Posts Tagged 'Agriculture'

Rurality Online

Rural Recommendations

Browse: Farmgirl Fare blog has friggin’ cute baby donkeys, seriously delicious recipes, and beautiful quilts. To put it simply, this blog is good therapy after a long day of work.

Read: Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, is a rare example of a novel that confronts politics, money, and the environment without being, um, badly written. Which is quite a feat, given that environmental novelists like Wendell Berry and Barbara Kingsolver (as much as I enjoy them) quite often become preachy and one-sided. Refreshingly, Franzen has created some of the most complex and engaging characters I’ve read in a long time. (And the book still manages to be a damn good exploration of the complicated political side to environmentalism)

In other news…

My alma mater, Kenyon College, just received a grant for a three-year project called Rural by Design, which focuses on a cutting-edge holistic approach rural sustainability. Over the past century, urban design has become accepted as a legitimate profession or pursuit, but this grant hopes to put rural design on the same page.

Speaking of rural design, check out these creepy aerial images of disconnected sprawl.

Grist posted this super-interesting article about the “war” between cities and suburbs— which might as well be titled “a real-life enactment of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom”. Unfortunately, this so-called war between cities and suburbs is not about the benefits and drawbacks to each structure of living and communing, but rather about structural sustainability versus the infringement on personal liberty. You might notice that there’s a third party missing from this debate: rural populations.

Obama talks rural communities and energy challenges. I don’t have nearly the leisure time to blog about the question of energy in the United States (aside from the occasional rant about the coal industry), but extraction of natural resources should always be in mind when thinking about rural areas.

…speaking of which, the coal industry is setting its sights on Illinois now that Appalachia is nearly used up and fucked over. Is anyone else reminded of that sleazy guy in college who was clearly dealing with his own insecurities by sleeping with one girl after another?

On the plus side, there’s finally going to be a study released about the links between mining and cancer! Except–oh, wait– we’ll only see it after it’s been reviewed by a mining industry group. Biased much?

Meanwhile, a new study looks at the different lifestyles that young urban people want— and while cushy, it also sounds pretty sustainable…

Hooray, my mountains! The Blue Ridge Mountains preserve 58,000 acres

Farming

Natasha Bowens offers a solid critique of the white majority in sustainable agriculture.

In Ireland, recession is returning the economy back to its rural roots. More evidence to support my quiet hypothesis that underneath the fluctuations of money, rural living is the natural state of communities.

A Kentucky county finds that the Farm-to-School movement isn’t as simple as it should be. Having worked with local food programs at my own college, I know that these projects are so exciting in those early idealistic stages, but are less easy to actually execute.

Native American Indian farmers have settled with the Obama administration after years of discrimination from the USDA.

Digital v. Analog

USA Today discusses the role that e-books have played in renewing people’s love of reading

…while the New York Times interviews college students about the same debate between e-books and hard copies.

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Urban Window Farming

I was tipped off to this from Tiny Choices, a great blog about the big effect of small decisions.

So Window Farming is a way to grow your own food in small spaces, when you don’t have land. And not only this is friggin’ cool, but these are some of the most beautiful windows I’ve ever seen:

"Britta's Windowfarm - Outside View" from Flickr

Women in Agriculture

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Click to read

Delicious Food and Strong Women

I’ve been meaning to give some publicity about a super post, “Feminism through Cooking,” over at RMJ’s blog.

Kenyon’s psychology department contains several of the national leading experts on eating disorders, especially media images and eating disorders. Although these are serious issues that require confrontation, I found that I was disappointed with the effect that the department seemed to have on the women students around me. It seemed like every girl I met had bad self esteem, a history with eating disorders, and–here is what really struck me– they seemed to take it as an essential part of their identity. Furthermore, these girls complained about their relationships with men, and yet continued to act in unhealthy ways that deprived them of their own autonomy.

Women for Women Int'l: a group of graduates who have formed a farm collective in Kyonza, rwanda

Women for Women Int'l: a group of graduates who have formed a farm collective in Kyonza, rwanda - ggInTheField on Flickr

What seemed to be lacking was a pro-active approach, something that would change their own relationship to food (and perhaps to men) in a positive way. Instead of critiquing the same commercials and magazine ads over and over, they could have read Francis Moore Lappe‘s studies of women’s communities in Central America who are remodeling their food system in order to better ensure that their children all get regular meals, or communities of women in India who are fighting for (and winning) food and water rights.

They could have studied also the effects on young urban/suburban women who work or intern on farms. In a scene from The Real Dirt on Farmer John, a young woman intern talks about her self-consciousness regarding her voluptuous body– until working on a farm, where adjectives like “full” “plump” and “juicy” are words that signify health, not ugliness. In fact, the strongest and most peaceful women that I meet are not the ones that I meet in WGS classes; they’re the ones that I meet on farms.

For further reading:

When my generation of women walked away from the kitchen we were escorted down that path by a profiteering industry that knew a tired, vulnerable marketing target when they saw it.“Hey, ladies,” it said to us, “go ahead, get liberated. We’ll take care of dinner.”

A Roll of Film Developed

These were taken a couple weeks ago at the farm. The large contraption that appears in several of the images is an industrial water pump (or, at least, the hose)– a project that took up several days for me and my farming partner.

I made those!

Jamie. That's actually a river, twenty feet below.

Julie

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In conclusion,

I love Virginia, especially Virginia farmland.

Rural culture is undervalued, and under attack.

Nonetheless, heirloom tomatoes are still shockingly delicious.

When growing food, one often also grows healthy in the heart.

Five Really Good Things

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Festival of the Photograph

Last weekend my native town (Charlottesville, VA) was covered in urbanite photographers here for the LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph. I’m not nearly serious enough about photography to warrant paying for some of the workshops or lectures, but I did manage to browse some of the galleries, and spend a wonderful Saturday night eating hot fresh doughnuts and watching the photographic projections at the Charlottesville Pavillion. I did take some notes during that event, so look for more on that soon.

(p.s. I yanked those images from the LOOK3 website, which didn’t have a photographer credited. But all credit goes to them and the site!)

Rhodia

Rhodia Drive Raffle Giveaway

I was lucky enough to be one of the winners of the Rhodia Summer Raffle Giveaways over at RhodiaDrive! I’m looking forward to a box of notebooks, stationary, and inks– what more could an art supply fetishist ask for?

 

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Financial Aid Increase

I received my financial aid package for this upcoming year at Kenyon– an event which, for the past two years, has ranged from “highly disappointing” to “oh shit I’m going to have to sell my eggs.” Needless to say, I spent much of last year pushing the school to give me the aid that I deserve– and it looks like it paid off! It’s not as though I’ll be financially comfy this year or anything, but it does feel SO good to know that my work has gotten some recognition.

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Leaving the Tiki Trailer

Some friends of mine are spending a few weeks in France, so I’ll finally be able to move out of the ugly tiki-decorated trailer that I’ve been inhabiting for the past two months. I’ll be taking care of their house and organic garden, the fruits/vegetables of which I can take freely. It’ll be nice to have some income, and to be a little closer to town. 

 

Virginia

Central Virginia Farms

I spent all day yesterday driving around central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley, picking up food from the famous Polyface Farm, Cherry Ridge Farm, and others. Of course I didn’t have any camera except a phone on me, so the pictures are sub-par. At Polyface, we were lucky enough to arrive on slaughter day. I’ll elaborate more on this later, but if you’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma you know that this is a very fun day to visit. What Michael Pollan didn’t mention, though, is that the farming Apprentices aresome seriously handsome young men.

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If I hadn’t already fallen back in love with my homeland, I certainly did yesterday.

Block Printing (or, How to Market the “Rural Look”)

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One of the benefits to starting a local food distribution business is the many haphazard, DIY projects that spontaneously need doing. Sometimes this can be a total pain (e.g., when I’m planting a field of asparagus and my boss suddenly needs meat sorted and fridges cleaned), but it can also be a pleasant surprise (when, say, I suddenly need to design, carve, and print a stamp for his delivery bags).

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So I spent some quality time with the Speedball stamp carving tools, and came up with two designs: a rooster and strawberries. My friend O., who was helping with this project, compared the process of carving stamps to “trimming cuticles.” Very accurate, I’d say.

To be honest, I feel a little yucky after this project. I don’t like the marketing side of food– I think it’s sad enough that we need advertising to convince us to eat healthy foods. I also don’t like when my boss instructs me to make something look “farm-y,” basically reducing a complex and fraught way of life to a children’s book cliche. I might as well have put a man in overalls and an ear of corn on the stamp.

 

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