Thursday, September 9, 2010

What would you be willing to give up?

My car radio isn't tuned to a single station, instead I push the "scan" button regularly. Whatever catches my ear is what I'll listen to. If I'm in the mood for music, it might be jazz but it could just as likely be an alternative rock station. I'll happily drive to work with Lionel Hampton on the vibraphone, and walk in the front door smiling. Or sing along with Stevie Nicks on a Saturday morning when I'm heading to the farmers market.

But when it's not music that I'm after, quite often I stop the scanning on any NPR station. I like to listen to the other sides of the news stories, the ones you don't hear on the major networks. I'm not talking about liberal vs conservative news stories. I mean the stories where I actually learn something. Last weekend I listened to an inspiring news story about a group of fishermen in Port Clyde, Maine who are fishing less. Facing a decreasing fish population and lower prices for their work they grew a new business model. They sell direct to the customer via their own processing facility, eliminating the "middle man". They have developed CSFs, which are the aquatic equivalents of CSAs.

But what caught my attention was that they are doing all this to keep fishing sustainable. They limit the amount of fish they bring in by using nets with larger holes than mandated so that smaller fish can escape and reproduce. In order to prevent overfishing they also have days when the boats don't go out. They realize that in order for the fishing industry to be around for the future generations the industry methods must change, and that the health and supply of fish depend on this change.

They gave up their traditional livelihood to be more ecologically correct. And it seems to be working. The response by customers (including restaurants) is positive. Their website includes an extensive list of where you can find PFC fish which is mostly in and around Maine, but also at the Brooklyn Kitchen in NY. You can listen to the original story on the NPR website or read some of the news articles about them here or here.

Would any of us be willing to give up the safety of our regular jobs in support of a more ecologically sound future, with no guarantees? Are these (and others like them) the new pioneers, leading us to a better life? What would you (or I) be willing to give up to ensure continuation of a healthy world?


Mary said...

Very smart of them. Here on the west coast we are facing the same dilemma with salmon, etc. I would be much happier to buy fish directly from the boat, rather than a supermarket. And, love the idea of a CSF! I'd definitely eat more fish that way.

I have lived in my house for almost 30 years and while I'd love a more modern home, and an easier one to navigate, this one is it. My home has a geothermal well which provides unlimited hot water for bathing, washing etc and free heat in the winter. The pipes run city water down to the well, where the water heats up, and comes back up to our water system. I pay for water, but not for the electricity etc to heat it. I turn off the well in hot weather by closing a valve.

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

Hi Mary,
Many times I've heard that an older home, insulated and with good appliances (furnace, etc) would be more environmentally friendly than building from scratch, which makes sense to me. Plus, older homes have more charm and character. But I'm really interested in your geothermal well. Have you posted about it?

MyStory of HiStory said...

Neat Story. I wonder if it's just as profitable for them bc they don't have nearly as much overhead? Hopefully others in the industry will be inspired by learning more about how they do what they do.

Wendy said...

Very interesting questions you pose, and ones I've been contemplating for a long time ... what would we be willing to give up? I think those fishermen in Maine might not have been willing to give up their (more secure, more guaranteed) livelihood had it not been that they could see the writing on the wall. If they didn't make changes today, fishing wouldn't be an option tomorrow. The rest of us are facing the same sort of problem on a different scale. If we don't give up X, Y, Z, it's likely we won't have it a decade from now, and it's very likely that our hitherto cushy lifestyles are a thing of the past already, because too few of us were willing to give up cable television and fast cars.

In answer to MyStory, it's more profitable for the fishermen (and farmers) to operate CSFs (and CSAs) , because they don't have to settle for the "market" value. That is, their prices reflect their actual costs, rather than what the wholesalers are willing to pay based on some arbitrary accounting system. Some of the local lobstermen starting doing the same thing - selling their fresh catch right off the boat directly to the consumers for less than we could get it in stores, but more than the wholesalers would have been paying them. Also, in having a CSF, most of their expenses are already paid, and they also know how much they need to get, because they know exactly who their customer is. It's actually MORE secure that way than the other, because they know going out to get the catch that there is someone back on land who is waiting for what they bring back, and it's not a crapshoot, dependent on whether the planets are aligned properly to make people crave fish ;). There are no fluctuations in the market that will make their catch worth $150 today and $75 tomorrow. Their biggest concern is getting those customers to sign up in the first place, but once they've got that, they're golden, and they can just worry about doing what they do best ... and that is, fish.

I remember when they first started the CSF. At first, it was a little scary for them, but now, there's actually a waiting list. It was like the first few farms in the area to offer a winter CSA. At first, they didn't know if it would be worth it for them, but now, they have more people interested than they can grow produce for.

Anyway - sorry to monopolize the comments, Farmgal ;) ... but it's a great topic!

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

Hi Wendy,
I always appreciate your input, since you do your research so well. (And because it's local to you, so you already knew about it!)
What I liked about the whole thing is that they're trying to preserve the fishing industry AND be ecologically proactive. And it's working in their favor.

Hi MyStory,
Let's hope that others in ALL industries will learn from them! :)

Hey folks, another thought:
Isn't this like the grasshopper and the ant? The ant was concerned about having enough food for the winter ...