This is the Farm(er) project. Why the (er)? To start, not all of the people featured here would want to be called farmers: some may prefer gardener, forager, educator, activist, or poet. They are not necessarily “foodies,” either. They are our food people; their hands, minds, and hearts work to feed the rest of us. Second, this ptoject is equally about the person who tends the land and the land itself. The farm and the -(er).
From the projects inception, the focus of my travels has been to find mentors and friends in my own farm-world journey. I have always been attracted to the fringe, so I found an instant affinity with farmers. Less than one percent of people working in the United States (US) today claim to be farmers, according to the EPA. To co-opt the cry of the Occupy movement: farmers are the 1%.
So how is it that the remaining ninety-nine percent of working people have a hard time learning where their food items originated? How could we measure someone’s “involvement” with their food? Certainly CSA subscriptions are on the rise in many parts of the country, but how is this really affecting consumer’s habits in this country and beyond? These questions are well beyond the scope of these photos, but I offer this ethnographic undertaking up to you, and I hope there will be moments of illumination therein.
This photo ethnography is broken into three sections based on rough US geographic areas:
There is a bit of information about each farm or organization at the start of each section, but the photos are mostly intended to speak for themselves, which is an echo of the moments that these photos were taken in: a mode of asking questions and keenly observing through my lens, all the while in awe of the work these farm(er)s do for the 99%.
I offer thanks to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Lake Forest College, and Dr. Glenn Adelson for their support of this project. I also thank my dear friends Sarah Brusig, Charlotte Capaldo, and Caressa Givens for their help by arranging meetings, making connections, and being my willing travel companions. Thank you.
Finally, please note that all photos on this site are subject to creative commons licensing and were carefully taken and intentionally curated by Liz Birnbaum.