A Good Read:
Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness
by Lisa Hamilton
This book begins with a trek to a small family-owned dairy in South Texas. From the initial description of Highway 84 cutting a diagonal line across North Dakota to farmer’s wrinkles depicted as resting spots for active skin to the acrobats of a family tree, Lisa Hamilton defines(reaffirms) herself as a writer. She’s skilled in transitions and there are many but what I find most appealing is her attention to personal details. In every interaction, she focuses on physical attributes and speech patterns to a degree typically only acknowledged by speech pathologists.
That works, for this is a book based on dialogue. It’s also a book based upon beliefs and whatever your God is, there’s a lot it/her/him present within these pages. One of the most poignant examples occurs in the first third of the book that gives attention to Sulphur Springs, Texas and the dairy industry remaining there. In a deep oratory, Farmer Harry preaches that the golden rule for organics is pasture and that pasture is of God. “Why did Noah go around collecting animals?” “Because he knew there would be a pasture.”
Hamilton moves from a successful dairy cooperative to an ancient Spanish settlement of generational ranchers in New Mexico. The stories she uncovers about Virgil Trujillo and his family moving cattle and losing land point to extreme injustices that are now simply tolerated. We see a deep glimpse into the Trujillo heritage, the honoring of family tradition and an extreme love of the land.
Lisa rounds out her journey in LaMoure, North Dakota with the Podoll family. There in the Heartland, she finds a family fit for the cover of Farming Magazine who have turned from conventional methods to organic farming and raise nearly 100% of their own food. Meals don’t consist of Epicurean recipes but they are simple ingredient, real food meals created from the Podoll garden and always enjoyed in fellowship around the table. There, one of the Podoll brothers, reveals his truth, “gardening taught me how to farm”. From his hands and knees practice, emerged the knowledge of crop rotation and enhanced production.
Each of these profiles is woven together with detailed research about the current state of agriculture and the changes that farmers have seen in the last decade. The families within the pages claim resilience and adaptability and push forward with both independence and moral currency. Their ways are not conventional but they are lasting and while the work is hard, there are no lamentations.
Instead, they eat, they talk, they pray, and they sing at the top of their lungs. And they give hope to the rest of us.
Good Food Blogs:
It seems pickles are the new black and in this post, Novelist and Food Writer, Jane Ward tempts us with pickled lemons!
My friend, Nancy Vienneau, food writer for the Tennessean, offers up some wonderful words about honey bees and a very local honey cake.
From Spain, Natalie Ward creates amazing Caribbean sweet potato patties – welcome in our home where we have plenty of sweet potatoes from our CSA.
In Other Food News:
From NPR.org – Two sides of the GMO debate in California. Because California often acts as a bellwether, here’s an opportunity to come up to speed before we’re faced with a similar debate in other places.
The drought forces up food prices in the U.S. causing repercussions throughout the world. Here are some ways that African agriculture is responding including a different view on GMOs.
Meanwhile, farmers confronting the draught are angry at the absence of a Farm Bill.
This is a busy time and I’m not cooking this labor day so in lieu of a recipe or other food story, I thought I’d share some ideas of links of what I’ve been reading. Please tell me if you like this so that I know whether or not to consider it a regular feature.
Have a great weekend!