So we spent the better part of last Saturday at the Kickapoo Country Fair. It was the fifth annual, but our first time.
We made it out from Madison in time for CROPP's presentation to shareholders and potential shareholders. George Siemon, the CEO, gave a nice overview of the cooperative's growth, a primer on the organic ag economy, and took a few questions. The CFO also gave a report. One thing to note here. Back in June, while on the Drift some of us had a discussion about whether CROPP really was a different corporation, a business model that somehow was not entirely driven by the short-term profit imperative. Indications of it being such are certainly there, but the presentation we were given by one of their marketing people while on our tour of the HQ definitely seemed to fit right into any standard corporate flack act. But on this Saturday George Siemon made some comments about conventional ag that were revealing, in a good way. Towards the end of the presentation he said the key to unlocking agricultural policy in the US is to 'follow the money' and that the money 'always leads to Monsanto.' He continued: 'Monsanto never sleeps. I've never been to any meeting about farm bills or farm policy anywhere, even in the smallest gatherings, without a Monsanto rep showing up. This is what we're up against.' It was very gently delivered, and dressed in the clothing of an investor's meeting, but unmistakably a call to arms.
This was followed by a very generous and delicious complimentary buffet lunch. All organic, of course. We ended up sitting outside with three others, also, as it turns out, from Madison (surprise!) One of them was Mariah, who, again as it turns out, is very involved in the effort to apply the City Repair model to neighborhoods in Madison. So it was an enjoyable, social lunch.
From there it was onto the browsing of vendors and exhibitors. Plenty to see and learn, including building techniques I'd never heard of like Whole Tree Architecture. There were activist tables, the expected jewelry and craft booths (not too exciting), and some old-timey stuff. One of the highlights for me was a wonderful show of old tractors, about twenty in all. In this day and age of massive, hundred-grand tricked out combines, these old tractors are a reminder that in the world of mechanized farming there are huge differences in scale.
On the activist side, for me the new information of the day was delivered through one of the films they screened for their modest film fest. It was documentary about the struggle against the coal ash landfill, which is ongoing and as yet unresolved. Check out the opposition group's website! A bunch of the folks directly involved in the organizing were on hand for the screening. Some of them are CROPP farmer-members.
The most bizarre element of the fair, I must say, was the massive Toyota hybrid vehicles exhibition. First of all, this was the only mainstream corporate presence in the whole fair. Strike one. Second, the aesthetic was all wrong for the audience. The enormous slide-out exhibition trailer had 'hat-act young country' blaring on the outside, as if that was supposed to draw in people. To understand where this fair was at culturally, you only have to see that the musical entertainment were string bands, a local surf rock outfit, a political folk troubadour, and a conscious reggae band as headliner. So, strike two.
And then, for strike three: one of the best things about this entire fair was the absolute invisibility of security. This was a family event, hosted by a friendly business large enough to throw a party for itself, its people, their friends, and anybody willing to make the trip to LaFarge. And pay the very reasonable admission of $5 for the day, parking included. To not have our intelligence insulted by a visible presence of security goons made it all the better, and, given our sociopolitical climate, that much more refreshing.
So where was the single, lone, sticking-out-like-a-sore-thumb uniformed rent-a-cop? Stationed at the closed-up Toyota trailer, of course! It was a pathetic sight, indeed.