Potlatch is a ceremony or festival that is performed by the indigenous peoples of the northwest. Most of the ceremonies involve a social gathering and and giving away items of value or elements of wealth. This was used in times past to resolve questions of succession or prestige, and is still in practice today among the tribes.
I started thinking about this while I was having a discussion with another blog author. He's defending a blog author that I've criticized for promoting practices he doesn't seem to follow himself. Here's the relevant quote:
"...has been farming successfully for years and sharing his experiences via blog since 2005. Like us, his only apparent motive was to share so that others could learn from his experiences. I've found him to be very helpful, positive, responsive and constructive at all times. "
"His only apparent motive was to share so that others could learn." Potlatch, web-style. Sharing items of value to increase social standing and prestige. Like the indigenous custom, there is no direct monetary advantage, but there is definitely a social one.
Some of the blog authors (myself included) teach classes in various things; you can find them on their representative blogs, and this is just another form of the same thing, but in most cases the classes are offered for a fee -- sometimes a substantial fee. I was bemused to run across a class that offered to show you farm chores being done with a couple of hours of discussion each day about various topics, for $1,000 or so. Good work if you can get it. (I'm saying this as someone who spent 7 years teaching professionally; I know the teaching gig inside and out; I appreciate this particular blogs marketing savvy. I gotta get people to pay me a thousand bucks to do my chores and talk to them. )
What's oddest about this is that the most vocal farm-blog potlatch people are those who have made their wealth through something other than farming, and have entered farming as their second (or third, or fourth) career. They even talk about how happy they are to eschew their previous life and identify themselves as farmers. I'm not going to post a link here, but I've got two posts on two different blogs in mind when I write this. Somehow the potlatch removes the stain of the dirty money; it glosses over the fact that to run one of these small farms it sometimes takes substantial capital. Don't pay attention to the man behind the curtain.
You're a more legitimate farm blog if you publicly deny any benefit from the farm blog. But I can't think of a single farm that doesn't benefit from the advertising or increased prices. One pig farmer who blogs proudly states that he gets $200 for mixed-breed piglets, where his local craigslist lists them from a variety of producers for $90. How to explain the 100+% markup except for the blog? Social status has its rewards.
And heaven help you if you criticize one of these guys; it's like you're questioning the infallibility of the pope, no matter how ridiculous their statements are. Eccentricity is tolerated, widely tolerated. Social status at work, again.
Some of the blogs out there are contemplative; a diary of the daily events, but I'm seeing more and more of these potlatch blogs, each one vying for "the greenest" or "the most righteous" or "the most anti-factory-farming". They'll even criticize other blogs or small farm practices in a circumspect sort of way. "Are troughs inhumane? Forcing an animal to drink out of a container might harm them!!" Heck, you'll find entries on these blogs contrasting "our" farm (and blog) with other farms and blogs; the assumption being that we're all dying to know the differences between the two.
To me it sounds a lot like Lutherans trying to explain why (how) they're different than Methodists to an audience of Buddhists. Not many people care, but the general topic shows up over and over again on various blogs. It's self-absorbed and a bit odd to me, but I must admit its entertaining. Maybe not in the way that the author intended.
So if this sounds like your blog, well, don't take it personally.
1 day ago