Houriet, Robert (interviewee)
History of NOFA: (00:00:15) Samuel Kaymen and NOFA origins in lower east side of New York and development as part of the back to the land movement in the context of the "urban hip ghettos" and an urban to rural movement; influences include anarchism, Murray Bookchin, and LSD, which revealed contradiction between the natural ideal and the reality of life in the hip ghettos; (00:05:22) Louise and Samuel Kaymen's move to commune at Cold Mountain Farm in NY in 1968, of which he was last surviving member, from which he took that the communal move did not have roots in the land but was a negative move (to get out of the city) rather than positive (moving to agriculture and the land). (00:09:10) Kaymen knew nothing about farming and was motivated to form organization for cooperative sharing of information at time when the Movement (post-1968) was disintegrating and in need of reuniting; Kaymen saw agriculture as the point for creating a positive focus for uniting; initially looking to communal and homesteading groups looking for a positive affirmation to bring them together. (00:12:34) Hyams and problems of single causal analysis and problems in Kaymen's initial concept of organic as simply a natural way of farming: initially thought organic was to be in tune with nature, but later groups took natural out of organic because of conceptual problem that all things natural were good. (00:14:55) First meeting with Kaymen at meeting he called in Vermont; he was a good salesman and mobilized a number of communal people as that movement was breaking apart, as Houriet was, and looking for basis for creating self-sufficient communities; the Movement (SDS, antiwar) was falling apart and did not have a culture base; organic farming gave a purpose for the Movement as SDS self-destructed. (00:19:34) Organic cooperative agriculture at the time was political and understood as political, not a technical thing, and a new basis for organizing in the country, "organizing the people and the infrastructure that were already here" in the communes; the feeling that revolution was imminent was still in the air and people in the communes were waiting for it to start and support the cities with agriculture. (00:22:07) Houriet came onto NOFA in 1973 and first meeting called at High Mowing Farm in 1972 (Kaymen said 1971 at Westminster, Vt.); initially the purpose was informational, with everyone being named coordinator, considered a bottom-up, leaderless organization on anarchist model. (00:24:25) NOFA went from being educational to John Freytag getting grant to purchase a truck to pick up produce up and down the Connecticut Valley from Canaan, Vt., to Subdury, Ct., and deliver it to the People's Warehouse in the Bowery, NYC: connecting cooperatives to cooperatives, distributors to producers. (00:29:13) One of the early problems they faced was the social instability of the growers; but work was all consuming. (00:31:54) NOFA reached a turning point where the wholesale distribution threatened to consume everything; were more centralized than anarchically decentralized because the wholesale operation demanded it. (00:34:22) Houriet saw how the trucking operation was changing the organization and changed himself, going from being the newsletter editor and gofer to an organizer; at pivotal meeting in Corinth, NH, he proposed a radical change for NOFA to abandon the NY project and focus on organizing on a grassroots level to use farmer's markets as a means to organize cooperatives, making NOFA a federation of cooperatives; not centrally-distributed, but regionally grown and locally distributed. (00:39:25) Cozy relationship with Dartmouth early on helped make many of the early projects work due to the affluence and support, but that changed. (00:41:14) Proposal to organization led to Houriet becoming full-time organizer of farmers' markets, first in Vermont, writing grants, etc.; New Hampshire began to form itself separately.