Sunday, November 23, 2008
A Bountiful Harvest. My first History of Farming post.
Something I have been thinking about starting was regular posts on The History of Farming. The early 20th century American farm, seems like a good, but also a weird place to start. In a time when local/organic/urban farms are on the rise, and agribusiness is still a big factor in how food is produced, it seems real fitting. But, yes, people, for thousands of years have cultivated plants for food. And maybe, if I become dedicated enough, I will someday learn more about that.
But, as an American, and a photographer this seems like the place to begin. While in art school, learning the great masters of photography, the Farm Security Administration photographers were a huge part of my education. Walker Evans, Dorthea Lange and Gordon Parks are like gods to me. In a time when farming is a hot topic(for both the health of humans, and of the earth) it seems fitting to return to the time right before agribusiness, subsidies and genetically modified were words we used when we spoke about food. To a time, when we grew things so people could eat, and the people who grew them were paid for what they grew. It seemed simple enough...but it's not anymore. So while trying to find books on farming at the Somerville Library, I came across a book called, Bountiful Harvest. A collection of photographs compiled by Leslie A. Loveless; the photographer is Pete Wettach, who lived in Iowa and worked(among many things) as an FSA worker. Born in New Jersey, he longed to be a farmer, and moved to Iowa. His farming dream failed, but he ended up working to help the ones whose profession he longed for. He helped farmers displaced by the Great Depression, to purchase farmland. During that time he photographed. He knew these people, and was able to document them for about four decades. He shows us, not only the hardships of the Great Depression, but the farms that survived, but the many different facets of a farm life and community.
... maybe there needs to be a new class of FSA photographers, but we could substitute the word farm, for food. We could document people who grow healthy food, in ecological ways and to those who are teaching future generations to appreciate growing and preparing food.
what do you all say?
photograph by Pete Wettach
Posted by Erin at Sunday, November 23, 2008