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Gastronomica Reviews Farm Together Now!

October 2, 2012
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Review: Farm Together Now: A Portrait of People, Places, and Ideas for a New Food Movement by Amy Franceschini and Daniel Tucker, with photographs by Anne Hamersky
San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2010
192 pp. Illustrations. $27.50 (cloth)

by Naomi Starkman for Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture – Vol. 12, No. 3 (Fall 2012), pp. 117-118 Published by: University of California Press. JSTOR Stable URL.

If the country’s good food movement continues to thrive, it will be largely due to our nation’s farmers—the original futures investors engaged in an often precarious practice of endless beauty and decay, triumph and loss. As the new book Farm Together Now clearly conveys, this movement for real food and sustainable agriculture is comprised not only of farmers but also of urban activists, seed savers, beekeepers, and the many other groups who are building gardens to build communities and growing food to promote justice, some on borrowed land or borrowed time. Showcasing twenty of these American heroes, artist and designer Amy Franceschini and organizer and documentary maker Daniel Tucker—aided by the arresting photographs of Anne Hamersky—create a tapestry of the visionaries who are making a new food system.

In the first chapter, “Organizing Alongside Conventional Farmers,” we travel with our guides to rural Nebraska and encounter third-generation animal farmer Jim Knopik, who turned his own farm—and his neighbors—against factory farming in launching the statewide Nebraska Food Cooperative. We then meet third-generation Wisconsin dairy farmer Joel Greeno, who has been milking cows since he was ten years old and is now the president of the American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association, an organization of dairy farmers dedicated to establishing raw milk prices that return dairy producers their cost of production plus a profit. The story of this food movement involves not only those working with the system; it also centers on individuals who are creating new structures. Take, for example, the farms the authors feature in the chapter titled “In Intentional Community”: Sandhill Community Farm in Rutledge, Missouri; and Tryon Life Community Farm in Portland, Oregon. Both groups are building communities based on biodynamic, cooperative, and egalitarian principles.

The book moves on to chronicle the “policy shapers” who are transforming the inner city. Urban farmers at Oakland’s City Slicker Farms—which sells produce for every budget— and Angelic Organics Learning Center in Chicago—one of the largest community supported agriculture (csa) farms in the country—both fit the bill. They are sprouting not only new urban gardens, but also supporting programs to improve their local food systems by changing the way their communities gain access to good food. In “Up and Out of Poverty,” we are similarly schooled in the hard work of the Georgia Citizens Coalition on Hunger, whose programs grew in response to the lack of healthful food in Atlanta’s primarily African American neighborhoods. An advocacy project cum food pantry and support group, the organization now grows its own food for sale at farmers’ markets.

The book shines a light on the next generation of farmers, such as the team at Freewheelin’ Farm in Davenport, California, who aim to shrink their footprint at every turn, including delivering csa shares by bicycle to their subscribers. In Union Pier, Michigan, we are inspired by anarchistorganizer, fair-trade coffee roaster, and avid tax-resister David Myers, whose On-the-Fly Farm csa subsidizes low-income subscribers and who shares donated farmland with God’s Gang, a nonprofit organization that provides access to good food for displaced residents of the Chicago Housing Authority.

Along the good food road, we meet farmers saving seeds in Arizona and others producing heritage wheat in New York. We meet a sixth-generation acequia farmer who irrigates his land from the oldest “water right” in Colorado, a practice heralded as “water democracy.” We follow up with the South Central Los Angeles Farmers, whose riveting story of displacement was told in the documentary film The Garden and who have since reinvented themselves in Bakersfield, California. Finally, we are invited into the rare world of a radical beekeeper in New York’s Hudson Valley, whose goal is to rebuild the dna of the honeybee to strengthen it to resist disease. They, and many more, farm together now.

With numerous digressions and detailed research, Farm Together Now offers much food for thought to readers both well versed in and relatively new to this movement for change. Its greatest strength is in giving voice to the creative solutions and myriad moving parts that comprise our food system, all of which are inspiring a sea change against the industrial food machine.
—Naomi Starkman, Cofounder of CivilEats.com

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