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The Morning News interview about Farm Together Now

October 27, 2010
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The Morning News recently interviewed FTN co-author Daniel Tucker about the soon to be released book. Read the excerpt below or check out the full transcript here (with more dialogue about other projects).
TMN: Regarding your book Farm Together Now, what’s wrong with the way our food system currently works?

DT: To put it simply I’ll have to quote Joel Greeno from Kendall, Wis., an activist-farmer I interviewed last year for the book, and he says, “Corporate agriculture is not in it for quality. They’re not looking out for the consumer or the farmer; they’re just in it to make money, pure and simple.” And Joel is right. The logic of the food system just mirrors the logic of all capitalist, efficiency-oriented, speculative markets where people are encouraged to benefit from other people’s losses.

But to be clear, the project of Farm Together Now is not about explaining what is wrong with the food system. That analysis is needed, and we are lucky to have some amazing people who are doing that work of describing the problem of the food system—most notably Michael Pollan, but also other amazing folks like Christopher Cook, Raj Patel, Heather Rogers. For a long time now Frances Moore Lappe, Vandana Shiva, Wendell Berry, and Wes Jackson have been critically breaking down the complexity of the global food system from local farms in the U.S. to their counterparts in India and all over the place.

Farm Together Now is about trying to build on that work and instead look at the people who are trying to create solutions to a broken system.

TMN: How did you decide which groups to focus on as you wrote Farm Together Now?

DT: Amy Franceschini, my coauthor, and I tried to identify people across the U.S. who represented some of the different tendencies and orientations happening under banners like “food justice” and “sustainable agriculture.” We wanted people who felt the food system was broken and were implementing their visions for what solutions might be, but who had different specific ideas about what that looked like and how to talk about it. Similar to AREA, this project has been about looking at a fragmented landscape of people who are doing great work but lack a coherent social movement that really advances in a coordinated way to transform society. So all the people we are looking at are really localized examples of potential solutions to the crisis of the food system, but it would be so much more profound when it becomes a real movement with demands, the ability to affect policy on an international scale, and the ability to control and distribute resources in a way that could add up to a real counter-model of what food from seed to farm to store to plate and back to the soil—the whole food chain—could look like.

So we got interviews with permaculturalist medicinal herb growers in the mountains of North Carolina like Joe Hollis, food bank social-workers turned urban farmers in Atlanta like the Georgia Hunger Coalition, and the South Central Farmers, who were evicted from their land in L.A. several years ago and have recreated themselves as a cooperative farming endeavor in the rural mega-farm landscape of the San Joaquin Valley, creating a kind of urban and rural bridge for their community, which had previously sustained itself in what was called the largest urban garden in the U.S.

TMN: Can you give us a brief rundown of the trip? You actually crossed the country to get the material for the book, correct?

DT: It was so amazing. I’ve always wanted to do travel writing, especially after 10 years of work that was really concerned with Chicago. So it was nice to get out and see some new places. While the book isn’t quite structured like a travel book, it still has a bit of that feeling of movement and of the importance of different places in people’s lives from the Intervale Center in Burlington, Vt., to small cities like Santa Cruz, Calif., and Portland, Ore., on the west, and the amazing terrain of the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado and Union Pier, Mich., in the vast and amazing in-between.

Amy and I divided up the 20 total interviews and visited 10 each with our collaborating photographer Anne Hamersky, visiting a total of 16 of the farms, and had local photographers, family, or ourselves filling in on shooting the other farms. The photography, combined with the farmer’s rich descriptions of their land and bio-regions, really gives you a sense of the complexity of this country we live in. It is daunting to think of how to address social and economic problems on such a large scale in such diverse and different contexts, but I really think that the 20 groups and individuals featured in this book point towards a much brighter future

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