Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

More on Mules

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to the donkey and mule article in the July/August issue. Your readers might find The American Donkey and Mule Society helpful; it has a large number of resources available for folks who want to learn about donkeys and mules. (In my very limited experience, some of this info is essential in starting with a new species!) The address is 2901 N. Elm St., Denton TX 76201.

I also want to make one correction. There are four breeds of donkeys in North America. The Large Standard is in between the Standard and the Mammoth, Mammoth asses should be at least 14 hands high.

Best wishes,
Carolyn Christman, Program Coordinator

Why Expand Agriculture?

Dear Editor,

I would like to respond to Jean Maryborn's letter ''Economic Security Cuts Population Growth" in the June-August issue. Her letter, which was a response to my letter in which I questioned the wisdom of using more agriculture to feed a growing world population, did not surprise me in that I have had similar responses when broaching the subject of the link between food and population growth.

In her letter, Ms. Maryborn states, "I would like to reassure readers that to reduce population pressures, we don't have to starve people to death." Nowhere in my letter did I advocate starvation as a means of stemming the growth of world population. What I wrote was, "While I am not advocating starvation, I do think it is imperative that we rethink our goals of ever-expanding agriculture to feed ever-expanding populations throughout the world."

I believe the only way for us to rethink our goals is to first understand how we got to this point and why. It was at the birth of incipient agriculture, 10,000 years ago, that humans started to settle in a big way and grow more and more food. And, along with these activities, came more and more people. That, along with our human-centered view as masters over nature, are the roots of nearly all of the major problems we face today.

As in my previous letter, let me recommend the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. It is an excellent starting point for anyone who is interested in learning another story about our origins. While the book is classified as fiction, much research went into it and in my further study of the subject its premise has been validated several times over.

We must realize that nearly all of the problems we face all over the world today are man-made (barring natural disasters, and sometimes they too can be influenced by our actions). Unless we soon wish to see a doubling or quadrupling of the problems we face today, we had better take a hard (and alternative) look at how we got where we are. Only then can we have the proper dialog that will allow us to chart a course so future generations can have their day in the sun.

In Peace,

Ted Matkow

Insurance Racketeering Woes

Editor, MOF&G:

MOFGA now requires that farmers who sell food at the Common Ground Fair must obtain product liability insurance. A particular policy is suggested which costs $100 for three days of coverage.

I do not know whether anyone on the MOFGA staff or board has thought about the economic results of this type of insurance. But they are bad for the small farmer. In effect MOFGA has become part of the problem by adopting this rule. Instead of finding a cost-effective way for MOFGA members to obtain the very small amount of insurance involved, MOFGA is pushing its members into the clutches of a bloated army of paper-shuffling bureaucrats who provide about 25 cents worth of insurance tor $100.

This $100 probably amounts to between 10% and 50% of the profit most MOFGA people will earn from their booth at the Fair.

When a retailer of food such as Shaw's or Shop & Save purchases product liability insurance, the cost may typically be around $2.50 per $25,000 of sales. Most of this is the actual cost of handling and settling claims.

When a farmer buys a liability policy for $25,000 worth of produce, the cost is around $250, mostly for filing forms, billing, commissions, profits, etc. The actual cost of settling claims is still $2.50.

And a farmer who sells $2500 worth of food at the Fair, paying $100 for insurance, is at the extreme low end of this totem pole, receiving only about 25 cents worth of insurance for the $100 policy.

I, for one, want nothing to do with this sort of "insurance" deal, which is very near to legalized racketeering. Our friends will have to get their blueberry butter at the nearest natural food store, which has figured out how to make organic products available without crunching the organic farmer.

– Arthur Harvey

MOFGA Responds

Food vendors in the Agricultural Booth Area were notified over a year ago that insurance would be required in 1997 for value-added products. We don't necessarily like insurance as a solution to a wider societal problem – the propensity to sue. However, it's important for MOFGA not to be in the position of becoming responsible for the actions of all the individual vendors. The Fair Steering Committee has been looking at options for low-cost access to insurance and is trying to provide those options for growers and vendors for 1998.

– Russell Libby

MOF&G Cover Fall 1997