Industrial Harvest

Commodifying the Decommodification by sarah kavage
May 19, 2010, 8:00 pm
Filed under: project updates | Tags: , , , ,

The main purpose of this post is to announce the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for this project, which is here (trying to keep up with all the various social media / web / etc platforms is a chore, but one that must be done, so excuse any cross postings you may have received or other breaches of net-iquette).  So, YAY!  DONATE!  THANK YOU!  In case it is not obvious where the funding is coming from for this project, the answer is:  it’s coming from me.  And hopefully you too, because I can’t finance it all on my own and the costs that were just lines on a budget are now starting to become real ones.   

Here’s the backstory.  I could be spending my time writing grants to pay for this project.  That’s a tough business, not that I won’t and haven’t done it, but it’s uncertain and takes a long time, and I lack patience.  After about a year and a half establishing whether this project is even feasible logistically, to apply for grants would add another year, maybe two, maybe more to the project because you have to wait for the right point in the granting cycle to apply (most grants come around only once a year, or every other year), and then wait another few months for a decision.  Worst of all, the likelihood of actually getting money is even lower now, since so many foundations have cut back on giving due to financial losses over the past year or two.   

I know myself, and give me another year or two to apply for grant funding, and my own personal momentum and ambition will completely deadened and the project will be a chore rather than the interesting journey it’s supposed to be.  Or worse, the issue is no longer timely or as relevant. 

So, I have chosen the alternative of community funding.  It means having to get over the taboo (personal and societal, both of them strong ones) of asking for money, but for this project, I’d much rather make the case to individuals than institutions.  Ben, the IH research fellow, mentioned at some point the truism “many hands make light work” as kind of a guiding theme for the project.  Through countless  people taking just a little bit, this massive pile of wheat / flour will work its way back into the community.  The same goes for the funding. 

The forum I have chosen to raise said funds is Kickstarter, which is an awesome community funding platform for creative projects.  In my conversation with a friend this past weekend about Kickstarter, she called it “microgranting for hipsters” and yep, that seems to be about right.  But in a good way.  It’s been great that people who otherwise would not be able to be involved have a way to connect to, participate in and support the project.  I’ve enjoyed watching the donations trickle in (so far it has yet to become a flood). 

The funny thing about funding this project on Kickstarter is that this project is kinda perfect for it, because Kickstarter encourages giving “rewards” to your donors, and I’ve spent the past year or so working on creating this product – bags of flour!  So now, I’m commodifying the product of this project that is all about decommodification.  Once one begins to investigate the systems of commerce, there’s no end to the compromises one must make.   

Plus, now that I’m in the commodities market, am I ever about making that money.


2 Comments so far
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Hi Sarah,

I’m excited to be kept informed of the funding efforts here. Part of what your project is about is exposing and documenting the way that food production operates throughout much of the country, and sadly, massive amounts of money play a significant role in what we are offered to eat, where it is available and to whom, and whether or not we have better options.

I wonder, though, if you don’t also wish to explore funding ideas (meaning, websites) that can’t be described as hipsterish—perhaps a less-branded alternative donations page would widen the conversation—and the funding pool—a little bit.

Good luck!

Comment by Anne Elizabeth Moore

Yep, when it comes to money the food is kinda like arts funding…

As for fundraising platforms, I am partial to the house party / event type – we’re doing a couple of those in Seattle before I leave. It’s nice to be able to make a personal connection, because people have all kinds of questions about what I’m doing. But then, the online giving relationship seems to reduce a lot of the social awkwardness around giving / asking for money. I do have another fundraising page set up outside of Kickstarter, which is here: (I’ll post this officially, too along with the other events / fundraisers).

Comment by sarah kavage

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