The Scoop

Landship Foods is inspired by the conviction that growing and eating healthy food is one of the most important things we can do for both ourselves and the broader communities of which we are a part. The name comes from the language of pre-industrial Europe. Before the enclosure movement and the associated rise in notions of private property swept England, the suffix “-ship” (as in "relationship," or "friendship") referred to an object or an abstraction with collective duties and mutual rights. Thus, the term “landship” suggests that land was an entity through which humans were joined to each other by a set of rights and responsibilities. I advocate for a revival of this awareness.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Inventing Traditions

All traditions have a history. They begin somewhere, sometime. Traditions only gain that label and the associated notoriety through some kind of social negotiation or political maneuver. Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger conceptualize this phenomenon as "the invention of tradition".

This maxim applies equally to food traditions. Over the holidays our family decided to smoke a small hog I got from a farmer here in Athens.



The whole hog roast is an event that I enjoy just about as much as any other, and as such have written about it here several times. But we have never smoked one at home before. I am hoping we can invent that tradition!

I started some sauerkraut fermenting a few weeks ago and it was ready when I got back to Athens, so I decided to make a meal out of the kraut and leftover pork. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Collard Season

The ham hocks and onions are stewing away on the stove to make a big pot of stock for my collard harvest.

A few months ago a friend gave me some extra collard starts that he had, so I dug up a new, small bed right outside the back door for 'em. And now I have a huge pile that will cook down into a reasonable size for a potluck I am going to tonight.



My dog was a little confused about what happened to them, though...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Occupy Absentee-Owned Farmland



As city governments across the nation figure out "socially-acceptable" ways to force Occupy folks out of public space, many of the protesters and their supporters are trying to channel the energy of the occupations into continuing discussions about income inequality in the US. I ran across a blog posting by Ohio farmer and writer Gene Logsdon recently that offered a provocative avenue.

Check out his thoughts here.

His thoughts point to an interesting conundrum: Considering plenty of rural folk are in the 99%, why is it that Occupy is largely a big city phenomenon?

I guess this is just another version of Thomas Frank's combustible question:
What's the Matter with Kansas?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Feasts

My birthday is always a day for giving thanks, but this year it was federally-sanctioned: November 24th was also Thanksgiving Day. So, the day of excessive eating was even more over-the-top. It was topped off with my mom's world famous cheesecake smothered in a backyard blueberry sauce! And, as the guest of honor, I didn't even have to serve myself...(my sister presented it because she felt bad for forgetting my birthday present!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Transition

Though not the official beginning of winter according to the "experts," I think winter began today here in Athens. Either way, the productive growing season is in the future and the past - not the present. There was a light, patchy frost last night and when I get home my weekend task is composting the summer crops. I was able to harvest lots of the peppers and the last of the okra before it was frost-bitten though.







Luckily my kale is pretty well established.



The one good thing about pulling out the tomatoes is that it means deer season is upon us!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Homegrown Terror

Just a few days ago I was enjoying the brisk and sunny weather on my walk to school when I caught out of the corner of my eye the newspaper headline with that dreaded "T" word: Terror.

This time it was not some "foreign" threat, but a very local one. The article reported that four northeast Georgia men were arrested for manufacturing ricin, a toxic gas, and trying to secure other weapons and poisons. This was, of course, shocking but nearly as unsettling was the fact that these men were all over 60 years old and at least one over 70! Another source pointed out that, as with many other bad decisions, this one was hatched in a Waffle House.

Some of the online chatter about this event portrays it as a kind of hopeless criminal caper: four deranged old farts with too much time on their hands. While one could no doubt make a comical film based on these characters, I can't laugh at the reality. Several of them were militia members and carried a web presence from the days of the state flag controversy. I know they are extremists, but I also know too many other good-ole boys and girls who take the FOX News/libertarian/get-the-government-out-of-my-life/"No New Taxes" line seriously enough that after a couple of months of unemployment they might join the Waffle House gang, or at least elect one of them for city council.

A few blocks after I read the newspaper headline I passed a car with a bumpersticker on it that read in an ornate gothic text, "Secede!" In the corner was a portrait of Robert E. Lee. There were also several other stickers which identified the owner of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee as a wealthy, white college kid from rural Georgia (Bulloch County, to be precise). Why does he want to secede, or even sport such a bumper sticker? Dear reader: This is not a rhetorical question, please send me an e-mail with your thoughts...

I think the UGA undergrad and the Waffle House gang have a common politics rooted in the myth of rugged individualism. National politics is growing increasingly polarized and the right continues to offer the stale rhetoric of "free" market capitalism as the seedbed of deserved prosperity: less government intervention ensures that those who work hard reap "their" rewards. I disagree. There is no such thing as individual success or failure; all outcomes are the result of social relations. As Wendell Berry succinctly argues: There is no such thing as autonomy. There is only responsible and irresponsible dependence.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Methland, by Nick Reding

This one will be short and sweet; no pictures or anecdotes.

Buy this book; read it; then give it to someone else.

From the website:

Methland tells the story of the small town of Oelwein, Iowa–and, through it, the story of drug abuse in rural America. Once a railroad, meat-packing, and farming hub, Oelwein has been battered by the Farm Crisis and decimated by job losses. More recently, thanks to the lobbying of pharmaceutical companies in Washington, D.C., record amounts of methamphetamine, aka crank or crystal meth, are available on Oelwein’s streets. Like thousands of other small towns across the United States, the drug’s production has become one of Oelwein’s principal business.

As the LA Times puts it:

“Like all good journalism, [Methland is] the hand holding up the mirror, the friend telling us to take a cold, hard look at ourselves...”

Even if you don't live in rural America, this book matters to you. As William Cronon points out, "We all live in the country. We all live in the city."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Back-to-School Special


Back in Georgia, my classes start today for the semester. Luckily, my roommate tended the garden with care while I was gone and for the past few days I have been pickling okra and peppers and eating fresh tomatoes!





And there's still more coming in from the garden:



A bountiful garden makes late summer in Georgia much more enjoyable than it would be otherwise!


Friday, August 12, 2011

If you're going to San Francisco...

One of my best friends came through the Gulch for the 85th reunion (possibly because I told him we would be roasting a whole hog...) I think this photo is from the morning after the all-night roast, and as he was on his way to San Francisco the sunflowers seemed a righteous prop!


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Final Harvest


Tomorrow marks the end of my sojourn in New Mexico. The past few years I have come out for the entire summer, but this year was shortened due to schoolwork. It was still quite enjoyable though. Our final harvest today brought a lot of veggies into the kitchen. For dinner we had the chickens we raised here throughout the summer stuffed with our root vegetables and served with a fresh-from-the-garden salad.



Many hands make light work...

Friday, July 29, 2011

New Mexico News

Trying to grow food in the high desert keeps one busy. I have only been here a week, but it seems like at least a month.

Here is a taste of our recent harvest projects (vegetable and animal):



photo credit to the peerless Ellen Madden, who also appears in the photo below



more soon...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Backyard Garden News

After a few weeks of strong growth, the cucumbers might be on their way out due to a full-on assault by squash bugs...

But luckily the okra is coming on:



And the watermelon (the vining plant covering most of the garden at ground level) looks poised for a brilliant summer finale:

Monday, July 4, 2011

(Food) Independence Day

A few weeks ago I looked at the old sweet potatoes on my counter and decided that I would just stick 'em in the ground in the hopes that by fall they would grow into a whole bunch of sweet potatoes. I recalled my grandma's story about how every year as a child they would spend the morning of the Fourth of July planting a field of sweet potatoes and then in the evening the whole family would take a picnic - complete with watermelons - out to the cool spring-fed pool in "the ol' river swamp."

So, even though their sweet potato fields were a few hours south of here - hence warmer - I thought I would repeat this Fourth of July ritual just for fun.



Hopefully they will produce before it gets too cold this fall. Being on the roof should help: it gets full sun and is surrounded by lots of concrete and metal.

But more than just a sentimental ritual, I also think that planting (and hopefully harvesting) food on the Fourth of July might be one of the most meaningful ways to celebrate independence; with all of the lobbyists, governments, and corporations trying to shape what you eat, a heaping helping of food independence is pretty radical!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Volunteers Abound!

This past spring we started a re-design of the rooftop gardens which will be completed in the fall. The green roof itself is one of the oldest in the area and is still performing admirably in the "not leaking" category. But the soil was really compacted so amending that was one of the first tasks. In the process, seeds from the compost sprouted all over the roof and we now have a veritable forest of volunteer edibles. The melons are probably the most striking:



But I also really like the purslane:



Considered a weed by most Americans (commonly called pigweed), purslane is also a delectable edible. It is ridiculously healthy and can be steamed, stir-fried, eaten in a salad...Most botanists argue it originated in India, and many purslane enthusiasts claim it was Gandhi's favorite food.

Gather wild edibles responsibly, by checking out lots of reputable sources.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Weather Update

As the tired cucumber leaves indicate:



It's hot 'round these parts!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Opportunity, Montana ?

Towards the end of my recent sojourn in Montana my dad and I took a brief detour through the town of Opportunity, Montana.



How could you not? At one level, there is the initial touristy reaction: "Oh, isn't that ironic, and so quaint? A small town in the middle of nowhere called 'Opportunity'." But if you are, like me, uncomfortable with the voyeuristic tourist gaze it doesn't take long to come up with some interesting, albeit often unsettling, questions. I guess I am especially sensitive to this issue because, having lived in rural places for most of my life, I think that the tendency to romanticize the countryside does more harm than good.

I haven't done the research, but my guess is that the town was named in the mining era - and the cynic in me hypothesizes that bankers and real estate speculators were the ones to give it such a unique appellation. Sort of like the naming of Greenland. But it doesn't take long to recognize that something not-so pleasant is going on in Opportunity. Most of it has a lot to do with the long history of mining in the area. The photo here is of smelter stacks from the also intriguingly-named Anaconda Mining Company.



And here is an aerial of the enormous Superfund clean-up site, where tax payers pick up the tab for the opportunities enjoyed by corporations and their government supporters:



But in addition to the Superfund cleanup and toxic waste ponds that delimit Opportunity, I want to suggest that there is more to its problems than that: it is a rural place in modern America. As such it is depopulating; simultaneously romanticized and villainized; largely forgotten; economically depressed; environmentally dumped-on; all-in-all, it is definitely not the land of opportunity.

But this is not a rural issue. In fact, I think the way that "rural" and "urban" have come to be dominant categories for ordering modern reality is itself a large part of the problem. There is a strong tendency to think of "the urban" and "the rural" as separate entities or opposite poles when in fact they are immanently connected. For instance, we tend to think of homelessness as an urban issue, yet in many cities most of the homeless are displaced from rural areas (which are even more woefully under-served than cities). Homelessness is better understood, then, as a social issue, not an urban one. In this way, and many others, the urban/rural distinction obscures the full dynamics of phenomena and often contributes to divisive politics.

And in closing yet another example from Montana. Driving down the highway not an hour from Opportunity, we passed a billboard that read: "Before meth I had a daughter. Now I have a prostitute." Rural communities across America are struggling with the meth epidemic just as urban communities struggle(d) with crack. The differences are not important, in fact they only obscure the central similarities: both drug problems are the result of an unjust distribution of political and economic power, a lack of opportunity.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Immigration and Agribusiness

With the incredibly restrictive and some would say unconstitutional anti-immigration law poised to go into affect in Georgia soon, the state's large-scale farmers are all in a tizzy. They claim that they have already seen a drop in "available labor" (meaning people willing to work in difficult conditions for the little they are willing, or can afford, to pay). The US still has incredibly high unemployment rates - and believe-you-me south Georgia is no exception to this rule - so there is obviously more to this labor "shortage" than is commonly allowed: it is a shortage of willing laborers under the given conditions. The painful irony here as it relates to immigration and economy is that many of the same people who are anti-immigrant (whether "legal" or otherwise) are also the ones who support the free trade policies that force people to come to the US as low-wage/no-benefit immigrant workers.

The (commercial) farm lobby is strong here in Georgia and has exerted significant pressure on conservative governor Nathan Deal, who deserves the moniker goober-natorial if anyone ever has. Witness this excellent example of political-speak, where he explains the rationale (perhaps there's too much credit in that last word, but it will have to do for now) behind his new plan to put prison parolees in the farm labor positions recently vacated by intimidated immigrant workers:

"I believe this would be a great partial solution to our current status as we continue to move towards sustainable results with the legal options available."

In addition to the illuminating oxymoron of a "great partial solution," his statement also manages to work in that key buzzword: sustainable. He is really pulling out all the rhetorical tricks on this one. In the full article I read, the paper also reports that many farmers have had to let crops rot in the fields. Illustrating the sense of entitlement long-enjoyed by large-scale growers, one Georgia farmer intones that:

"We've got to come up with something. There's no way we can continue if we don't have a labor source to pull from."

This guy clearly illustrates the tight-knit relationship between government and agribusiness: he expects to have the government create a pliable labor source, and goober Deal is politically-liable if he doesn't fall in step. After the farm lobby pulls off this political coup, they will slap each other on the back and continue to talk about how independent they are; then they will resume their campaigns to resist "government interference," which is what they call government action when it doesn't benefit them: minimum wage laws, environmental regulations, and other similarly "socialist" efforts. There is an unavoidable parallel here to the rhetoric employed by southern planters in the post-emancipation American South who complained that the government had to do something about the recently-freed black men and women who refused to work for white planters.

Don't get me wrong, I hate to see the crops rotting in the fields, especially with people going hungry all over the world (including south Georgia). But no one in the farm lobby (or their pocket) has even broached the real solution to the perennial fear of farm labor scarcity: improve farm labor conditions! There is not enough time to get into the minutiae here, but it is quite obvious that agriculture needs serious reform and this episode only highlights that farm labor conditions must be at the top of the list.

In more uplifting food politics news check out this audio clip: 93 Dollar Club. The thing I like most is that it highlights the importance of grassroots organizers: those who take the initiative to create change instead of relying on the sham of electoral politics, being immobilized by inevitable challenges, or becoming deterred by the impenetrable formalities of government bureaucracies.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Big Sky Summer

I'm at a food and agriculture conference in Montana. Here is a brief summary so far:



If I weren't worried about offending my Georgia readers who have been sweltering in the dog days of summer for a while now, I would point out that the highs here in Montana are about 65 presently...but that would just be rude.

When the conference ends, my summer begins. More updates soon.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Climate Change

I just went to a really interesting talk about the politics and realities of climate change by Patrick Bond.



I wanted to share this link to a short video about the fundamentally problematic nature of "cap and trade" or carbon-trading schemes:

The Story of Cap and Trade

The basic argument is a strong, yet simple, one: market solutions cannot solve market problems. It is safe to say that this argument is applicable well beyond the issue of climate change. Check out the other interesting videos on the above link...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer on the Roof



Now that the dust of spring semester has settled we have gotten some seeds started on the roof of the Geography department. It is pretty cool growing vegetables on a roof surrounded by atmospheric science equipment and curtained off by the tops of trees.



Every time I go up on the roof I am reminded of how much urban space is planted in ornamentals that could be growing food (especially somewhere like a university campus). I mean, Bradford pears (a fruit tree that was developed by USDA scientists to, paradoxically, not produce fruit) are one of the most common planted trees around these parts. What's up with that?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hightower Highlights

Hightower put on a good show last night at the Melting Point. While speaking specifically about efforts to put in high-speed commuter railways in Georgia, his largest point was that coordinated and sustained citizen action was required in order to achieve economic equality, social justice, and any semblance of real democracy. As would be expected, his stump-speech was peppered with hilarious down-home humor with a message, like the slogan of his neighborhood hardware store: "Together we can do it yourself." Just a few of the best:

"You don't have to be in 'Who's Who' to know what's what!"

"Some people want to label 'agitators' unpatriotic. I remind them that the agitator is that central column in a washing machine that gets the dirt out."

and my personal favorite, "Status quo is latin for 'the mess we're in'."

For more of his thoughts, click here

Sunday, April 24, 2011

It's Hightower-Time!

Jim Hightower, a populist activist of the stump-preaching tradition who once said, "There's nothing in the middle of the road except for yellow lines and dead armadillos," will be speaking in Athens at the Melting Point tomorrow night - Monday the 25th.



Hightower is a former Texas state politician who has long argued forcefully (and humorously) for an American democracy that is less captive to the interests of "big money." He will speak Monday night about efforts to rebuild Georgia railroads, and the event will be preceded by a volunteer work session and a public forum.

See this recent Flagpole article for more info.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Springtime Seed Swappin'

Collecting and swapping plant seeds is a skill and practice that has largely died out with the rise of commercial agriculture. In many cases, seed (bio-technology) corporations have successfully lobbied law-makers to make collecting seeds from cultivated plants illegal - a conception of intellectual property which clearly favors corporate interests and also suggests the extent of the commodification of nature. For some thoughts on the far-reaching consequences of this see Kloppenburg's classic book, or this website.



All that said, there are still people who collect seeds. But networks of seed-traders are increasingly important due to the decline in collectors, and later this month outside of our very own Athens, GA is a sure-fire seed swap. It has been running for many years and we are trying to increase the number of participants and exposure to this important practice, so come on down and check it out! There will be all kinds of fun to be had in addition to learning about seeds: home-made cider; live music; good food...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Voices of the Landscape

Requests from my dedicated readers (thanks, you two!) for a revivified round of blogging have been as rousing as the calls for a Lee Greenwood encore in Baghdad...

Though my energy has been focused on schoolwork recently, I have been planting some vegetables and planning for some cool projects so the posts will resume soon. Until then, check out this interesting article...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Resilience

A week after our big winter storm and we still have a decent amount of "wintery mix" on the ground. I had let the last of my fall vegetables go, thinking they would die off over the holidays. Though showing some obvious signs of damage, they are still chugging along. With a little pruning they might turn out just fine.

Resilience. A fitting theme for a day set aside to remember the struggles of the civil rights movement.