Ian Petrie on Farming and Relationships

From Ian Petrie, delivering the McRobie Lecture (as syndicated by Citizens Alliance News):

The thing about relationships… and this gets us back to Schumacher…  is that people who care for each other’s welfare will treat each other fairly… maybe one year the buyer says I need a favour… can you drop the price to keep my boss happy.. The next year the farmers says I need a few more cents…. but when the relationship is linked purely by a number… purely by this is the price take it or leave it… and these big wholesalers and retailers can do this… then the partner in the relationship with less power loses…. and right now that’s always the farmer… right now food retailing is like the Game of Thrones.. And farmers are the disposable armies that go about slaughtering each other…

I benefit from a number of relationships that would meet Ian’s (Schumacher’s) standard for “small is beautiful,” and it makes me happy every time we transact. Sometimes my mechanic Dave says “you can get me the next time” when the repair is minor and it doesn’t make sense to write up a bill. Sometimes I buy a package of 11 eggs from Paul when the chickens refuse to lay in multiples of a dozen. My coffee at the Farmer’s Market was on the house today to recognize Oliver’s fantastic Halloween costume (I got the better end of that deal!). I recommended to Oliver’s art teacher that we up her rate to $40 from $35 as a way of solving the problem of making change every week. When I have a problem with my credit union account, I email Connie and she sorts it out for me.

Economic relationships like this, where “people who care for each other’s welfare will treat each other fairly,” are as different from how one buys a coffee at Starbucks as to exist in a different relationship universe; we should all strive to move 100% of our transacting in this direction.

Ian Petrie is one of the wisest people I know; when he holds forth like this, we’re all better for the listening.