Pastoral method’s lack of a brand/name is the opposite of the ‘tragedy of the commons’

By Peter Kerr 20/09/2012

Our failure to neither name nor own the story to our pastoral method is a type of opposite ‘tragedy of the commons’. (See Wikipedia’s explanation here).

The TotC was (and still is in some arenas, e.g. fishing) an overuse and overexploitation of a common piece of grazing land – precisely because nobody owns it, but everyone is entitled to its use.

In our case (NZ Inc) our pastoral method is indeed owned by us all. Having collectively invested billions of dollars over the past 100 years in improving the ‘engine’ that converts sunshine, soil and fresh air into protein products, the knowledge inherent has been bequeathed to all Kiwis.

But because of, or perhaps even in spite of, the collective ownership, there’s never been a central or top-lead imperative to name or brand our agriculture’s key intellectual property.

Even worse, because we’ve given away the I.P. (rotational grazing, working in harmony with natural cycles, understanding soils, agronomy, the nuances of animal grazing in situ), for free, we’ve never valued the know-how.

We’ve taken it for granted that there is no significance to the continuous discoveries we’ve made, nothing worth saying “hang on, this is really cool stuff.”

In other words, collective ownership has meant no one, no organisation has stepped up and gone, “well we should do something about this.” That is, it’s the opposite of the tragedy of the commons.

By good luck and good fortune however, no one else has (yet) laid claim to the idea of our pastoral method. Even if some universities in mid-west America attempt to lay claim to the systems, the plethora of names given to our method shows that, if we in a concerted manner ‘staked our claim’, we’d have first mover advantage.

The tiny, shared steps we’ve taken in developing our systems to the integrated and sophisticated level seen today, has been quite a journey.

If, all those years ago, farmers, scientists and government had realised where the journey was going to take us, surely they would’ve named the destination and/or the trip.

We still have the opportunity to do so – and pasture Harmonies is put forward as a short hand for the story we all own.

On the other hand, perhaps I’m talking nonsense and to call it the opposite of the tragedy of the commons is way out of line.

This is a debate/discussion – what do you think?