Monday, April 15, 2013

Kate Christen: Kinetic history at play (and at work, of course…) in the fields of local food movements

Slavic Village Learning Farm, one of Cleveland Botanical Garden's Green Corps sites
The local food movement topic--all the topics our prior posts have highlighted (history, policy, community ramifications, etc.)--constitute a strong personal research interest of mine, and even more (especially since my research time is strictly limited!) a strong personal interest, full stop. Personal engagement plus research/professional interest clearly both factor for all of us in this workshop.

Doubtless also common amongst us is the draw of the topic's close framing in action-potential--its focus on historians as kinetic actors. From the initial description: "This Working Group is based on the premise that the methods and critical insights of public historians are crucial in uncovering and communicating those more nuanced histories, and that doing so is an outstanding way to link our own methods and values with vital public dialogue about a wide range of environmental and economic issues." Also in the original description (I think that's where): "developing or amplifying a historical and theoretical framework for thinking about the public history/food movement nexus and the opportunities for partnerships to extend civic dialogue and action in these realms." And as Cathy wrote this weekend, our posts show "that we're all groping toward defining a specific role for ourselves and our skills as public historians who want to strengthen efforts and discourses around local food while asserting the value of the kind of careful, contextualized knowledge that historians can help to build."

For our in-person time, I’m interested in exploring ways we may want to move on helping define and implement specific roles for public historians within these food-related settings, how we might pull these into action, including perhaps through some form of practice-oriented trainings.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tyler French: Attending to other tables as well as our own

I have just finished writing the copy for Nourish SC, a traveling exhibit of eight panels addressing community food security in my home state of South Carolina. I hope for the exhibit to become a rallying call for members of the local food movement to expand their efforts on the social equity front, which has been ignored in favor of the environmental and economic fronts of the movement. In creating the content for the exhibit, I interviewed 13 individuals involved in either the local food movement or increasing food security, including a local farmer, a USDA official, a food bank COO, social work and public health professors, and a board member of United Way of the Midlands.

I immediately encountered tension between the spoken and the actualized goals of the local food movement.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Plowing Boston Common

"Victory Garden Program. Secretary Plowing Boston Common, 04/11/1944" 
Maybe some of you have seen this image before, but it was new to me - I stumbled on it while looking for something else in the Flickr Commons.  The source captions it as above, and I'm assuming that the "secretary" is the state or federal Secretary of Agriculture, but that's not specified in the archival description.  (It looks like it could be Claude Wickard, FDR's Agriculture Secretary in 1944).

I love lots of things about the photo, but particularly the fact that they're using draft horses, which seems to suggest either that they were going for an "olde tyme" kind of association or trying to make a point about conserving fuel during the war (or maybe both).  And it raises so many questions for me, including where these guys in suits learned to plow with draft animals!

~ Cathy

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rebecca Bush: Farm families beyond “Farmer Bob”

Picture an American farmer.  Strong, independent, face well-worn with creases caused by worries about weather and money and the future - the image isn't too hard to conjure.  Dodge used this familiarity to great effect with its 2013 Super Bowl commercial, one of the most talked-about ads of the game:

So based on the majority of that lengthy ode to farmers of America, what demographic boxes can we check off?  Almost always, our imaginary farmer is a native-born white man over the age of 40, probably living in the Midwest, Great Plains, or certain areas of the South.  This may be an easy and effective advertising trope, but it doesn't begin to capture the complete story of agriculture and food production in the United States, either historically or today.

In the American South in particular, agriculture and food is wrapped up in a messy racial relations stew, one that touches on the history of 300 years of unequal labor and land ownership determined by skin color.