Oral history is a tool for conveying first-hand experience and sharing knowledge. It also provides a medium to weave experiences together, crafting a whole patchwork of personal stories into a larger history. The 29 oral history excerpts in the recently released, Cultivating a Movement: An Oral History of Organic Farming & Sustainable Agriculture on California’s Central Coast, capture the integral 40-year history of the organic movement in Santa Cruz and its rippling effect onto the rest of the world. As part of the Regional History Project set in motion by the University of California, Santa Cruz, this curated anthology defines an organic food revolution. And according to forward, written by Linda L. Ivey, Ph.D., the organic movement is indeed a revolution: “a historic shift in the way a society operates within its natural environment.” Twenty-nine voices attest to the large-scale shifts in cultural, economic, societal, and environmental practices by explaining their strategies for navigating a sustainable way of life.

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With strawberries lining grocery shelves from Boston to Tokyo, some say that global food supply chains are becoming ever more complex. In one sense, that’s true: speeding fresh-picked fruit across the country, or around the world, is no small trick. But in order to achieve this, it is actually necessary to simplify the way food is grown—to turn food from a source of nutrition and local pride into an industrial commodity produced by industrial-scale farms. Read more

At a recent Saturday market, Hilton Graham was doing brisk business in just-picked organic produce from his nearby Telfair County farm outside of Savannah, Georgia. Dressed in an old polo shirt and well-worn jeans, he was assisted by two sheepish teenage boys whose baggy shorts and designer sweatshirts gave them a decidedly un-farmer like appearance. While one hand was fluffing up bunches of greens and the other pointing his helpers in the direction of a waiting customer, he told me with a big wide grin that, “It’s a great day for a market, and as crazy as this place gets, it still gives me peace of mind being here.”

Forsyth Park is an idyllic place – Spanish moss drips from the trees; the park’s open space is filled with frisbee-chasing dogs and laughing children. But the experience for Graham and other African-American farmers of selling organic produce in this park at this time is not just another farmer’s market story. Excluded for decades after World War II from public funds that helped white farmers prosper, black farmers have also been left out of the growing ranks of organic farming, a movement that is giving small farmers across the country a chance at success. As recently as 1963, segregation still ruled the South and Forsyth Park was for whites only. Read more