As we slide into the holiday season, beginning with our most thankful time of year, we naturally begin to think about food. Sitting down to generous plates and celebrating all we’re grateful for, seems like a good time to give some thought to those who keep us fed. I’m not talking about Grandma’s cornbread dressing or Aunt Louise’s maple-bourbon-pecan pie. Rather, I’m thinking about the story that your meal would share if asked what it is and where it came from.
Acclaimed environmental activist, scholar, seed saver, and author Dr. Vandana Shiva has spent her life collecting those stories and advocating for food freedom. In her book, Who Really Feeds the World?, Dr. Shiva takes on our current food system, with all of its missteps and failures, and replaces it with agroecology–an approach to sustainable, local food that relies on and supports the interconnectedness of nature.
Dr. Shiva’s work takes her readers on an exhilarating, albeit lofty, ride through the foundations of “…a deep and growing crisis rooted in how we produce, process, and distribute our food.” She tears through the underbelly of an increasingly mechanistic food monopoly, run by literally five global corporations that claim to be legal people and have patent rights to the seeds that feed us. That, my friend, is just the first chapter. Warning: Her words, while righteous, are intense, and may cause you to never look at your shopping cart the same again.
What she weaves into the remaining chapters is hope–hope for the “promise of agroecology” that returns our food production to practices that are more local, sustainable, and maintains nutritional and ecological integrity. There is hope that those practices work: “These transitions are not a false utopia; they are actually taking place across the world. And emerging from the broken food system and the broken political system is a new living food system based on living seed, living soil, living food, and living farmers.” And there is hope that we have an opportunity to choose to make a difference.
I’ve got to be honest–reading Dr. Shiva’s work did nothing to squelch my already insatiable desire to farm whatever piece of soil I own, be it a few pots on a patio or a multi-acre plot outside the city. As a long-time gardener, I know the goodness of tromping in my garden boots and digging my fingers in the soil. I’m already dreaming about next year’s Seed Library, and the many possibilities of growing things. That’s why I followed up Who Really Feeds the World? with Lisa Kivirist’s new book Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers.
Matched with Dr. Shiva’s inspiring ecofeminist perspective, Kivirist lays out the practical steps to take your growing to the next level. She lays out the importance of women farmers in our food economies, and shows how to bootstrap your own farming adventure. Lest I leave anyone out, there are many other amazing new books available to encourage everyone’s local food growing explorations: The Ultimate Guide to Urban Farming, The Community-scale Permaculture Farm, The Bio-integrated Farm, and more!
Want more local food inspiration this holiday season? Join me in thanking all of those Lawrencians that contribute to our local food economy: The local food policy council that works to examine issues from food deserts to urban agriculture; the local organizations involved in reducing food waste and increasing resource stewardship; the growers, grocers, pantries, and preparers that work tirelessly to feed our small corner of the world. As we plan and prepare our feasts this season, may we give thanks to those who really feed us.
-Gwen GeigerWolfe is an Information Services and Public Health Librarian at Lawrence Public Library.