses. Most of these projects are supply driven. They need a market and thought the plant was the market. The plant is the tool to reach the market, but the market potential must be established first. Third, even with sufficient capital and markets, livestock producers often don’t have the experience and the skills experience brings to oversee a processing-marketing business. Even if they hire a manager with the right skills, they still have to provide guidance and leadership. If they don’t thoroughly understand the meat processing/marketing system, they will make mistakes—often fatal. Those who succeed set up a functional board of directors who understand their system and the systems impacting theirs. The board of directors should not agree all the time. It takes some people with different experiences to bring in diversity. A board is a system like any other and to be resilient, it needs to possess the five qualities of resilient systems. One means of creating a resilient system is to unite the producers with an existing successful processor. In other words, the producers purchase the processor. This is the case with several successful farmer-owned processing enterprises, such as U.S. Premium Beef which has now lasted more than 15 years105. Similarly, other farmers106 expand an existing business, deHaan 5 of 35 local meat processing busineese succeed.png 105 106 Cody Hopkins and Andrea Todt’s Falling Sky Farm ( used this approach to become one of the few local meat processing success stories in the Deep South states. for example, an existing retail store by adding processing, even creating a regional butcher shop making a variety of products. Another example would be one plant family who went ahead and bought another existing plant. It was simply an expansion off an already existing successful business. Nearly all of the successful operations, whether it be new or just modifying or expanding an existing business, have been multigenerational. As in all resilient agroecosystems, hiring a good manager with the right skills and experience is crucial. The best managers have succeeded in managing similar systems. An example is Dakota Provisions which hired the person who made West Liberty Foods a success107. 107 108 DeHaan, ibid. 109 DeHaan, ibid. Attracting capital means establishing mutually beneficial relations with capital systems. Most useful are successful producers who have deep pockets. U.S. Premium Beef is an example of that. The producer investors were dedicated. They were quality conscious and that's the case in all successes. They all develop good lender relationships. Lender relationships are critically important. Oftentimes the lender has had to take the lead role in applying for USDA loan guarantees. In one case108 the lender had a borrowing base that was dependent on accounts receivable, and in the local meat enterprise, the accounts receivables got kind of thin. The lender just rolled up his sleeves and went to work helping the business collect on some aging accounts receivables. Poor lender relations often begins when the enterprise gets into a very precarious situation and lack of trust between lender and borrower does not allow good communication with the lender. Then, the handwriting is on the wall. No business that depends on loans for capital is going to succeed without a good lender relationship. Don’t waste capital while reinventing the wheel. Producer involvement is important, but total ownership is not necessarily the best for the enterprise. Producers produce and almost always don’t know enough about processing. They often waste valuable time and money learning processing, making some rookie mistakes. Processing is a skill set with its own unique challenges and problems. Processing and marketing are difficult systems to develop simultaneously. Starting a processing business at the same time you're starting a marketing business is usually asking for trouble. Managers who understand both systems and have experience doing both can sometimes manage it. Producers are often better at marketing local meat than at processing. Manage the systems you thoroughly understand and let establish good relations with others to manage less familiar systems. One well-known meat processing experts advocates four basic strategies when you're in a situation where new processing capacity is the only way you can be in business109 1. I always say, involve an existing processor. Find a regional custom exempt processor or state-inspected processor interested in expansion. And there are some of those, you've just got to find them. Develop a business partnership with them. Maybe they don't even have to be small to growing, maybe they already have a good solid foundation of business and are looking for an equity partner. There's another opportunity. 2. You need a well-designed marketing plan. That should be the absolute first step in the business planning process. I have read a million, well maybe not a million, but I read many, many business plans written by producers. Producers should have involvement in that business planning process, but most of the business plans talked about how the animal was produced, breeds, husbandry process, husbandry plans, that kind of stuff, and very little about how they're going to get it into the marketplace, what is going to set it apart from competition, who are the likely candidates for selling the product, and so on. You can just tell that those projects that have been so focused on production have really an uphill battle in trying to become successful, mainly because there's such a gap in the marketing plan. 3. Involve as many producers with common goals as you can find. They don't have to be your best friends, but they have to have some things in common with you. Obviously, you need them for equity. And obviously you need them for raw materials. If you're supplying customers, what you don't want to do is you don't want to short them. You want to make sure that you have enough production around you to meet both current demand and future demands. It does take a lot of producers to get that done. Of course, the more producers you bring in, the more difficult it is to manage but that's just what you have to deal with. 4. Shore up your equity needs. If you're short on equity, don't start. What oftentimes happens, is that there's enough equity to get a plant built, or there's enough equity to get a plant partnership established, or there's enough equity to get a new piece of equipment bought, but in doing that, they're shorted on operating capital. Most business planners, such as ourselves, will tell you what the minimum amount of operating capital you must have to make this work. Don't short that. If you do, you're going to be in trouble. You're going to run out of cash. Where are you going to find the cash? You're going to go back to your source, or your lender and so on, and that is just very, very, very, very difficult going back to the well. Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.110 Ecosystems language is similar to Tolstoy’s: every resilient system is similar, every failing system is unique111. Don’t repeat the mistakes of others. Here are thirteen ways local meat processing system have failed112. 110 Tolstoy, L. Anna Karenina, p.1. Or, stated a bit less tersely by Aristotle: “Again, it is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited, as the Pythagoreans conjectured, and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult -- to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult); for these reasons also, then, excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue; For men are good in but one way, but bad in many.” Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics, Translated by W. D. Ross, Oxford University Press, Oxford; Revised edition, 2009. 111 Also stated a bit less tersely by in Catastrophe Theory: “ ... for systems belonging to the singular part of the stability boundary a small change of the parameters is more likely to the send the system into the unstable region than into the stable region. This is a manifestation of a general principle stating that all good things (e.g. stability) are more fragile than bad things. It seems that in good situations a number of requirements must hold simultaneously, while to call a situation bad even one failure suffices.” V.I. Arnold. 1992. Catastrophe Theory, Springer-Verlag, pp. 31–32 112 Raines, C. 2011. “Whatever Works.” Presentation on Niche Meat Processor Assistance, Network webinar, “To Build or Not to Build,” 9-28-11. Available at: lessons-learned-from-new-processingventures 1. We've had issues with too large of a group all with competing interests or ideas. Here's an example of one. They had producers who wanted to do halal services. Another one wanted to focus on the beef side of the business. Others that wanted to focus on goats. Then they wanted to bring in pigs. Then they didn't know how to handle poultry with an inspection. They never got anywhere because they couldn't focus on anything. They just had so many different interests and ideas that that inhibited them. 2. There have been some examples where people would get operations lined up and they had these cooperatives of all these folks who said that they would get involved with the business, they would help put up capital, and then they do all this background work to get everything lined up, but then all of a sudden nobody has any money. So, going with those promises to build something that never materialized. 3. Some of them have just tried to do too much too fast. They wanted to make every product under the sun, every type of service available; they wanted to do ritual slaughter, they wanted to do ready-to-eat products, all of this by buying an existing facility that obviously couldn't handle any of that. And then they didn't have the resources to retro-fit that plant. That was a challenge for them. 4. Some of these folks have the mindset that the government is out to get them, they're anti-USDA from the beginning. That's never going to work for them. They just didn't want to deal with it, they didn't want to accept that there were rules that they had to follow. That did not work well for that plant. 5. Some tried to already enter a saturated market. They just had this thought that, "Here was a plant for sale." or "We're 10 producers wanting to market something." But they didn't take into account that they're going to have to get other livestock in too. They didn't have the option of getting those things taken care of. If the market is saturated and there is a plant operating, there may simply not be enough market share, whether it be the customers you have coming in to sell products or getting enough livestock in yourself. 6. Farmers didn’t have enough livestock to supply them. Another plant was built and they had very seasonal swings, and they weren't going to do game harvesting. Everywhere you go in Pennsylvania, almost every small plant will close down and process deer for a couple months. Well these folks didn't want to do that. It turns out in winter they couldn't find all the livestock they needed anyway so they had no operating capital. Simply they didn't do any market research. It was a very "I will build it, they will come" mentality. 7. In some cases, the plant had been built, at least the facility, and they totally underestimated the expenses for equipment. One plant budgeted $5000 for a new smokehouse, which for them was not nearly enough for the type of smokehouse that they wanted to do. They should have been up in the $50,000-60,000 range. And then, they weren't able to produce those products which totally messed up their business plan. 8. We've had some that have had problems with zoning. They underestimated all of their water/sewer costs. They had all of this stuff planned but then realized that tapping into all that was going to be cost prohibitive to them. They didn't get that business going at least in the location that they wanted to. That delayed progress on their plant. 9. They underestimated some transportation costs. One plant was dealing with slaughter only and taking it to an existing cut and wrap facility. They failed to take into account the need for buying a truck and running that truck back and forth. They didn't build that into their pricing system and that did not help them. 10. Non-cooperative producers. Sometimes we have issues with producers who do not come pick up their meat. Or we have producers that show up late and don't bring what they say they're going to bring and this is something you can't really plan for. But they've had to pay for extended inspection hours because they didn't have that communicated to their customers. And then they also just had to basically eat some product. Now they were operating the USDA plant, this happened to be something they produced on a custom-exempt day, but they were just stuck eating that whole processing cost. It was custom-exempt meat and then they couldn't do anything with it. So they lose money both dealing with the non-cooperative producers. 11. Cowboy mindset. They're going to go in there, they're going to take charge, they know exactly what's going on and they can do the job better than anybody else, which usually they can't. Being a little too gung-ho or over-zealous simply hasn't helped. 12. They did not understand (this is an example from multiple) the time commitment. Running a small plant with a small staff and making it a family business is simply huge. Whether it be marketing or processing or anything like that, it's not going to be a 9-5 job. There's just a lot more and then they get totally wrung out. They didn't have any experience with it and they didn't understand how much time it was going to take them. 13. It's always a challenge to find qualified labor. Yes, we have students who know how to cut meat, but they're not going to work for a local slaughterhouse when they can make twice as much money doing something else. We have had, in order to find qualified labor, I know of some processors who are doing a sort of labor exchange with a penitentiary in the area and dealing with things like that. But they're unable to find qualified cutters, slaughtermen, processors who know how to do the work. They're out there, but they can be a challenge to find. They couldn't really go anywhere with their business because they didn't have the right people involved. Building resilient meat production/processing/marketing system. To meet growing demand for local meat and poultry, farmers need access to appropriate-scale processing facilities with the skills, inspection status, and other attributes to handle these products safely, legally, and to customer specifications. At the same time, existing small processors often lack the steady, consistent business they need to be profitable. From their perspective, capacity is often not lacking but in excess113. Seasonal demand for their services creates an unstable “boom and bust” cycle that is difficult to maintain: fixed costs are paid all year, skilled workers need year-round paychecks. 113 A study of Vermont in 2010 showed only 38% of the state’s capacity was being used. High demand in the fall and low usage in spring and summer wreaks havoc on ability to meet payroll in slack times while still being able to meet demand in the fall (Lewis, C., 2011. Renewable Food and Agriculture Systems, 27:192-199.) “You can’t just call your dentist and say hey, I’m coming in tomorrow. There are higher cost industries in which you can’t afford to have underused capacity.” – Chelsea Bardot Lewis, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets Interrelationships between systems determine resilience. Establishing lasting local meat systems involves a shift in the relationship between farmers and their processors, away from a series of independent transactions, conducted at arm’s length, to interdependence. The shift from convenience to commitment includes not only enhanced coordination and communication but “hard” commitments: farmers commit, individually or in coordinated groups or brands, to providing the processor with sufficient, steady business, i.e., livestock to process. Processors commit to processing those livestock to farmer specifications, consistently and on time. Strengthening commitments between processors and farmers – as well as along the entire supply chain – is essential to maintaining and expanding the processing infrastructure necessary for growth in local meats. Trust and cooperation between farmers of various sizes. Many collaborative efforts fail because one of the bigger farms begins to dominate the effort. Since having at least one “anchor” customers provides steady volume and consistent business, smaller producers benefit from partnerships with larger producers. Some processors are their own anchor customer, providing the majority of the throughput. When farmers aggregate into a single niche brand, that brand can be a valuable partner for processors because it can deliver steady throughput and coordinated communication that can often be difficult for farmers to deliver individually. None of this can occur unless farmers trust each other. Facilitators must work hard to establish trust in the early stages—including eliminating some potential participants who are just too selfish and independent to get along with smaller producers. Transparency and trust between managers of cooperating systems. Processors can use tools like active scheduling systems and variable pricing to assure that throughput is steady, week by week and over the year. This is part of their commitment to farmers, who know they will have processing dates for their livestock. Processors who help their farmers-customers with business advice, marketing, and distribution, for free or for a fee, can build good working relationships and long-term loyalty as well as build demand for their own processing services. Deeper commitment comes when farmers invest in their processors financially, for mutually beneficial development. Even when farmers are not formally organized, they can help their processors by working with each other to spread their collective demand for processing over more of the year. Farmers who supply niche meat brands that use small, local or regional processors should also recognize the long term benefits of maintaining established coordinated marketing arrangements and relationships, even in times of high commodity livestock prices. When commodity prices are high, fewer farmers try to sell animals through niche markets, and this reduces business for the small processors who handle niche brands. Farmers strive to make the best decisions for their own operations, yet if they lack commitment to their brands, those brands may not be able to commit to processors, and processors may not survive. Ongoing communication underpins the entire relationship. Whether about scheduling or services, costs or prices, meat quality or market conditions, processors and farmers need to communicate effectively with each other to develop and maintain strong business relationships. State and Federal policy are systems which can stifle or facilitate, but can seldom be ignored. Several states have shown how technical assistance and capacity building for processors can be very effective in enhancing local meats processing. Examples include business and management skills training, assistance with grant writing, help in transitioning to USDA inspection or third party certification, even help setting up, implementing, and maintaining scheduling systems. Training and capacity building can also target farmers, for example, to improve communication with their processors, as the Northeast Livestock Processing Service Company has done114, and to understand their processors’ business and regulatory environment115. 114 Harris, K. 2011. Working Effectively with Your Processor. Presentation on Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network webinar. August 24. Available at: processor. 115 Wenther, J., 2009. Understanding the Processor’s Language. Presentation on Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network webinar. Sept. 15. Available at: language Other states are held back by Federal and State gatekeepers who stand in the way of small producers. Arkansas officials seem determined to put roadblocks in the way of small processing enterprises with the result that many Arkansas producers must go out of state due to closure of old processors and no new ones opening up. Just across the border in Missouri, the gatekeepers are extremely helpful with the result of many more top quality processors available. Many enjoy the patronage of Arkansas producers. Public officials who see their positions as part of a regulatory and policy system to stimulate local food systems also support local meat processing by: clarifying Food Code variance requirements, implemented at the state level, for retail dry cured meat products; clarifying federal poultry processing exemptions, e.g., regarding multiple users of the same equipment; working with state and local agencies to allow innovative wastewater management systems and on-farm offal composting; and including local meats in state and local procurement orders/purchasing specifications. Producers need to provide strong input to the policy system. With producer input, state and local governments – for example, in Wisconsin, Vermont, Minnesota, and North Carolina – have played a role with public investment (for example, appropriations, tax credits, tax incentives, or loan guarantees) for processing plant and equipment upgrades. Other options include tax incentives and loan guarantees to back processors during start-up and/or expansion, and outright grants. State legislatures can also direct and support relevant state agencies to allocate staff time to work on these issues, providing not only technical support to individual plants but statewide leadership on industry-scale challenges and solutions. Conclusions Understanding the local food system as being part of numerous interacting adaptive systems is the lesson from ecological systems presented earlier and the lesson from the specific local meat system cases presented. If a local food system hopes to last, it must understand resilience. Ecosystems research has established five factors underlying resilience of systems. Ecosystem theorists and, perhaps, local food system advocates, who know their systems inside out will, in coming years, refine these qualities of resilience. The quality of disturbance and reassembly periods is the hardest to accept in managed agroecosystems. No one wants to disturb and reassemble his system. Instead, we try to make everything run smoothly and insure that everything comes out OK. We like to continue to do what we are used to doing. Civilized humans like stability. But, we know that a farm or any system which does not adapt and change is a system which is stagnant and dying. Similarly, the larger system our farms are a part of needs regular disturbance and reassembly or it will die. American automobile manufacturers almost all died because they had not been forced to undergo the disturbance and reassembly which led to strengthened German, Japanese and even Italian companies. Many formerly local or, at least, American production/processing/marketing systems have been totally eliminated and reassembled by systems mostly based overseas116. 116 Grennes, 2003, in Creative Destruction and Globalization, Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, chronicles the disturbance and reassembly of the automobile and textile industries. Schumpeter (in his 1934 book The Theory of Economic Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press) first explored creative destruction—prefiguring one aspect of ecosystem resilience—disturbance and reassembly. Our food system is in a state of disturbance and reassembly. Smaller farms, if adaptive, flexible and agile, diverse and redundant and highly networked, can prosper and even help construct the new system. As in all ecosystems, other keys will be diversity of production, collaborating with other farms to insure redundancy, and symbiotic connections with non-farm systems. The American industrial food system, as it falls, will likely thrash around like the last dinosaur to go extinct. Its death throes will be painful, but it will die. What will replace it and who will be in the driver’s seat depends on who is able to master the factors underlying resilience in any agroecosystem.

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