Organic 3.0 – How the future of organic food is in participation (1)

[From 2016]

Last week I gave a presentation at a Seminar at Warwick Crop Centre, and as per usual it appeared on the CCRI slide share, but that I realised that the discussion had led me to say much more than in the slides, and afterwards a few new points came to me. The following blog posts are not a transcript of what I said that day but a development of those ideas.

If you are not familiar with Organic 3.0, you can find the document here.

My thinking about Organic 3.0 starts with an unlabelled bottle of wine given to me by a friend (see this blog post). The grapes used to make it were grown a hillside not far from my house, on a plot of land shared by people living in that village, working together and pooling their expertise. For several decades, you could have a row of vines, or take part in the grape harvest but this is happening in the south west of England and the wine was excellent. That sort of crisp, dry but fruity sparkling wine that shows just how good English wine can be and why some posh brands in France should be apprehensive.

What stayed with me about this bottle was not just the excellence of its content but the social arrangements around its production, I am after all a social scientist. This mini-vineyard is a collaborative agreement that required as well as investment in physical capital – land, vines, etc., the social capital of working together and sharing that vision. It required participation, moving beyond consumerism of selecting from a global array of wines that most British consumers enjoy to rolling your sleeves up and taking part.

The leading edge of food is where people are participating in an aspect of the food chain, and this is going to be a constant theme of this essay. It is my contention that we are leaving passive consumerism behind, as in the west we have reached ‘peak stuff’, and the ways in which we use our leisure time and disposable income are becoming focused on experiences. This tendency could be, and possibly will be, quickly commercialised, but I think that it links to the opportunity to take part in more civically orientated ways. That by playing a role in the production of food, and to a degree having a say in managing it a whole new vista of food is being opened up. My examples are certainly not mainstream but they might become so, and even if they remain a marginal they may inspire or foster models that become much more widespread.


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