Gene Logsdon and Friends

I Live In A FarmUNtopia

In Gene's Weekly Posts on July 1, 2015 at 8:27 am



A great article in the May, 2015 Smithsonian magazine, “Welcome To Farmtopia” by Franz Lidz, gives yet another example of the legitimacy of the local food, backyard farm movement. I should be overjoyed since this sort of thing is what I’ve preached and predicted for 50 years. Farmtopia in this article features Serenbe, Georgia, one of the new homesite developments in the U.S. clustered around a farm instead of a golf course. The people who live in the houses volunteer to help with the farm work in return for sharing the food produced. So far, so good and I wish the project and others like it well. But I am not overwhelmed with optimism by this kind of farmtopia because I have lived too long and seen too many similar attempts fail. They mostly do not endure because they start with what I call “farming from on high.” Someone, usually rich and with great good intentions, sort of imposes or provides his or her idea of farming on a group of people. Projects like this tend to confuse someone’s idealism about farming with its realism. Developers of farmtopias first of all want to make money selling real estate. If they can do it by appealing to the latest trends, why not? But how often in my life have I watched publicly-inspired gardens laid out and planted with great fanfare in the spring turn into a jungle of weeds by fall.

If the new notion of local farming and food production is to endure, it must start with determined individuals willing to go through the hellfire of unpleasant physical work and low financial returns. The successful farmers and market gardeners I know would not believe they could afford to live in Serenbe, let alone want to farm there. Daron “Farmer D” Joffe, who calls himself an entremanure, was the first farm manager at Serenbe but has gone on to other things, as they say. He says in the article what I think: “A farmer wants to have equity and something to call his own.” Garden farming at best is not too profitable. More…

Gene Logsdon Finalist in Book Awards

In Around The Web on June 26, 2015 at 8:48 am



See complete list of finalists here

Farming Starts In Cities

In Gene's Weekly Posts on June 24, 2015 at 8:26 am


Farm commentators are remarking somewhat in surprise that the new move towards local food production and backyard farming are much more in evidence in and around cities than out where the big tractors lumber over the landscape. But, as most historians and economists have attested, this has always been true. Odd as it seems, agricultural innovation usually begins in cities. My favorite mind-stretcher book, The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs (1969) reviews the historical evidence in favor of this conclusion and it is almost impossible to dispute her, though at first I tried. I didn’t like the idea of those city slickers being agricultural pioneers. But it was all too painfully the truth. “New kinds of farming come out of cities,” Jacobs writes. “The growing of hybrid corn… was not developed on corn farms by farmers but by scientists in plant laboratories, promoted and publicized by plant scientists and editors of agricultural papers, and they had a hard time persuading farmers to try the unprepossessing-looking hybrid seeds.”  In another instance she points out that when the wheat farmers of New York realized they could no longer compete with western wheat growers, or thought they couldn’t, and switched to fruit farming, “the change was primarily… by the proprietors of a nursery that first supplied the city people with fruit trees, grape vines and berry bushes and then showed farmers of the Genesee Valley… that orchards and vineyards were economical alternatives.”  Likewise, “the fruit and vegetable industries of California did not ‘evolve’ from that state’s older wheat fields and animal pastures. Rather it was organized in San Francisco for supplying fruits to preserving plants and later to vegetable canneries.”

This primacy of urban initiative ruling rural work has been the case as far back in history as we can go. Where stable farming activity once established itself, it was in connection with people coming together to live in towns and cities. More…