Date posted: November 7, 2010

Old Thinking New Thinking

Categories: Community | 3 Comments

Its a thoughtful rainy Sunday. I am mulling over some ideas in my head. I’ve been trying to find a way to articulate a strong motivating force in my urban farming activities. My actions stem from a want to honor, preserve and practice old wisdom around food. Actually, around community in general.

When my family migrated to the U.S. they traveled with railroad worker camps in Texas and Kansas. When The Depression, hit they left Kansas for California (Story is my gg-grandmother was too cold in KS. I agree.) and purchase with their hard earned savings, a block in a small town in the Central Valley. Eventually, family members lived in houses they built on parcels of the block. Some still do in fact.

I mention this because I am fascinated with the manner in which these past generations lived- tight community bond, sought care from one another, grew and shared their own food, maintained rich cultural practices and were inclusive beyond just the Mexican community. I am also intrigued by the forces that caused the shift away from communal culture. There are layers of complexity to living in a communal model, I know. Yet, I still want to have a healthy vibrant and connected community in the context of today. By that, I mean there is no going back. So how do we move forward and retain the knowledge from hard lessons learned in past eras?

Back in June, I attended an Earth Island presentation that was a conversation between Raj Patel, author of Stuffed & Starved among other things, and Annie Leonard, creator or The Story of Stuff.  I was deeply inspired by the words of Ms. Leonard. She presented a more hopeful path on which we truly are embarking. A path where people are grappling with defining what community is, how to engage in it and opting for economic choices that can grow a community (and its resources) rather than deplete it. She referenced the book Plentitude, by Juliet Schor. Juliet Schor is also author to the Overspent American in which she introduces the idea of a Share Economy.

As I move forward in my own thinking and action I truly wrestle with finding a balance between independent creative action and slowing down or compromising to be inclusive. I am inspired by and watchful of models of communal living, social business models…basically anything that provides a practical model for how to create a livelihood and live in a way that is connected (to our own needs, each other, our environment…you know, the big Connected).

I have been learning more about how to incorporate this thinking into my own projects and practices. This led me to discover a great book called Power and Love by Adam Kahane (Kahane has worked in sustainable food). It provides an honest depiction of how well intentioned social change movements can become turf and resource wars of their own. It also moves beyond this common folly to outline techniques to overcome this tendency and work together toward a shared goal.

This is highly relevant to food system change as it requires policy change as well as cultural shift and community participation to be effective. The below video is a talk on Kahane’s book (there are 5 parts to the talk), check it out.


  1. Flavor of Italy

    I’m constantly pondering the same things and have come to the realization that within our globalization it is still possible to live a local, sustainable culinary life. The days of a pure, Italian diet are gone but it doesn’t mean we cannot still follow a sustainable culinary existence. If anything, the globalized nature of our existence helps us keep our eyes wide open to pitfalls.
    Just the fact that we can share this common dilemma from two different parts of the globe is something quite positive and remarkable!

  2. Dog Island Farm

    My friend and I are currently working together to start a new political party that has an emphasis on food policy.

  3. esperanza

    Flavor of Italy: Thank you for your comment. I agree we are in a unique position to learn from our past mistakes and excel with the opportunities for broader thinking.

    Dog Island: Oooh tell me more!

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