Mark Kastel: A Victim of Our Own Success - Protecting the Good Food Movement & Selling the Story of Our Farms

Mark Kastel

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Sustainably managed/organic farms milking cows can't compete with 9,000-cow CAFOs. If you are producing high-quality eggs, with your chickens outside, as God intended and the USDA regulations mandate, you are being placed at a competitive disadvantage by competing with 100,000-bird henhouses. And if you are producing grain, foodgrade or feed, can you compete with the growing invasion of "organic" imports from China, India, Brazil and former Soviet bloc countries? Mark Kastel, of The Cornucopia Institute, will talk about what we can do as "owners" of the organic label, and the good food movement, to defend our marketing vehicles against quick buck artists exploiting the goodwill of consumers seeking authentic food. "Farmstead" cheese coming from 1,000-cow dairies, "CSA" deliveries coming from produce distributors or grocery retailers, "local" food hauled for eight hours in a semi-trailer—duplicitous marketing schemes like these are a betrayal of the values that have made this movement an environmental and economic success. In addition to a report on the State of the Good Food Nation, empowering organic stakeholders to protect the true promise in this movement, Kastel, both in his speech and in an extended Guerrilla Marketing workshop, will explore how to excel by differentiating your farm enterprise in the marketplace.

Mark Kastel is co-founder of The Cornucopia Institute, a populist farm policy research group based in Wisconsin. It is dedicated to the fight for economic justice for the family-scale farming community. Through research, advocacy and economic development its goal is to empower farmers, industry participants and consumers both politically and through marketplace initiatives. Cornucopia acts as a corporate and governmental watchdog assuring that no compromises to the credibility of organic farming methods and the food it produces are made in the pursuit of profit. Actively resisting regulatory rollbacks and weakening of organic standards to protect/maintain consumer confidence in organics. Cornucopia operates in the regulatory, marketplace, legal and investment arenas. The organization also endeavors to protect the interest of family-scale farmer's other marketing vehicles ("local," "farmstead," "community sponsored agriculture") that are being co-opted by corporate interests. Kastel, who worked for agribusiness giants International Harvester , J.I. Case and FMC prior to making the paradigm shift, almost 30 years ago, to sustainable agriculture, lives on a 160-acre organic farm in the rugged hills of southwestern Wisconsin, near the tiny hamlet of Rockton.

Recorded Saturday, December 14, 2013

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