Life in the West – China Doesn’t Own This Yet

Global corporations have now taken control of many industries.

Companies like Walmart and the Dollar Stores are gutting the last of the money from our communities in America. At the same time, companies like Cargill and JBS take every advantage that they can from smaller companies.

Local-based businesses definitely care more about the people, the environment, and the economy of the towns they live in than the massive companies named above. It’s time to start changing the current atmosphere by building businesses that create wealth for families and the communities we live in.

This is the story of a man who is doing just that. Make sure you join my community at https://www.skool.com/lifeinthewest for more videos, exclusive content, and to find those who are creating local products that we can support.

From Tom Giessel, Larned, Kansas:

Posted in General Advocacy | Leave a comment

Big Beef – $1.28 Billion Rigged Game

Go inside the rigged game of Big Beef and discover many differences between the giant Beef Industry and the local community-based storefront. This video is about Mike Callicrate’s story of deception and bribery as well as his will to build a community-based food system that actually benefits the places where we live.

Posted in General Advocacy | 2 Comments

Maker-Owned Marketplaces

The essential next step in building healthy, resilient, community-scaled food systems

Growers, craftsmen, skilled workers, and food makers deserve a fair share of the consumer food dollar. The people who do the real work of growing and making good food are a cost to be reduced in today’s top-down controlled, extractive, and exploitive food system. We need a better economic model, one that delivers real and healthy food while prioritizing the well-being of farmers, ranchers, workers, and rural communities – shifting income from the takers back to the makers.

Consumers have never paid more for food, and never before has so little of the food dollar gone to those who do the work – the people who grow, process, prepare and serve our food.

Local/regional food systems, main streets, rural communities, and independently owned and operated businesses have been essentially wiped out with the growth of below-cost predatory supply lines feeding distribution through franchises, chains, big-box and dollar stores. Americans are being left with fewer food choices, with less and less access to healthy food, while the wealth-creating base, rural America, is being gutted by resource mining global agribusiness and food corporations.

Independent farmers and ranchers are the course of least resistance for extracting dollars by those at the top of the highly financialized and demanding business sector, thus receiving a bankrupting record low fourteen-cent share of the consumer food dollar. Captive lawmakers and regulators serve the interests of big corporations over farmers and ranchers. Instead of ensuring markets are competitive, allowing producers to make a living from the market, family farms continue to go out of business with costly subsidies filling the income gap, benefiting mostly the biggest most industrial farms.

Let farmers and ranchers focus on farming and ranching.

While providing around 85% of the capital investment required to feed us, doing most of the work, and taking nearly all the risk, farmers and ranchers shouldn’t be expected to be in the meat and food business to survive. There’s enough to do, especially if we expect better stewardship and animal husbandry from the few remaining people on the land.

Over twenty years ago, livestock producers like White Oak Pastures, Gunthorp Farms, and Callicrate Cattle Co., unwilling to adopt industrial methods of production and witnessing the growing problem of fair market access, built on-farm slaughter to bypass the predatory meatpacker cartel that was forcing thousands of farmers, farmer-feeders, and ranchers out of business.

Today, big food is stealing the niches of the most ideal producers like White Oak, Gunthorp, and Callicrate, with no real change in actual practices, just simple misleading and deceptive label changes. With the wholesale market lost to fake corporate brands and the retail market many times more difficult to access, another option to connect more directly with discriminating consumers is needed. Maker-owned marketplaces could be the answer for producers adopting regenerative practices and makers trying to retain more value from the unique specialty products demanded by their customers. With the right policies, programs, and incentives, the model could be easily replicable, keeping the wealth of agriculture where it belongs – in the communities of growers, makers, and workers.


The ultimate in efficiency and humane treatment is to slaughter animals where they’re raised and transport only the edible carcass to the population center. Forming beneficial partnerships between producers and makers would give eaters the good and healthy food they’re looking for while allowing farmers to farm, ranchers to ranch, and butchers to cut meat, all doing what they love and are good at.

Farmers, ranchers, and independent businesses are similarly situated.

Independent businesses, the makers and craftsmen that turn farm and ranch production into food — such as butchers, bakers, creameries, cheese makers, breweries, distilleries, coffee roasters, etc. — are also being driven out of business as powerful middlemen search the globe for the cheapest of everything to resell in the most profitable markets. Additionally, family-owned businesses, unable to own their real estate, are often caught in abusive lease arrangements and are denied the opportunity for wealth building and financial security.

A place where community happens

“But the food itself – now almost all supplied by global, inter-connected industries – receives no respect. Purchasing food at a supermarket results in little joy. The shelves at the superstores are overflowing. The presentation of what is being offered is attractive, professionally designed to be so, but I, at least find little joy in the action of purchasing food in a supermarket.

“Contrast that to the experience at a farmers’ market or an open-air market in any part of the world. Or consider the excursion to buy food from the neighborhood shops in Paris or one of the ethnic neighborhoods in New York. Bread from the bakery, meat from the butcher, vegetables and fruit from the greengrocer, and cheese from the deli. This shopping mission may be a daily chore, but it is a human and humane chore – a transaction between people who know each other and respect what is being sold and purchased.”

What if collectives of independent food-related makers, dedicated to supporting local/regional food systems, could co-locate in population centers as owners of the real estate?

Located in safe, trusted, and transparent consumer-friendly marketplaces, makers could profitably practice their craftsmanship, providing the highest quality, healthiest products that are accessible and affordable for eaters. Sales would multiply with the synergy of similarly-minded businesses while supporting and growing local agriculture. Merchant/maker owners could truly differentiate their products, selling both wholesale and retail directly to the public, at a safe distance from the abusive big food cartel, perhaps in areas of cities needing repurposing and new life.

Businesses would earn equity in their real estate investment, replacing the current extractive rent-collecting model with opportunities for building generational wealth and knowledge.

What we support prospers, what we feed grows

Americans have long valued home ownership as a way of building generational wealth and stability. Concentrated wealth, from Wall Street to private equity, has turned the American home ownership dream into a landlord/tenant nightmare. The same is true for independent businesses. After years of work and investment, independent businesses are often left with nothing at the end or termination of a lease. Business owners, their families, workers, and communities all lose out to these aggressive rent collectors.

New pathways from farm to table must be designed for the health of people, animals, and the planet. Accessible and affordable financing for building sustainable and resilient food processing and distribution infrastructure should be a priority. Decades of destructive and polluting agricultural practices and the mining of our precious natural resources have left rural places more and more unlivable. With the growing interest in healthier, more sustainable and regenerative forms of agriculture, there seems to be little concern or attention paid to ways to financially sustain it for the long haul.

John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Applied Economics, rightly informs us that regenerative agriculture, which focuses on giving back and healing the land, cannot be sustained without a livable farm income. We need fair, open, and competitive markets like we had fifty years ago. Competition isn’t possible without competitors in today’s nearly monopolized food system. Food represents the most critical public need, like roads, electric grids, and clean water systems. Critical needs, especially food, should never be controlled by the few at the expense of the many.

Although the pandemic exposed the fragility and exploitive nature of the current system, little is actually being done to build successful alternatives. So far, the power of big food and developer interests over local, state, and national governments have blocked progress in achieving real food security.

America is now a net food importing nation, unable to feed itself. We are literally at the mercy of a handful of foreign-owned and domestic multinational corporations for our daily bread. For the enormous task of building the new infrastructure necessary for feeding all of us (including the poor), Dr. Ikerd recommends we adopt a public investment model – Community Food Utilities.

The maker-owned community marketplace holds the possibility of bringing life back to urban areas, becoming a center for food and culture, better feeding people, makers, and producers, and doing so without the permission of Wall Street, foreign corporations, private equity, or captured politicians.

Impacts of the Maker-Owned Market:

  1. Food security
  2. Year-round market for family farm and ranch agriculture
  3. Conserve and protect valuable resources – Soil, water, etc.
  4. Synergy of co-locating businesses of similar values
  5. Build generational knowledge, wealth, and economic security
  6. Mortgage vs. rent – Protection against one-sided lease arrangements and aggressive rent collectors
  7. Build rural and urban economies
  8. Transparency
  9. Benefits to human health
  10. Improved animal welfare – Animal husbandry vs. animal science
  11. Environmental benefits – Stewardship vs. Industrial extraction and pollution
  12. Reduced food waste
  13. Community gathering place – Provide social interaction, human connection around food, art, music, events
  14. Year-round home for farmer’ market and small food-related vendor
  15. Education – Incubator for new businesses
  16. Regional food-hub connector

Notes:
See: https://nobull.mikecallicrate.com/2024/01/26/harvesting-change-making-a-local-meat-market/

https://nobull.mikecallicrate.com/2022/09/10/better-meat-requires-building-connections-with-new-food-partners/

Alan Lewis – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsWNdOY7lYA&t=16s

William Heffernan on the need for alternative food systems: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/2UQsw_qdy8s

Real Organic agrees we need an alternative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eisCE4SPFsQ&t=15s

Book: Lost Supper https://news.mikecallicrate.com/opinion-to-find-the-future-of-food-we-need-to-look-to-the-past/

Food Inc. 2 – It takes more than our forks to change the food system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ToWTxhYkrKk

Poisoned – The shift to boxed beef made meat less safe, eliminating the natural pathogen control of dry aging: https://www.netflix.com/tudum/articles/poisoned-the-dirty-truth-about-your-food-release-date-news

Barons – We must build a pathway to eaters separate and safe from market predators: https://www.austinfrerick.com/

Wendell Berry Sierra Club Books, 1996

Since its publication by Sierra Club Books in 1977, The Unsettling of America has been recognized as a

classic of American letters. In it, Wendell Berry argues that good farming is a cultural development and spiritual discipline. Today’s agribusiness, however, takes farming out of its cultural context and away from families. As a result, we as a nation are more estranged from the land–from the intimate knowledge, love, and care of it.

Sadly, as Berry notes in his Afterword to this third edition, his arguments and observations are more relevant than ever. We continue to suffer loss of community, the devaluation of human work, and the destruction of nature under an economic system dedicated to the mechanistic pursuit of products and profits. Although “this book has not had the happy fate of being proved wrong,” Berry writes, there are good people working “to make something comely and enduring of our life on this earth.” Wendell Berry is one of those people, writing and working, as ever, with passion, eloquence, and conviction.

Posted in General Advocacy | Leave a comment

What’s Wrong with the Beef you Buy?

Trinity Vandenacre met Mike at the Rendezvous City Beef Roundup last summer where Trinity was one of the beef competition judges. Mike presented, “Cows Can Save the World” for the first time. The updated version, most recently presented to the Beartooth Stock Association, follows:

Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_01
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_02
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_03
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_04
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_05
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_06
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_07
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_08
Slide 9 NEW NEW NEW
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_09
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_10
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_11
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_12
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_13
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_14
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_15
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_16
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_17
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_18
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_19
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_20
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_21
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_22
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_23
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_24
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_25
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_26
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_27
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_28
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_29
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_30
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_31
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_32
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_33
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_34
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_35
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_36
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_37
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_38
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_39
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_40
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_41
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_42
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_43
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_44
Cows can save the world Beartooth January 2024_Page_45
previous arrow
next arrow

Click on arrows on right and left edges of image to advance slides

Full presentation: https://nobull.mikecallicrate.com/2024/01/15/cowboys-can-save-the-world/

 

Posted in General Advocacy | 2 Comments

Perspectives on Agriculture: Past and Future

Callicrate note: Several years ago, in a conversation with John, we discussed the use of a new term describing what I thought was a better kind of agriculture.  Since “sustainable” had been stolen by big corporate ag, I suggested the word “regenerative” better described the kind of agriculture I wanted to practice. In an obvious effort to protect the meaning of an an important term, John asked, “Is it sustainable?”

After some thought, I realized the answer was no. Until we address the abusive market power of big corporations, family farmers and ranchers will be denied their fair share of the consumer dollar, and thereby the income required to be good stewards and husbandmen.

John Ikerd is perhaps the most insightful, thoughtful, and historically wise person I know regarding agriculture and food systems. John describes a transformational shift back to family farm agriculture is not only possible, but necessary. I agree!

By John Ikerd

The Harvard Business School defines transformational changes as “changes that are typically much grander in scope than incremental, adaptive changes. Very often, transformational change refers to a dramatic evolution of some basic structure of the business itself—its strategy, culture, organization, physical structure, supply chain, or processes.” I have lived and worked through a period of transformational change in American agriculture.

From my perspective, two factors are largely responsible for this transformation in American agriculture. The first was the new agricultural technologies that emerged following World War II. Tractors had begun to replace horses in some areas in the 1930s but didn’t do so in many areas until factories started turning out affordable farm tractors rather than the Jeeps and tanks needed during the war. We bought the first tractor for our farm when I was in high school.

“Affordable commercial fertilizers and pesticides, also byproducts of World War II, allowed farmers to abandon the crop rotations or integrated crop and livestock systems they had relied on to manage pests and maintain productivity.”

The number of tractors on farms in the U.S. tripled between 1940 and 1960, and the number of workhorses and mules dropped from 15 million to fewer than 5 million. Farmers specialized and expanded their operations to justify their investments in tractors and specialized farm equipment. Affordable commercial fertilizers and pesticides, also byproducts of World War II, allowed farmers to abandon the crop rotations or integrated crop and livestock systems they had relied on to manage pests and maintain productivity.

The new mechanical and chemical technologies not only allowed each farmer to produce more but also allowed farmers in total to produce more. The resulting surpluses in agricultural production depressed commodity prices to unprofitable levels, forcing reluctant farmers to adopt new cost-cutting technologies to survive. Farmers needed their own hay balers, grain combine harvesters, or field forage choppers to remain competitive. They also needed more land to justify these added investments. Agricultural economists called this the technology treadmill.

“Farmers no longer needed their neighbors to help them farm, but they needed their neighbors’ farms.”

Farmers no longer needed their neighbors to help them farm, but they needed their neighbors’ farms. The farmers who didn’t get big enough fast enough didn’t survive. They sold out or were forced out of farming—they fell off the treadmill. Many farmers in our community either fell off or never got on the technology treadmill; they moved elsewhere.

“Rather than addressing the out-migration of farmers as a problem, the policymakers saw it as an opportunity to transform agriculture.”

The second cause of the agricultural transformation was a fundamental change in U.S. farm policy. Rather than addressing the out-migration of farmers as a problem, the policymakers saw it as an opportunity to transform agriculture. In 1962, the Committee for Economic Development (CED), a prestigious business/academic think tank, assembled a subcommittee to address “the problem of agriculture.” The resulting report noted the rapid outmigration of farmers beginning in the 1930s, but concluded, “Nevertheless, the movement of people from agriculture has not been fast enough to take full advantage of the opportunities that improving farm technologies and increasing capital created for raising the living standards for the American people, including of course, farmers”

“The CED saw economic security for farmers as an impediment to the efficient use of resources.”

U.S. farm policies during the 1940s and 1950s had continued the commitments of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938—the first farm bill. The stated purpose of the act was to provide economic security, or parity incomes, for family farmers as a means of “preserving, maintaining, and rebuilding the farm and ranch land resources in the national public interest.” The CED saw economic security for farmers as an impediment to the efficient use of resources. They proposed an “adaptive approach” that “utilizes positive government action to facilitate and promote movement of labor and capital where they will be most productive and will earn the most income”—meaning out of agriculture.

The CED report provided a blueprint for transformational changes in agricultural policies during the Nixon Administration with Earl Butz as secretary of agriculture during the 1970s. The new policies forced farmers to either “get big or get out.” Every farm bill since then has continued to incentivize and support the specialization, mechanization, and consolidation of farming into large industrial agricultural operations.

“As agricultural economists, our research and extension programs were designed to help farmers turn their farms into agribusinesses.”

By the time I received my Ph.D. in agricultural economics in 1970, I had been thoroughly indoctrinated into this new vision for the future of farming. While the universities claimed the technologies they developed and promoted could benefit all farmers, this was true only if farmers were willing to specialize, mechanize, and expand their farming operations. As agricultural economists, our research and extension programs were designed to help farmers turn their farms into agribusinesses.

“The farm policies of the 1980s were an experiment to see if large, specialized farms could survive without government assistance. They couldn’t.”

The changes in farm policy were necessary to continue the process of industrializing American agriculture. Large, specialized farming operations may be economically efficient, but they are also risky and vulnerable to economic collapse—as evidenced during the farm financial crisis of the 1980s and the COVID-19 crisis that started in 2020. The farm policies of the 1980s were an experiment to see if large, specialized farms could survive without government assistance. They couldn’t.

Government price supports, deficiency payments, subsidized crop and crop revenue insurance, guaranteed loans, and disaster payments are all means by which taxpayers have absorbed the risks of industrial agriculture. Without these government programs, the industrialization of agriculture likely would have slowed, and possibly reversed, during the 1970s and 1980s.

“… the keys to hastening another transformational change in American agriculture—from industrial to sustainable.”

I will close this perspective on agriculture column with what I feel are the keys to hastening another transformational change in American agriculture—from industrial to sustainable. First, the previous transformation was completed essentially in 50 years—between the early 1950s and the late 1990s. Few if anyone involved with agriculture in the 1950s could have imagined the large-scale, specialized, mechanized, corporately controlled farming operations of the 1990s. The changes before and after this period were incremental, rather than transformational. Agriculture by 2075 could be dramatically different from anything that seems remotely possible today.

“… our understanding and knowledge of sustainable alternatives to industrial agriculture today are far more advanced than our knowledge of industrial agriculture in the 1950s.”

Second, our understanding and knowledge of sustainable alternatives to industrial agriculture today are far more advanced than our knowledge of industrial agriculture in the 1950s. Many of the environmental and social costs of industrial agriculture were a result of people doing things without knowing the consequences of what they were doing. Farmers today have access to research on soil health, cover crops, crop rotations, and integrated crop and livestock systems of the pre-industrial era as well as the formal and experiential research of academics and organic and sustainable farmers over the past 50 years and even earlier.

“Perhaps what is needed is another prestigious think tank, like the CED, that understands the need for policies to support a post-industrial agriculture—an ecologically sound, socially responsible, economically viable agriculture.”

Third, with the technical knowledge in place, a transformational change in farm policies could trigger a transformation in agriculture similar to that of the 1970s. Perhaps what is needed is another prestigious think tank, like the CED, that understands the need for policies to support a post-industrial agriculture—an ecologically sound, socially responsible, economically viable agriculture. This think tank could make the ecological and social case that we have too few farmers, rather than too many, and propose farm policies that support more farmers who are committed to taking care of the land for the long-run benefit of society as well as themselves.

Finally, a return to vigorous enforcement of antitrust laws could transform the balance of economic and political power, including the power to transform farm policy. The U.S. was faced with a similar situation of concentrated economic and political power in the early 1900s. Monopolies of the time, such as Andrew Carnegie’s U.S. Steel Company and John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company were powerful politically and well economically. Five U.S. beef-packing companies controlled up to 75% of the market.

“… corporate control of markets was reversed by a progressive populist movement that demanded fundamental change. It can and must happen again.”

The trend toward corporate control of markets was reversed by a progressive populist movement that demanded fundamental change. It can and must happen again. My perspectives on this and other aspects of the agri-food system will be the focus of my next column. Ultimately, agri-food sustainability is not an option; it is a necessity.

A longer, more detailed version of this post with references is available at the JAFSCD link below.

https://www.foodsystemsjournal.org/index.php/fsj/article/view/1220

Posted in General Advocacy | 1 Comment