Illustration by Freya Yost
The following paper, submitted to the Greenhorns by Freya Yost, Vice President of A Growing Culture, traces the building blocks of Agroecology (local knowledge, resilience, cultural traditions, working with nature) and analyzes them within the context of our current technological culture. This is a long but compelling piece, scholarly without being a sludge to read, accessible in tone and content, and we highly encourage everyone to read it.
The basic premise is something that we know intuitively without necessarily having articulated it: that Agroecology is an inherently open source tradition whose knowledge and genetics have been co-opted, constrained, and privatized by for profit– to the great detriment of small farmers and ecological networks. The paper’s author casts our eyes simultaneously forward to the internet age and down to myccorrhizal networks to find hopeful models for creating egalitarian ways of producing and disseminating information to small farmers. The ultimate suggestion here– and it’s one of grave importance– is that those of us who are invested in the success of regenerative and sustainable growing ought also to be deeply committed to the overturning of proprietary development models and privatized knowledge systems. As the author writes:
All these dimensions make farming one of the most demanding and knowledge-intensive professions in the world. Sadly, because farmers are also some of the poorest people on Earth, lack of information can have devastating effects. Entire regions are vulnerable to being forced to adopt proprietary practices. Lack of information access puts farmers’ autonomy at risk. Open is not just an environmental issue, it is also a social justice issue.
The Open Source Ethos
Open access is an ancient public good.
Western discourse around open access has largely been restricted to academic, scholarly communications circles. In fact, many friends and colleagues have told me they first encountered open access when, after graduating from university, they were confronted with the fact they no longer had access to school databases; or when online article searches reached the dead-end prompt “click here to pay for access.”
The internet now provides a free platform for sharing knowledge. How is it possible—or even socially just—that so many of us can’t get access to scholarly research? Isn’t society propelled forward by access to the science, literature, and art of the world’s scholars? What if that research is publically funded? These are the primary concerns that drive the open access movement.
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