Not long after we first moved to Madison one of my new neighbors, without prompting, assured me that our neighborhood had 'basically, zero crime.' I'm not so sure. The other night I came home from Viroqua late only to discover vandalism, theft, and a party going on, right in our backyard. They smashed our birdfeeder, and then had the nerve to dance on the tables.
But what was I doing in Viroqua, that is the more interesting story. Well, first and foremost, hanging out with my pal Mike Koppa, but that is not the interesting part. The reason for driving out on that particular day was to listen in on the CEO and the inner circle of CROPP talk about their recent trip to China. CROPP is the farmers' co-op that produces among other things the organic products marketed under the brand Organic Valley, and represents a big employer of alt-minded people in southwest Wisconsin. So these folks went to China for a little vacation and a little research. Their findings were fascinating. They spent some time visiting a large co-operative in Jilin province, in the far northeast of China, which produced organic feed, mainly for export. Because it fed an export market, the standards were fairly stringent (that is, by Chinese standards). They also spent time in Hainan, an island off the southern coast way on the other side of the country, looking at traditional small-scall ag, which was in some particular ways better than organic, that is to say, close to sustainable. And, as a contrasting experience, they also saw, smelled, tasted, and breathed some of the China's frighteningly bad pollution, as all visitors must. None of the visitors had ever been to China, so their cultural experiences were worth noting, too.
I don't know if these folks intend to move forward with any sort of relationship building in China, but they were (as most interested Americans going for the first time) bitten by the China bug. I wonder if I can find a way to encourage it.