Abraham Lincoln Wisconsin Address Provides Support For Urban Ag Experiments

Address before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
September 30, 1859

When Abraham Lincoln gave this speech at the Wisconsin fair, Americans knew him as the rising Republican politician who debated Stephen Douglas. One year later he would be elected president, and two years after that he signed the bill establishing the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Population must increase rapidly-more rapidly than in former times-and ere long the most valuable of all arts, will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil. No community whose every member possesses this art, can ever be the victim of oppression of any of its forms. Such community will be alike independent of crowned-kings, money-kings, and land-kings.

no other human occupation opens so wide a field for the profitable and agreeable combination of labor with cultivated thought, as agriculture. I know of nothing so pleasant to the mind, as the discovery of anything which is at once new and valuable-nothing which so lightens and sweetens toil, as the hopeful pursuit of such discovery. And how vast, and how varied a field is agriculture, for such discovery. The mind, already trained to thought, in the country school, or higher school, cannot fail to find there an exhaustless source of profitable enjoyment. Every blade of grass is a study; and to produce two, where there was but one, is both a profit and a pleasure. And not grass alone; but soils, seeds, and seasons-hedges, ditches, and fences, draining, droughts, and irrigation-plowing, hoeing, and harrowing-reaping, mowing, and threshing-saving crops, pests of crops, diseases of crops, and what will prevent or cure them-implements, utensils, and machines, their relative merits, and [how] to improve them-hogs, horses, and cattle-sheep, goats, and poultry-trees, shrubs, fruits, plants, and flowers-the thousand things of which these are specimens-each a world of study within itself.

In all this, book-learning is available. A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish, and facility, for successfully pursuing the [yet] unsolved ones. The rudiments of science, are available, and highly valuable. Some knowledge of Botany assists in dealing with the vegetable world- with all growing crops. Chemistry assists in the analysis of soils, selection, and application of manures, and in numerous other ways. The mechanical branches of Natural Philosophy, are ready help in almost everything; but especially in reference to implements and machinery.

The thought recurs that education-cultivated thought-can best be combined with agricultural labor, or any labor, on the principle of thorough work-that careless, half performed, slovenly work, makes no place for such combination. And thorough work, again, renders sufficient, the smallest quantity of ground to each man. And this again, conforms to what must occur in a world less inclined to wars, and more devoted to the arts of peace, than heretofore. Population must increase rapidly-more rapidly than in former times-and ere long the most valuable of all arts, will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil. No community whose every member possesses this art, can ever be the victim of oppression of any of its forms. Such community will be alike independent of crowned-kings, money-kings, and land-kings.

Full speech at


Sweet Water Great Farm as Worker Coop Experiment, Nov. 10, 2012

Transforming SWO 1.0 into The Sweet Water Great Farm 1.0

Sweet Water Hybrid “Solidarity” Economic Experiments

Sweet Water is an enterprise field,
with a myriad of value creation possibilities for
a variety of markets.

The Sweet Water Great Farm is one field of value creation possibility
among many such fields. I propose worker ownership & cooperative concepts as
worthy of our attention regarding transitioning from SWO 1.0 to
Sweet Water 2.0. The transformation of the Great Farm provides
a field for experimentation in this regard.

Value Creation: Proposition #1
From Employees to Owners

Value is best created by mindful,
passionate, compassionate, cooperative,
self-educating, self-training people of
increasing self-reliance and self-confidence
in the context of a web of beloved
communities and emerging global

Being the “co-owner” of a field of value
creating possibilities with a group of
“authentic partners” is something people
would consider exploring.

I would like to discuss this concept with the
with artists, engineers, IT pros, artisans, scientists, architects,
retired/millenial volunteers, and organizations like
the VGI, Riverwest Co-op Cafe, large and small businesses,
families, co-ops, non-profits, and more.

Its about sculpting an enterprise eco-system, an enterprise
field, prairie, and galaxy.

Value Creation Proposition #2
From Employees to Owners in
Sweet Water Enterprise Core Initiatives Experiments

I propose that “self-managed worker co-ops” be considered
as partners in some or all of these core initiatives, with any
of the current SWO “partners” being giving very serious
consideration of start-up coordinators of projects emerging
from this field of core Sweet Water Initiative Experiments.

Badge Program 1.0

Teacher Training l.0

Eco Tourism 1.0

Workshops 1.0

School Installations 1.0

Foreclosed Homes 1.0

India Collaborations 1.0

Green Enterprise Support 1.0

In my capacity as President of the Sweet Water Foundation Board
I am happy to provide “Sweet Water” with 10 hours per week of my
time, gratis, to helping imagine, design, and orchestrate this transition
experiment. But I wish to be allowed to be a partner in some of the
“enterprise experiments” that might develop from this effort. As a
partner I would be given the same rights and responsibilities as any
of the other partners in any of these value creating fields and streams
of the Sweet Water “Great Field.”

I think this concept merits some attention as one pathway for the
transformation of SWO 1.0 into the Sweet Water Great Farm Field
of Value Possibility, or, the SW Great Farm 1.0.

What say?

Why not?


Earth Community Partnerships of All Living Forms

Open Source As Much As Possible

Hybrid Enterprise, e.g. Corporation, Cooperative, Non Profit

Multiple Bottom Lines, Multiple Value Streams

Boomer Millennial or Multigenerational Partnerships

Pratt Response To 11/10 Coop Experiment Concept

I’ve been supporting this thought for a while.. see email below as an example of many supporting this concept.

On Sat, Apr 14, 2012 at 7:59 PM, Emmanuel Pratt <[email protected]> wrote:

As mentioned, Godsil has enlightened me to the conceptual framework for visions of Sweet Water as a dynamic 21st century hybrid business model under which one might integrate all the individual social venture ideas into a single platform. This has most certainly been my experience over the past several years with Sweet Water.

Just to anchor these visions to a tangible frame of reference, Godsil and I have been analyzing models such as Mondragon Co-Op and the Evergreen Worker Owned Co-Op in Cleveland.

I’d be curious as to your thoughts about the attached pdf

which is part of a publication series produced by the MIT Community Innovators Lab offering examining Worker Cooperatives for the 21st century. It specifically examines Mondragon and the Evergreen Worker Owned Co-Op in Cleveland.

For more from MIT co-labs, also check colab.mit.edu

Given our relationship with MIT co-labs through the Maa-Bara group, why not see if they might be interested in featuring a story on the Sweet Water Hybrid Great Farm?

in fact, why not reach out to all the major university publications with which we have had contact (columbia, yale, cornell, uwm, marquette, parsons, etc) and get Sweet Water on their radar as a feature story as well as a case study to evaluate over time

What say?

Jobless Recoveries and the Disappearance of Routine Occupations: Job Polarization

Social, cultural and moral issues have become favorable terrain for the Democratic Party, in the way that they once were for the Republicans, but there are economic trends that do not bode so well for core Democratic constituencies, given their disproportionately low income and high-unemployment rates. The issue of mounting salience unaddressed so far by Democrats and Republicans is the hollowing out of the job market.

A growing body of evidence demonstrates that jobs that provide mid-range incomes are disappearing, but just as important, the kinds of jobs that have long served as stepping-stones up the ladder of opportunity are disappearing too. One recent contribution to this literature, Jobless Recoveries and the Disappearance of Routine Occupations by Henry Siu, an economist at the University of British Columbia, and Nir Jaimovich, an economist at Duke, reports that there is job growth at the top and bottom of the payscale, but declining employment throughout the mid-pay range. The technical term is job polarization:

The fact that polarization is occurring should not surprise anyone who understands the influence of robotics and automation on machinists and machine operators in manufacturing. Indeed, the influence of robotics is increasingly being felt on routine occupations in transportation and warehousing. Of equal importance is the disappearance of routine employment in white-collar occupations think bank tellers being replaced by ATMs, or secretarial work being replaced by personal computers and Siri, Apples iPhone-integrated intelligent personal assistant.

In the authors view, past trends suggest a worsening future:

Thus, all of the per capita employment growth of the past 30 years has either been in non-routine occupations located at the high-end of the wage distribution, such as software engineers and economists, or in low-paying jobs, such as service occupations like restaurant waiters and janitors. For this last set of occupations, this has been especially true in the past decade.

Siu and Jaimovich find that the decline in routine middle-income jobs that lend themselves to mechanization and automation occurs during recessions, and, most importantly, does not reverse itself in periods of subsequent recovery.

The conclusions reached by Siu and Jaimovich are pessimistic:

Automation and the adoption of computing technology are leading to the decline of middle-wage jobs of many stripes, both blue-collar jobs in production and maintenance occupations and white-collar jobs in office and administrative support. It is affecting both male- and female-dominated professions and it is happening broadly across industries manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, financial services, and even public administration.

The authors offer scant hope for the future.

The pace of job polarization was greatly accelerated in this last recession, and the pace of automation and progress in robotics and computing technology is not slowing down either. If the past 30 years is any guide, we should expect future recessions to continue to spur job polarization. Jobless recoveries may be the new norm.

Should it continue, lack of economic opportunity is likely to undermine the workings of American democratic capitalism: the willingness of the have-nots and have-lesses to tolerate high levels of inequality in the belief that everyone has a shot at making it into the middle class.

The forces driving the evisceration of middle-income jobs global production and automation threaten the newly acquired rights of recently enfranchised populations. The perennial gale of creative destruction may be so powerful and inexorable that the political system cannot provide a remedy. Even so, if the Democrats fail to take on the issue, they will leave their party open to challenge as discontent over employment stagnation mounts.

An alternative strategy would be for Democrats to unilaterally declare victory in the culture war allowing Republicans to waste time on futile rear guard actions and to shift the political agenda to the jobs crisis. Does the new and enlarged Democratic coalition have the capacity to re-engineer capitalism to produce sustained economic growth while working toward social justice?

Thomas B. Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, is the author of the book The Age of Austerity: How Scarcity Will Remake American Politics, which was published earlier this year.

Community Roofing 1974 Co-op Visions

Here’s something I wrote at the turn of the century:

In 1974 I helped Launch the Community Roofing Collective in hopes of creating a “worker-owned” company. Hierarchy and capitalist exploitation of labor would be minimized as the workers would be the owners, controlling what they made, how they made it, and how the profits were distributed. The best model for this vision was developed by a Yugoslavian-born economist named Jaraslov Vanek in a work entitled, “Toward a Self-Managed Industrial Sector in the U.S. A.” Vanek called for “support corporations” designed to create and provide services for “satellite firms” of self-managed worker-owners. These semi-autonomous work units would give rise to more attentive, ambitious, and cooperative work relationships, minimizing the ancient conflict of “labor” versus “capital,” contributing to the humanization of the workplace, and freeing labor from alienating work.

About a year later I became president of Community Roofing, Inc., a business entity in essence aiming to simply provide employees with a decent wage for an honest days work and clients with repairs and new roofs that worked. I had discovered that many of those concerned about “worker exploitation” were not sufficiently committed to the very hard, dirty, and dangerous work of roofing. Additionally, those who had the right stuff to actually do the work, were not very interested in spending time with business or ideological issues. As president of a small corporation I had one hell of a time learning how to actually do business, recruit and retain good help, develop repair and restoration techniques that were cost-effective and guaranteeable, deal with insurance companies, the government, occasional clients who were either crazy or crooks, etc., etc. The “red roofer” was hard pressed to simply keep the business sound, much less contribute toward a radically reformed work-place as envisioned by Vanek and other proponents of self-managed, worker-owned companies.

Twenty-five years later, this “broken-roofer” is revisiting Vanek and the concept of worker-ownership. No longer physically up to the challenge of roofing work myself, I now must make my living by helping create an effective organization. Notions of self-managed work units make the most sense in this context. In my next installment, I’ll explain why.


Last edited by Godsil.   Page last modified on November 12, 2012

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