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Cultivating a Movement

  • Image: Image
  • Book Type: Edited
  • by: Sarah Rabkin, Irene Reti, and Ellen Farmer
  • Date Published: September 2011
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-972334365
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 340pp
  • Price: $19.95
  • Review by: Alyse Bensel

Gathering from the oral tradition of organic and sustainable farmers along the coast of the Central California region, Cultivating a Movement compiles selected interviews from key farmers that began and continue to pursue the sustainable agriculture movement in the United States and Mexico. While this project highlights only 27 individuals and couples, the vast online archive contains many more interviews with key farmers, politicians, academics, scientists, and many more ecologically minded individuals that contribute to this movement. Ranging in age, gender, class, and ethnicity, all of these farmers are involved with organic and sustainable farms that vary in size and crop.

In the foreword of the book, Linda L. Ivey, a professor of history at California State University, East Bay, articulates the goals of this collaborative project, only a small fraction of which can be contained in a print volume. Ivey states that the “voices captured here provide a first-hand account from one of the epicenters of the early organic farming and sustainable agriculture movement. In doing so, these interviews are nothing short of essential historical resources in the social, cultural, and environmental history of California.” Readers should note that the book’s entries are compiled through a series of interviews, in which the answers to questions are pieced together by the interviewers to create narrative. At times, due to page constraints, these narratives can seem disjointed, but for the most part they carry through in a clear fashion for the reader.

Each interview captures the distinct speaking style and dialect of these varying individuals. Andy Griffin, noted as having roots that “reach back to California’s 1970s organic farming renaissance,” speaks of his journey into organic farming. He talks about his business partner’s perspective on organic farming: “He didn’t want to see organics become an elitist sort of crop. He wanted food to be grown organically for everybody. So we were selling food for people.”

Nesh Dhillion, one of the younger players in the environmental movement, claims that “there’s a lot of inherent problems in supporting the old system. Whereas if you support a decentralized local system, you know what you’re getting and who you are getting it from. You’re looking the farmer in the face.” And, accompanied by photographs, these interviews give a face to the farmer.

Cultivating a Movement showcases the diversity of the farmers involved in these practices of biodiversity. This snippet of written oral history can serve as an essential text for any student of organic and sustainable agriculture by providing a multi-faceted perspective in the farmer’s own words, serving as important primary source material. In addition, for those who wish to read or listen to more material, the book provides the following site to visit: http://library.ucsc.edu/reg-hist/cultiv/home.

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Review Posted on May 01, 2012 Last modified on May 01, 2012
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