|The Working Group at Ottawa's Experimental Farm, April 18, 2013|
Participants came to the table with a very wide range of backgrounds in interpretation, training, research, advocacy, and community organizing. Some key ideas that emerged from our discussions included:
- the importance of challenging the class distinction between manual and intellectual labor
- how to use tangible/physical experiences of growing and cooking food as a way to develop stronger questions that can inform our work as historians
- the need for long-term commitment to food- and farm-related projects
- how to educate ourselves and others about the complex realities of farming, agricultural policy, and marketing food
- ways to use public historical spaces and legitimacy to create new forums where people can connect across various class, political, and occupational boundaries.
|The Working Group has a working lunch|
But at the same time, we found ourselves agreeing that historians’ essential neutrality (that is, our core commitment to critical, contextualized inquiry) is a gift that can help us to raise more nuanced questions and create useable spaces for discussion within a politicized and complex field. So while we generally saw ourselves as advocates and allies for those working to relocalize food systems and challenge the dominance of big, industrialized agriculture, part of what we wanted to advocate for is a balanced conversation that doesn't demonize "big ag" or romanticize "the local."
|Another working group: the Experimental Farm's dairy herd|
For my co-facilitator Michelle Moon and I, the next steps after the meeting in Ottawa involve the book project that we've been developing around these questions. I'm hoping others in our Working Group will share a few thoughts here about where they see their food-and-farm-related work headed now. What next after Ottawa?
~ Cathy Stanton