After seven weeks of thorough discussion on a variety of food-related topics, the Food Studies Introductory Seminar is well on its way! Following each course meeting, students are encouraged to debrief with  journal entries designed to extend the pupil’s interaction with course material. In celebration of an amazing two months gone and a highly anticipated two to come, we would like to share one such journal entry with you…

Journal Entry Provided by Janna Safran

The first part of this journal is me realizing that all of my previous knowledge and perspectives of farming are false conception of what farming really is. The second part of this journal is a reflection of what I learned and how that ties into one of the readings.

I know that some of my original perceptions of farming are shallow and arrogant, but please just bear with me.

I didn’t understand what farming really was; to me, it was a business, a means of production of food and a way of income. I didn’t understand why someone would chose to be a farmer- why they would waste their life to stare at rows of cabbages. I didn’t understand the journey that even something as simple as an apple took to get onto my hand.

But what I failed to understand was that farming is much more than just wearing overalls and staring at cabbages. A successful farmer must understand the anatomy of a plant, insect biology, the chemistry of pest chemicals and nature, and so much more. One simply doesn’t wait around for their produce to be ripe, they must religiously scout for pests, maintain a threshold that will be healthy for their produce, and work with the land to produce the best produce.

Another thing I failed to grasp was the multiple ways that a farmer can control his/her land. I use to think that farming was rather a game of chance- you planted it and it was up to the weather to either be nice or mean to you this year. However, there are so many more variables within that equation, some that you can control- like pests. There are cultural, physical, biological things that one can do to help deal with pests before bringing in the chemicals to kills them. I didn’t know that there was a strategy to farming- like putting grass in between crops to ensure a healthy environment or putting plants nearby crops to enhance pollen transfers.

I was blown away by the anatomy of the plant- I didn’t know that plants could be male or female or both. I didn’t know that some plants could pollinate on their own and be self sufficient.

To me, farming was a business, but to others, like Natasha Bowens, farming is much more than that. Her article, Why I Farm, brought a new perspective to farming and really opened my mind to looking at farming beyond a capitalistic view.

I want to highlight these few sentences that really stood out to me:

“The land beneath our feet carries our history and our freedom. It is healing and empowering and can be a commons that binds us together. My history traces back to the moment my ancestor’s shackled feet hit this soil, when the African farmer became the American slave…reclaim the connection with the land that was long before the oppression.”

Bowers brings up an interesting point- farming, for her, is about getting back to her roots, connecting with nature, but also healing from the oppression that exists in the past but also today.

This is slightly off topic, but in my Biological Anthropology class, we are currently talking about the extreme pressures that we, as humans, are exerting on the environment and in a way are messing with natural selection. By doing so, we are messing with nature, treating it like it’s a game piece in chess. Our species is so caught up in this capitalistic world that everything turns into a competition and a business. We forget our roots, we forget where things come from, and we forget the journey that someone or something traveled to get where they are today.

Today, we are fighting against nature; I think that makes us the bad guys. But Bowen is using farming to work with nature and be connecting with nature just like her and many other ancestors today.

After this week, I have a much more open mind to understand why people chose to become farmers but also the importance of farming beyond a business. I hope that this new knowledge will help me understand the process of food and help me take into account what farmers and other food workers go through on a daily basis.