Farm Together NOW! | Civil Eats

Farm Together NOW!

When I first started in the food business there were no rock star chefs. The late 80’s and early 90’s began a trend that created hundreds of almost-literal flash-in-the-pan celebrities and a handful of rightfully idolized geniuses. Today there remains a cult of personality around some chefs and TV cooks, but the attention is finally turning (and rightfully so) toward the farmers, without whom we chefs would be pointlessly clanking a lot of empty pans.

Enter Farm Together Now: A Portrait of People, Places, and Ideas for a New Food Movement (by Amy Franceschini & Daniel Tucker, Chronicle Books 2010). Here we find not rock stars but real people, true agrarians in the old sense of the word who understand that food, farms and fertility actually matter in a post-industrialized world. Twenty in-depth interviews with farmers of all types from across the country, accompanied by the illuminating and personal photography of Anne Hammersky, make for a revealing set of portraits–an album of the evolving American farm.

These are not all retro-hippie back-to-the-landers either, though there are a couple of those. In fact the first farm we visit is that of the Knopik family near Fullerton, Nebraska. Even if you’ve never met one, that image you may have in your minds eye of what a Nebraska farm family would look and sound like is brought to life vivdly as we learn how this family went from pre-chemical farming through the get-big-or-get-out boom and bust cycles to finally arriving on a path toward sustainability.

It has often been said that a good way to make a small fortune in farming is to start with a large fortune. President Kennedy called farming the only business where you buy at retail, sell at wholesale, and pay freight both ways. Yet Franceschini and Tucker bring us many examples of farming that raises people’s income, and their hopes.

The Georgia Citizens Coalition on Hunger, born of community organizing in the mid 70’s, it focuses on urban farms and farmers markets in underserved areas commonly referred to these days as “food deserts.” They built markets in public housing projects in Atlanta in the 90’s that focused on food that was not just locally grown, but economically and culturally appropriate too. Meanwhile Nuestras Raíces, started in 1992, is a coalition of youth groups, churches, probation departments, corporations and more that has built 10 community gardens, a 30-acre farm, and a café in Holyoke, Massachusetts.

In much the same way chefs would be nothing without farmers, farmers would be nothing without seeds, as they are the source of all bounty. In a world where corporate multinationals are succeeding at patenting life forms, Native Seeds/SEARCH is protecting heirloom seeds while supporting the native people of the high desert lands in Arizona and northern Mexico. In Farm Together Now we meet conservation director Suzanne Nelson and learn why protecting the seeds is so vital to life there, and everywhere.

We’ll bring the news to you.

Get the weekly Civil Eats newsletter, delivered to your inbox.

These stories provide a convincing argument for the proposition that there is indeed life beyond chemical and confinement farming, and that the solution to the problems of agriculture lies in many strong hands working together to bring food to their neighbors.

Originally published on Real Food For All

Today’s food system is complex.

Invest in nonprofit journalism that tells the whole story.

Chef Kurt Michael Friese is editor-in-chief and co-owner of the local food magazine Edible Iowa River Valley. A graduate and former Chef-Instructor at the New England Culinary Institute, he has been owner, with his wife Kim McWane Friese, of the Iowa City restaurant Devotay for 16 years. Named for his children Devon and Taylor, Devotay is a community leader in sustainable cuisine and supporting local farmers and food artisans. Friese is a freelance food writer and photographer as well, with regular columns in 6 local, regional and national newspapers and magazines. His first book, A Cook’s Journey: Slow Food in the Heartland was published by in August, 2008 by Ice Cube Press, and his lates book, Chasing Chiles, was released by Chelsea Green Publishing in March, 2011. Read more >

Like the story?
Join the conversation.

  1. Thanks for the reading recommendation. My own blog focuses on exactly this topic - putting a face on the local farmers and, in my case, consumers in the Central Maryland area in a way that others can relate to, connect with, and be inspired by. I love finding new reads that also highlight real people. There seem to be a few new books out recently, and I enjoyed Farmer Jane, which similarly showcased women farmers from a wide range of backgrounds and with different approaches. In the end, I think consumers are motivated frequently by other consumers, so I'm trying to include glimpses and eventually full profiles of their journey into local living.
  2. Thank you Renee - since you like this type of book, you might also be intrigued by my first book - A Cook's Journey: Slow Food in the Heartland

    And perhaps my forthcoming book coauthored with Gary Nabhan and Kraig Kraft - Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots on the Pepper Trail

    Both are chock-full of farmer and producer profiles. Meanwhile, I'm going to go check out your blog!


More from



‘It’s Impossible Not to Feel Like I’m Part of the Flock’

In an excerpt from her new book, ‘Under the Henfluence,’ Tove Danovich discusses her ongoing fascination with chickens and the challenge of reconciling the backyard trend with today’s industrial practices.


The IPCC’s Latest Climate Report Is a Final Alarm for Food Systems, Too

PAJARO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 14: In an aerial view, floodwaters fill the streets on March 14, 2023 in Pajaro, California. Northern California has been hit by another atmospheric river that has brought heavy rains and flooding throughout the region. The town has been inundated with floodwaters since Saturday after a levee was breached along the Pajaro River. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

This Farm Bill Really Matters. We Explain Why.

a trio of illustrations showing a black farmer, corn growing in front of the US Capitol Building, and a white woman with a baby paying for groceries with a SNAP-enabled card

Supreme Court Case Could Reshape Indigenous Water Rights in the Southwest

A close-up view of center-pivot irrigation watering corn on NAPI farmland. (Photo courtesy of NAPI)

All Eyes on California as Fast-Food Worker Rights Land on the 2024 Ballot

Fast-food workers and activists protest McDonald's labor practices outside a McDonald's restaurant on March 18, 2014 in Oakland, California. (Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)