I've been cogitating a lot lately about how the success of economies and capitalistic endeavors are typically measured, to wit: economic output is calculated by profits made or by resources converted to saleable goods.
So when you look at our small family farms in the San Juan Islands and around the world in terms of economic "output", they seem insignificant. Including our farm, of course - by the standard of capitalism, we're negligible...laughable, even.
I'm thinking that it's time to reconsider the ways we measure success in the business world, in order to save ourselves and the planet.
It's not a novel thought these days, of course: as resources get more and more scarce and difficult to squeeze out of the economic machine - pressurizing markets and our very existence - the thought of "what the heck do we do now" has come to the forefront. Adam Smith's "invisible hand" turned out to be a terrible choice for turning the world's economic steering wheel.
It's time to go back to what has worked for millenia. For me, that includes an entrepreneurship philosophy that I call the "bean sack tenet". I got the idea from an old Greek adage, "bean by bean, the sack is full" (Φασουλι το φασουλι γεμιζει το σακουλι), an aphorism that can remind us that small steps - and small businesses - are critical to the success of filling the "sack" of food we're going to need to feed all of the people on the planet.
While large-scale industrial agriculture is what most people think about when we're talking about feeding the world's population (when they actually think about it), over 70% of our food world-wide comes from very small farms (25 acres or smaller!). Each of these tiny farms has a smaller scope and a drive for self-preservation through sustainability, and the ability, through baby steps (beans in the sack) to be limber when necessary in the face of climate change, fluctuating markets and consumer preference.
These farms can preserve natural resources, ensure that heirloom and other plant varieties are not lost (which maintains biodiversity and food security), and can keep a working rural population going. Which sounds a lot like farming in the San Juan Islands, doesn't it?
When you buy from a local farm, you'll get the freshest, fairest-trade agricultural products, and you help ensure that the beautiful land we cherish is preserved. Plus, the food has traveled from just a few short miles - that's a pretty easy way to live a little greener.
Maybe Adam Smith would argue about the importance of our island farms in terms of economic impact, but you can stand up for pure food independence, sustainability and for small agriculture and our farmers: you can shop our local farms and markets for all the delicious island grown food you can eat.
An aside: there are some hard-working organizations striving to ensure that island farms stay viable. They've been instrumental in helping our small farm and many, many small farms in the San Juan Islands. Please consider a donation to one of our organizations helping preserve farmland and farming here, by clicking on these links: Island Grown, San Juan Islands Agricultural Guild and the San Juan Islands Conservation District.