Hoglinks: Low-Hanging & High-Reaching Fruit

September 15th, 2014 by Jean Lardon

Sometimes, intention is everything.

  • Artist Sam van Aken has created a kind of orchard in one plant, the Tree of 40 Fruit.  He’s done this using traditional grafting techniques, but on a certain level, you could say that his work is little different than the impulse that drives genetic engineering of soybeans and corn and the like.  That is, we love to tinker with the other lives our lives depend upon.  The difference, though, is that van Aken’s project is a means of rescuing varieties of fruit not simple enough for the mind of the mass production, while simultaneously creating a vision of a fruit tree that must surely grow only in paradise.  What, exactly, is the homeland of the endless acres of pesticide resistant clone soybeans, I leave to you.
  • Speaking of GMO crops, we now present the comedy stylings of Cargill & Syngenta.  Well-known from their previous careers as (respectively) the gargantuan food-processing agribusiness (2013 revenue: $136.6 billion USD) and huge crop-chemical biotech operation (2013 revenue: $14.6 billion USD), the rookie duo are debuting their skit Cargill v. Syngenta Seeds, No. 67061 for the Judicial Court for the Parish of St. John the Baptist, State of Louisiana.  The skit centers around Cargill’s outrage at discovering that Syngenta filled the entire US corn supply a genetically modified corn (Agrisure Viptera MIR 162) before checking with China — only to discover that China won’t have anything to do with the stuff.  A multi-billion dollar trade-debacle/laff-riot ensues.  Unless it turns out to be a Greek tragedy.
  • In Paris, Chef Alain Ducasse — who likely has an entire closet dedicated to the Michelin stars he’s won over the years — has refurbished his eponymous restaurant at the Plaza Athénée Hotel into a establishment notably lacking in meat.  Ducasse is smart, elegant and a titan in the business, so while it is possible that he has made this choice in an effort to appear au courant, chances are that he’s responding to deeper currents.
  • In Burlington, Vermont, the only major US city to ever have a socialist mayor, the August First Café is striking a similarly rebellious tone.  Husband and wife proprietors Jodi Whalen and Phil Merrick were nervous about making the change, but their café — filled with the clicking sounds of laptop zombies — just wasn’t the garrulous and social place they’d set out to make.  So they took the plunge, and discovered that good conversation also makes for good business.
  • Blake Mycoskie is the very model of a modern beneficial businessman.  His outfit — Toms — pioneered a One for One ® business model which takes every sale to a first world hipster and uses it to fund an equivalent gift (as they put it) to someone less fortunate.  That can means someone gets shoes when you buy Toms Shoes, or someone gets eye surgery when you buy Toms Eyewear.  Now, it also means that someone gets clean water when you buy Toms Coffee.  It’s a powerful demonstration about how the engines of capitalism can be used for good.  But a week after the Times ran their piece on Toms Coffee, they also ran a piece questioning the fundamentals of the Toms model, pointing out that “Toms has created a business model that actually needs poor children without shoes in order to sell its shoes.”

    Both pieces are worth reading because it takes this kind of bookending to focus on the perniciousness of it all:  if someone as concerned and well-meaning as Blake Mycoskie can produce a model that — ultimately — needs ongoing suffering as the core of its economic engine, then what’s going wrong isn’t about personal interpretation, but the rules of the game.


Tree of 40 Fruit by Sam van Aken
Tree of 40 Blueprint by Sam van Aken
Bouncing at the Athenée by travelingmcmahans
Toms on the Street by Becca Neidle
August First Café by Adam Fagen

Tags:  Food Culture 
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