I begin teaching classes in American studies this spring. While you’ll see my course listing this term is for a course in multi-ethnic literature, my more recent academic projects have focused on food and farming, with special attention to food insecurity and migrant farmwork. What you may not know about me is that I’ve recently started a farm of my own. Farming is different than the kind of work I’ve done previously, to be sure, but I experience it as a somewhat natural extension of my intellectual interests. Writer-farmers like Wendell Berry, Will Allen, Barbara Kingsolver, and Mark Shepard, have shaped my thinking about food and have called to me from the pages of their books to join them in the fields. (I’ve always been a fan of engaged learning!)
I currently have eight alpaca, a donkey, a goose, and twenty laying hens. This spring, I’ll be adding pigs and chickens to raise for meat. I will also break ground on a quarter-acre vegetable garden and begin the patient work of planting fruit trees. My farm practice is informed by permaculture principles. Permaculture = Permanent + Agriculture and speaks to a farming practice that prioritizes perennial, food-bearing plants that do not need tilled soil and annual replanting. The practice is part of a movement in sustainable agriculture that seeks to prevent soil erosion and promote carbon sequestration. My six-acre plot is just a drop in the bucket when compared to the enormity of most farming operations but it feels good to be getting my hands dirty in search of answers to some of the pressing problems facing our food system.