Is that what’s happening? I kind of think so, in food production anyway. Yes, the vast bulk of our industrial food comes out of large scale factory farming, but electronics surely seems to be leading the way toward something else. The backyard, local food revolution is actually only part of a larger evolution in the way society is reshaping itself. (I just read, in the NYTimes of all places, that there are now businesses that will take care of your backyard chickens while you go on vacation!!!) I see it both in the farming world and in the art world because those are the two areas I know a little about. In the very same way that a small business can start up way out in the boonies growing special heirloom grains and selling them online worldwide is a reflection of what has been happening in the art world. There must be a zillion musicians now who are writing their own songs, putting their music on disks at home with their own sophisticated electronic recorders and sound mixers and then selling their surprisingly professional and sophisticated work on the Internet. One of them lives and works in the woods right here in my neighborhood. He probably won’t make any money, but he does have an audience. The miracle of the Internet is that I can write his name here, Nick Barnes, and I bet you can find him online. Multiply him by several million and what you are looking at is musical production that does not depend on the big centralized Nashville music center for its existence and which in aggregate, whether profitable or not, competes with Nashville. I think (maybe just wishful thinking) that this can eventually be an economic force as well as a cultural force to be reckoned with.
I have several close friends who are professional artists, Karl Kuerner in Pennsylvania and Pat Gamby just down the road. Although both of these artists have their studios on their farms, their work can be looked at online from anywhere in the world. It is just bound to mean a renaissance in local art on the way.
Needless to say, self-publishing books has also become a big local activity. Lots of insiders are saying the big publishing companies have had their day because of the ease of self-publishing.
New examples of food production going local occur constantly. In Ohio, scientists at the agricultural research center in Wooster are working to bring hops to Ohio as a local, small farm venture. Hops were commonly grown here in the early 1900s and I have often roamed over one of those farms. One theory says diseases and pests made growing the crop uneconomical here but I think rather, since I have found volunteer hops growing wild in this vicinity, that as the number of local breweries diminished, there was no local market for this very labor-intensive crop. Now that small breweries are increasing again, hop farming could return. Right now, Ohio breweries are importing about $4 million worth of hops. Growing hops for gourmet beers is very much a joint effort of local art and local farming.
Backyard sea salt businesses along ocean shorelines are coming back for the same reason. Small artisanal cheese businesses likewise. In the early1900s, ginseng was raised on the farm where I grew up, some in the shade of slatted frames and some in our woods. Our road was called Ginseng Pike. Since the big market for ginseng is Asia, and Asian incomes are supposed to be increasing, perhaps this local food and art effort will return. People who believe in the healing power of herbs say ginseng is very healthful. Some consider it an aphrodisiac. Oh my, just what we need, another sex stimulant. This could be the next big thing: a product that combines local art, local agriculture, and local sex enhancement. Surely a winner.