Thursday, June 28, 2007

Local, as concept. Is China local?

The subject of Local is important to Sheep Farm. I've been asked many times; How local is local? Sheep Farm was constructed of local lumber, the sheep were born locally and the site of the sculpture park had been farmed continuously from colonial times until its conversion to the park in 1998. Does local then mean, anything from outside a 25 mile radius is not to be concidered local or credible?.

My view is really quite different. Local for me is all that I have a more or less direct connection to. I prefer to buy my food locally. I live in the rural northeast and this is entirely possible for more than half the year. I know the actual farmers and their practices. If the farm is organic there should be no worry of chemicals and contaminants in the fertilizers and livestock feeds. In the remaining monthes I rely on the collective research and wisdom of food co-ops and healthfood stores. Fortunately, I live near a bio-dynamic farm with a year-round farmstore (search: hawthorne valley association). In the end, I go a bit on faith and intuition. I think being skeptical is healthy, but retreating, walling-off and gating is not. Many of the problems occuring in foods and other products that are blamed on outsourcing and the global economy may have roots in corporate profit mandates.

China is in the news every day, being charged with producing contaminated foods and other dangerous products. The accumulated effect of these stories creates the impression Chinese companies are inept and unscrupulous. This may be true in some cases, but it should be asked, too; how much control do U.S. and other foreign corporations have over the specifications and materials used by their Chinese contractors. I've read that some of the suspect materials used by the contractors didn't come from China and the labelling was confusing and misleading.

In the 1960's, when Japan made its big move into foreign consumer markets, they went head-to-head with manufacturers from those market countries. Honda, Toyota, Kawasaki, Sony and Nikon, all produced high quality products. China has currently done the same in construction equipment.

Maybe local means having an unmediated connection with the source. One where the pride of the product is fundamental to the relationship of the producer and consumer. The closer your connection to the source, the better your chances of developing that relationship, but I feel real communities have no physical borders.

How do you view local?


Agus Ramada said...

I am a sheep farmers from Indonesia.



Dan Devine Art said...

Hello Agus,
Thank you for your post.
How many sheep do you have? Do you farm for milk, wool or meat?


ChrisC said...

Blog for
“Local as Concept. Is China Local”

The meaning of Local is a very interesting term to consider. As humans have evolved over time, the concept of local has evolved. What was (and still is in remote and poor nations) considered local is very different for those who have limited means of transportation and communication. If local means “That which we can get directly from the source”, is it still local if a woman in the Dogen region has to walk for hours each way to get a bucket of water in the same amount of time it takes an airplane to get a quarter of the way around the world? I agree with you in that it is the direct communication with the source, not the physical relationship inferred from the term “local”.

Local is about community. It is about establishing trust. It is about give and take. It is about generosity on all levels. It is about looking after the personal and economic needs of all of the local inhabitants in a caring and ethical way. It is about awareness of ecology and efficiency. It is about personal investment and pride in creating something with one’s own hand for the good of others. It is about creating a safe environment.

Local communities who support each other do not have locks on their doors or their sheep fields. They often leave their keys in their cars, and will drop anything they are doing for the entire day to help someone shovel a driveway, fix a car, raze a barn, or bring some groceries to a disabled neighbor.

It is typical to have bartering in balanced communities. Bartering, a lost art in larger business structures, is an essential element in establishing trust, which leads to good business and personal relationships. In Japan, there is the concept of getting the “accounts straight.” It is not just about money. It is about having a mutual understanding of trust. Building the concept of “local” to the global perspective starts at home. It is very possible to have more conscious business practices on a global level utilizing the same principles of trade practiced at home. “Think locally, act globally” and “Think globally, act locally” are really the same when you think about it.

Chris Chalfant
Music Omi Fellow August 2-19, 2007

raphaelle said...

i went to see your sheep today. they just stared at me, like they weren't quite sure what was expected of them. i'm not sure if this is sheepsploitation or not? are you going to shear them in the spring? will you sell their wool locally? make clothing?

do they eat local feed?

Dan Devine Art said...

To Raphaelle, RE 26 Dec post,
Thank you for visiting my installation Sheep Farm at The Fields and the sheep.
I go every day to feed and water them. I appreciate your concern that someone might abuse the sheep and simply use them as a display. My purpose is operate an actual sheep farm, although not large enough to produce a profit. My intent is one that imbraces farming as a viable and important local enterprize. The sheep will produce lambs, wool as well as other sheep products. Today I have removed the sheep to my place for lambing. The sheep will return to their home at the sculpture park in early spring.
Best Regards,