Newsletter – October 11, 2012

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The Alleged Farm News
Issue Number 17 | October 11, 2012

This Week’s Share
Red bok choi, Dill, Garlic, Leeks
Lettuce, Mizuna, Peppers, Ancho and other hot peppers
Bintje potatoes, Shallots, Turnips
Carnival and Butternut winter squash


 2012 Fall Harvest Festival and Pie Contest
Sunday, October 14th

We hope to see you and your pie on the farm this Sunday.

As with parents and teachers, it is hard to describe precisely what makes a boss good, but easy to say what makes one bad.

Theoretically, the relationship between boss and worker is much more straightforward than that between parent and child or teacher and student, based as it is on a simple financial transaction. Bosses pay workers for the power to tell them what to do. The terms are laid out in advance, responsibilities and expectations set forth, and everyone involved enters into the relationship willingly and fully informed. Much as everyone enters marriage or the voting booth. 

The apparent simplicity of this relationship may be what causes some people to feel that paying children or students to do their job will somehow make those relationships work better. In fact, of course, the relationship between boss and worker is often as complicated as any. Having paid for power, bosses then have to act like they have natural authority and try to make their workers care about the job as if they had volunteered for it. They need to make their employees feel like they are getting a lot out of work so that they get a lot of work out of their employees.

Vegetable notes

If you took the average of the weather this season you might come up with something quite pleasant and amenable to vegetable production.  Too bad plants can’t somehow use that average. It would have been a big help to the onions and potatoes struggling through an arid July to be able to get their hands on some of this late season rain, just as the crops out in the field now would love to borrow some of that summer heat and sunshine (as would the farm crew).

Fortunately, most of the crops still out in the field (such as the mizuna, the frilly leaves in a bunch, which are a salad green) are better adapted  than our summer crops to current conditions. They may not exactly thrive on three weeks of mist, but they can deal with it. And many of them can deal with frost, which will come in handy on Friday night when the temperature is forecast to drop into the mid 20s. 

The remaining summer crops. however, will not take well to that. We will do what we can to protect the remaining peppers, the last planting of beans, the shell beans. But it is tough to provide 9 degrees of frost protection, and most likely we will finish out the season with those hardier fall crops. Which makes sense since it is, well, fall. 

But motivating people is not that easy. Hence all the expert advice offered to bosses in books and articles and lectures and web sites and probably even tweets. The problem is that what works in one situation may not work in another, and given the vast array of jobs, workers and bosses there is an almost infinite number of such situations. You could follow all the expert advice and still not find a way to motivate your workers. 

I suppose there must also be an almost infinite number of ways to make your employees’ jobs miserable. But for the most part they are variations ona small number of themes that just about everybody who has had a bad boss could agree on: hostility, paranoia, unreasonable demands, unwillingness to accept responsibility, lack of clarity, miserliness.

Which is a fairly accurate description of how many Americans have chosen to treat our public employees. Public employees are an evil highly organized force of lazy incompetents set on bankrupting us while making our lives impossible by imposing their onerous regulations and doing nothing, thus failing to solve basic social problems that it is not our job to deal with, so let’s publicly excoriate them, fire a bunch of them, strip the rest of their pensions, cut their pay and force them to do more with less. I mean, come on. We pay teachers a mediocre salary and tell them they are lousy at their work and they still have not taken care of poverty, teen pregnancy, violence and out trade imbalance with China. What do they do all day?

Sure, these are tough times, and we have to bear the cost of public employee salaries (why does that seem to take some people by surprise? Who else is going to pay our employees?), and some public employees do not do their jobs well (some bankers don’t do their jobs well either), and some public employees do jobs (well or badly) that may not be strictly necessary during a recession (or ever), and there is no doubt that by organizing themselves public employees have managed to enhance their pay and benefits (which should lead us to ask not how come they get all the stuff, but why we don’t). We may well have to reconsider what jobs to offer and the terms of employment–though certainly not necessarily. But none of this excuses the sort of appalling boss behavior that has become a staple of public discussion. Nothing does. 

I don’t think the point of civil society is to allow us to collectively indulge our worst impulses. I thought, rather, we were aiming to bring forth the better angels of our nature–to act as a group in a way that will set an example to us as individuals. If we choose to treat our public employees so poorly there is every reason to believe that we will find ourselves treated the same way–and no chance that we will like it.