Saturday, February 11, 2012

Welcome to the Mackinaw Valley Institute

If you’ve found your way to this website you’ve stumbled upon a work in progress. Over the past few weeks graphic artist and web design specialist, Gergely Bata, has spent many hours building the framework and fine tuning this site. With a functioning web page now a reality it’s time for the contributors to provide the content.

The Mackinaw Valley Institute is a small group of diverse individuals who share a common interest in local food systems, environmental sustainability, and building strong local economies.  In keeping with the spirit of Jeffersonian Democracy, we believe the virtues of democracy are rooted in the agricultural communities unencumbered by subservience to distant sovereigns of any form.

In 1785 Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Reverend James Madison.  His letter stated that “the small land holders are the most precious part of the state.” Nearly 150 years after Jefferson’s letter the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared that “the welfare of agriculture and of the Nation will be promoted by an agricultural land tenure pattern characterized by efficient family-size owner-operated farms.” Today, however, it appears there has been a dramatic departure from a policy our nation once thought to be essential to our welfare.

The shift in agriculture policy has arguably been a product of changes in our national economy. Our desire to consume has devalued the local economy and culture. The Institutes’ members give pause to consider the consequences of sacrificing our sense of community and vitality to a economic reality where work has become ever more centralized, specialized, and mechanized. Thus, our group will focus not only on local agriculture, but on the social capital and cohesion generated by strong local economies.

In the coming weeks we will begin an ongoing social discussion regarding the economic vitality of communities across the Midwest. Our discussion will vary from week to week as each member of the institute offers their distinct view on timely and relevant topics. As we grow our knowledge base we aim to, first, connect individuals to local economies. Second, provide communities with the knowledge and expertise necessary to facilitate the development of local policy that supports sustainable local food systems and economies.

We look forward to you being an active part of this ongoing discussion.