Food Voices: Sustainable Economics for Sustainable Agriculture

In this segment of “Food Voices”, a farmer discusses the importance of working with the local community to create sustainable agriculture.

WhyHunger is pleased to be partnering with Andrianna Natsoulas, longtime food sovereignty activist and author of the forthcoming book Food Voices: Stories of the Food Sovereignty Movement. In 2010, Andrianna began a journey across the Americas to capture the stories of people working towards and living a just and sustainable food system. As she continues her journey, spanning from Nova Scotia to Ecuador to Brazil and beyond, we will feature highlights of the stories she gathers. 

Steve Decater has been farming since 1967 and runs Live Power Community Farm, 40 acre certified bio-dynamic farm in Covelo, CA. Live Power is a non-fossil fuel farm based on solar energy and horses for power. Steve is a member of the National Biodynamic Association, the Biodynamic Association of Northern California, and the Community Alliance for Family Farmers. Photo credits to Karisa Centanni,

“I’ve never been interested in operating the farm as a commercial wage labor farm, I’ve always wanted it to work as a community of people working together creatively and producing high quality food. I make a distinction between community based agriculture and market based agriculture. Our farm is 100% community based, in that we grow food for about 200 households. Those 200 households are co-producers with us. They are partnering with us to cover the operating costs to produce that food, depending on what nature gives us that year. We are not charging for so much a pound for this or that. The goals are to meet the needs in the right way of a) the Earth, recognizing the Earth is a living entity and has rights and needs to be treated consciously; b) the farmer, in order to do that work in the world and have their needs met so it can be an ongoing life and reasonable vocation; and c) the people eating, who need the farmer and the earth.

“I wouldn’t use the word consumer. It is not a market relationship. Often the way we use money in market relationships is the producers on one end trying to get what they need to survive. The eater is on the other end, thinking, the lowest price is really important. We have been brainwashed in society for cheap food. It is more focused towards the individual and the good of the individual. That is the way our market economy works. What I am talking about is an associative economy where the economic process is governed by the needs of all the players. When you look at that together, and not in the alienated way that you have in the market economy, then people can see what the farmer’s needs are. The farmer can hear what the eaters’ needs are. They can both talk about what the Earth’s needs are. And then a consciousness comes out of that that is bigger than any of those individual players. The bottom line is not individual profit, but the good of the community as a whole.

“We are not going to have sustainable agriculture until we have a truly sustainable economic process. That is why I am not interested in being a market farm. We have plenty of examples of that. Communism bit the dust. Capitalism is imploding. We need to start something that is in between those. It is not communism, and it is not capitalism in the individual for-profit sense. It is creating a much more conscious economic process that is related to brotherhood, which really should be the watchword of the economic process. There was a time in pioneer days where you had to be totally individual, but nowadays, anything you do is impacting everybody else. We can’t do it totally out of individualism. If we don’t learn to work together, then the party’s over.”

[1] Biodynamic agriculture is a method of organic farming, founded by Rudolf Steiner, that treats farms as unified and individual organisms, emphasizing balancing the holistic development and interrelationship of the soil, plants and animals as a self-nourishing system without external inputs. Artificial fertilizers and toxic pesticides and herbicides are strictly avoided. Demeter is the international biodynamic certifying body.