Spring, glorious spring! As our farmers’ markets start to ramp up for the season, our Simple, Good, and Tasty book club pick reminds us to stay in tuned with the who, what, where, and how of our food. Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food, by Wendell Berry, is a collection of essays about farms, farming, and eating throughout our modern history with food. Culled from stories from the 1970s until today, we get a peek into the issues that face our agricultural system from Berry’s very personal, very thoughtful perspective.
Drawn from over thirty years of work, this collection joins bestsellers The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Pollan, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, as essential reading for anyone who cares about what they eat. The essays address such concerns as: How does organic measure up against locally grown? What are the differences between small and large farms, and how does that affect what you put on your dinner table? What can you do to support sustainable agriculture?
In the book, Berry expounds on the advice he often gives “city people” when they ask what they can do to support sustainable food, and the book is a good reminder of how simple it can be. Berry says “To eat responsibly is to understand and enact … What can one do? Here is a list, probably not definitive:
- Participate in food production to the extent that you can.
- Prepare your own food.
- Learn the origins of the food you buy, and buy the food that is produced closest to your home.
- Whenever possible, deal directly with a local farmer, gardener, or orchardist.
- Learn, in self-defense, as much as you can of the economy and technology of industrial food production.
- Learn what is involved in the best farming and gardening.
- Learn as much as you can, by direct observation and experience if possible, of the life histories of the food species.”
With those ideas in mind, please join us to discuss Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food on the last Thursday of the month, April 28th, at Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op’s Selby location from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. and at the Harmony Co-op in Bemidji from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
To kick off the conversation, here are a few things we might discuss:
- What do you feel are the most significant issues we face due to industrialized agriculture?
- The concept of “women's work” presents itself especially in the third section of the book. What personal stories or observations can you share about the role of women in the household where you grew up – city, suburb, or farm. How did that shape your perspective about food and the process of getting it to the table?
- If you live in the city, do you find it difficult to connect with agriculture as a concept?
- What was the one “big idea” that you took away from this book?
So I guess the message is: read, think, and -- of course -- eat! We look forward to chatting with you at book club!
Tracy Morgan is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. She also runs Segnavia Creative, a business development and marketing firm, and is co-owner of the new Kitchen in the Market. Tracy serves on the board of directors for the Mississippi Market Natural Food Co-op in St. Paul.