HORSE SHOES AND HAND GRENADES

Here’s an update on my effort to get UCCE to withdraw its sponsorship of the Shortcourse on Biodynamics.  The cast of characters includes:

  • Dr. Monica Cooper, Farm Advisor for Napa County
  • Glen McGourty, Farm Advisor for Mendocino County
  • Pam Kan-Rice, Assistant Director, News & Information Outreach, University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources and gatekeeper to Dan Dooley, V-P of ANR and thus head of the UC Cooperative Extension. 

 V-P Dooley never responded or even acknowledged receipt of my emails.  I’m not sure he saw my email because it was redirected to Pam Kan-Rice.   As his gatekeeper, Ms. Kan-Rice was very nice and responsive to my inquiries, and while it took some time for her to get it, she gave the impression that she finally understood the issues and cared.  Of course, that’s her job.  She is also the only one that I actually spoke with.

 In a Nov.17 email I asked Ms. Kan-Rice if UCCE had ethical guidelines governing sponsorship of events.  Yesterday, Nov. 29 I received the following email:

  “Dear Mr. Smith,

I am writing in response to your query about UC policy on sponsorship. UC policy prohibits us from endorsing or sponsoring commercial products and services. The intent of UC Cooperative Extension cohosting the meeting on Dec. 2 is to encourage the exchange of science-based information and ideas, not to endorse a farming system.

We recognize that there can be a fine line between collaboration and the appearance of sponsorship. After having some administrators look at the meeting flyer, we can see how one might misconstrue the intent of UC Cooperative Extension’s participation in the biodynamic farming meeting.

While we will honor the commitments we have made, we intend to make UC Cooperative Extension’s role clearer in the future. Because we collaborate with non-UC groups and organizations on several events and activities, UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources  is working on developing a set of guidelines to clarify the issue for its employees.

Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. We appreciate your support of UC as a UC Davis alumnus and UC Cooperative Extension stakeholder.”

Sincerely,

Pam Kan-Rice

Getting close is only important in horse shoes and hand grenades.  It seems like I got close, that UCCE at least has a document that prohibits sponsoring commercial products and events similar to this shortcourse.  It also sounds like they needed to dust off that document and actually read it to understand what it said.  And, of course, there was the sop that they are working to update the document…. 

 It’s clear to me that this is the end of it with UCCE and that there was nothing to gain by continuing to argue the merits of the case.  The wagons are circled and the organism needs to be protected  at all cost.  Continuing with the clichés, call it a Hail Mary pass if you will, I did try one last time with the following email.

 Over the next 36 hours I will update you on both Glenn McGourty and Monica Cooper’s correspondence.   BTW, I will be attending.

My response to Ms. Kan-Rice the same day:

Pam,

I’m pleased that the University has an ethics policy that prohibits sponsorship of commercial products.   Your characterization that I and others might have “misconstrued” that this Shortcourse in Biodynamic Farming is anything other than a blatant sales and marketing event for Demeter USA, a private company, is disingenuous. 

It’s clear that the University refuses to acknowledge its mistake and to take responsibility for its actions.  It’s not too late to assert the moral leadership the University of California promotes in educating our youth and cancel your sponsorship of this event. 

Stu Smith

11 Responses to HORSE SHOES AND HAND GRENADES

  1. bd says:

    Hi Ste, If you’re attending, I hope you’ll remember to wear the Biodynamics is a Hoax tee shirt that I’m certain you had the foresight to have made. With all the press, you’ve likely found a new marketable product and slogan, and you can always donate the proceeds to fight ignorance.

    With regards to Mr. Garner’s comment about the mystery of the grape, he perhaps doesn’t grasp the amount of money, the industry as a whole that relies on the efficient and defensive farming of wine grapes. If Demeter and Steiner were the standard in defensive farming, I don’t believe Ca’s vineyards would have survived the 20th century. And what mystery is there in the grape? It’s fruit, and it ferments. We all have our favorite apple variety, and it stands to reason we have our favorite wine varietal, and the mystery is in the taste buds.–bd

  2. Brian Garner says:

    Mr. Smith,

    I believe you are completely missing the point of wine as a beverage. Have you spent so much time on the “hard science” side of grape growing and winemaking that you have lost touch with the mystery of the grape and what it can produce from a specific site? Completely clean and technically correct wines are boring and not worth spending my limited disposable income on, especially in this economy. Give me something interesting, slightly flawed, or even weird to drink, not the formulaic “California Correct” Davis style juice. Yes, the quality of average table wine has risen because of UC Davis, but do we really want to drink average wine all the time? Yes, some of the Biodynamic proponents might fit better in a Harry Potter film than the wine industry. So what? We might as well be drinking Pepsi, if the Davis model can’t deliver the ethereal qualities of an interesting bottle, with an interesting story to tell. In my opinion as a consumer, I’d rather have my wine choices equated with great, flawed, disturbing, literature instead of a science textbook. Anyone can make wine by the numbers; it takes an artist to weave some mystery into a bottle.
    Brian

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Brian,
      You can’t put me in that box! Just because I think/know that Biodynamics is complete junk, doesn’t mean I want to make nice, pleasant, innocuously boring wines. I pioneered the return of viticulture to the hills because I can’t stand those sort of wines. I used what you would call natural yeast fermentations (I called them Bronco fermentations) starting in 1975. Our Cabernet Sauvignon has been unfined and unfiltered for 20 years and with the exception of sulfur additions and TAs and Phs our taste-buds tell us what to do, not the laboratory. Smith-Madrone has done more for Riesling than 99.9% of the other American wineries. Frankly, there’s more bad wine made in America today than in my 40 plus years in the Biz, and a lot of it has to do with complete BS ideas like Biodynamics and attitudes like you’re expressing.
      Thanks for your opinion.
      Stu

  3. Roger says:

    You are getting somewhere with this, ducking behind the academic wall rather than just stand up and take responsibility to breached policy is clearly not mainstream in public education systems. And we pay for this!

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Roger,
      I hope you’re right, but they are a very entrenched bureaucracy and they’re loath to admit mistakes.
      Stu

  4. marc says:

    You forgot ATOM BOMBS

  5. Jeff V says:

    Mark,

    UC Davis has a great little fellowship program for qualified students. It’s sponsored by Monsanto:

    http://biosci.ucdavis.edu/giving/monsanto.html

    Stu,

    These fellowship grants are a clear blurring of a state supported university and a private company relationship. It would be great if you could write back Ms. Kan-Rice about their policy regarding fellowship grants as well.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Jeff,
      Loved your link to Monsanto and UC Davis, couldn’t help laughing out loud. I agree that these types of grants complicated and questionable. Unfortunately, I’m trying to stay on topic and I’ll leave it to you to go after them.
      Good luck,
      Stu

  6. doug1smith says:

    Thanks so much for your leadership role on this issue. The world needs more folks willing to stand up against nonsense.

  7. Mark says:

    And you should add a thank you for helping to increase my children’s tuition fees. Boondoggle’s cost money too!

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