Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Starvation and Abundance

Here are two articles I recently came across concerning the global food system: "Why Big Ag Won't Feed the World" in The Atlantic, and "Feast and Famine" in Origins.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Radical Agrarianism 2

By way of responding to AD's comments on my agrarianism essay, I thought I'd post some relevant passages from Wendell Berry's The Way of Ignorance that my friend Brian Miller of Winged Elm Farm in Philadelphia, TN recently sent me.

The major fault of I'll Take My Stand, Berry says, is that the "agrarianism of most of the essays, like the regionalism of most of them, is abstract, too purely mental. The book is not impractical - none of its principles, I believe, is in conflict with practicality - but it is too often remote from the issues of practice. The legitimate aim (because it is the professed aim) of agrarianism is not some version of culture but good farming, though a culture complete enough may be implied in that aim....As a regional book, I'll Take My Stand mostly ignores the difficulty and discipline of locality."

"The most insistent and formidable concern of agriculture, wherever it is taken seriously, is the distinct individuality of every farm, every field on every farm, every farm family, and every creature on every farm. Farming becomes a high art when farmers know and respect in their work the distinct individuality of their place and the neighborhood of creatures that lives there."

"Having settled even in so marginal a place as this, undertaking to live in it even by such marginal farming as I have done, one is abruptly and forcibly removed from easy access to the abstractions of regionalism, politics, economics, and the academic life. To farm is to be placed absolutely. To do the actual work of an actual farm one must shed the cliches that constitute "The South" or "My Old Kentucky Home" and come to the ground."

"One may begin as an agrarian, as some of us to our good fortune have done, but for a farmer agrarianism is not enough. Southern agrarianism is not enough, and neither is Kentucky agrarianism or Henry County agrarianism. None of those can be local enough or particular enough. To live as a farmer, one has to come into the local watershed and the local ecosystem and deal well or poorly with them. One must enounter directly and feelingly the topography and the soils of one's particular farm, and treat them well or poorly. If one wishes to farm well, and agrarianism inclines to that wish above all, then one must submit to the unending effort to change one's mind and ways to fit one's farm."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Notes Toward a Radical Agrarianism

Recently, I had an essay published in Ameriquests (vol. 7, no. 1), an online journal dedicated to "real and metaphorical quests towards 'America'". This essay came out of several years of discussions with the Food Politics Group at the Robert Penn Warren Center, a summer fellowship in Guatemala and Cuba with the Center for the Americas, a panel at the 2008 Radical Philosophy Association conference, and innumerable conversations with many of you. These ideas, of course, are still in motion, and so your comments are encouraged.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

David Bradley Tractor

After 8 months at Ecotone with a weedeater as our only petro-powered farm tool, the David Bradley tractor has arrived! Two weekends ago, C.J. and Ozark drove to Van Buren, AR to visit family and pick-up this hand-tractor from Liz and Dale Balls, a member of his mother's church whose father first bought it and used it on their family farm. Not having run in years and needing some attention, the super-neighbor father-son Smith duo helped C.J. get it running, and hopefully taught him a thing or two about engines. After a couple of days of work, and some magical tinkering by Mr. Smith, it now runs like a top!

Built between 1951 and 1953, by Sears and Roebuck Company, this David Bradley tractor (Model # 917.57561, Series 301) was built with a 3 horsepower Continental engine, instead of the regular Briggs and Stratton. It has lots of different attachments, and in addition to the trailer (modeled below), we also have an adjustable foot plow and a cultivator.

The idea is that this will pull the chicken coops across the pasture instead of us. We'll keep you posted. In the meantime, it can haul all the water we're carrying to the animals while everything's frozen!