At the beginning of the year as we brainstormed ideas for events, projects, and lifestyle choices for the house, we discovered our shared interest in the environmental implications wound up in the production and consumption of food. We wanted to explore these issues beyond simply shopping at a coop or buying unprocessed foods – so we decided to go to those who know most about healthy food production…local, organic farmers. Over the course of the year we have spoken to 8 local farmers about their livelihoods, philosophies, and concerns in an effort to put a face and story to the food we so frequently take for granted. We have compiled these interviews into an anthology called Conversations with Farmers that we are editing and designing now. We will print hard copies for the EcoHouse, Environmental Studies department, admissions, the farmers, and ourselves. We will also create an online version for anyone interested in reading their stories. When all is finished, our project and experience will be published on the Macalester website. Keep your eyes out!
While writing these farmers’ stories, I was reminded of the book I had read the summer before called Turn Here Sweet Corn – Organic Farming Works by Atina Diffley. This memoir based on Atina’s life running the Gardens of Eagan organic vegetable farm, provides a perfect cap to a year of learning about the struggles, joys and importance of organic farming. Her advocacy in addressing the pressures of suburban development through fighting one of the world’s largest companies aligns with Macalester students’ passion for activism and social change. Her story inspired me to take classes about America’s food system and intern on an organic farm, so I knew it would inspire other students. I contacted Atina and she graciously agreed to come speak at the Earth Week closing dinner on campus. After filling up on a variety of potluck items, the group circled up to hear about Atina’s experience farming and the court case she won against Koch Industries which created an Organic Mitigation Plan for organic farms in Minnesota. Afterwards, we had a great discussion about how to fight seemingly impossible problems within the food system, acknowledge that change takes time, and remember to have fun while doing it.
For more information on farmer-educator, activist, public speaker and author Atina Diffley check out her website: http://atinadiffley.com/ Or read her wonderful book!