The stories of people raising, harvesting, cooking and serving food cannot help but speak to core values and being. There is something about farming that makes people want to tell their family stories, maybe becasue so many of us have at least some farming in our families’ pasts — after all, in many places growing and gathering food occupied most people most of the time.
This is not to say that all family stories are the same. They are not. Also, just because your family comes from farmers doesn’t mean you understand what farming — or working the land — means for other families. My farm experiences as a child and young adult in a small family-based village in central Sweden doesn’t mean I understand the lives or histories of the Richardson or Pullen families I’ve written about and photographed in previous posts on this blog. History is too complicated for complete understandings of that kind — but there is reason to hope that stories can help us grow enough understanding and empathy to take each others’ stories seriously. There is no reason to ignore the facts that remind us that slaves and serfs and stolen Indigenous lands are all part of farming, the growing of food. But those evils do not erase connections at the heart of farming that can connect and heal — family, community, hard work, land, spirituality and nutrition. The growing of food so that people can thrive.
The link below will take you to a radio conversation on NPR that, on one level, speaks to some very topical, difficult and current discussions in America (and the world), while also reaching deep into ideas about place and being — who we are in this time and place, given the histories and communities we grow from. The guests on this show are Ashley Gripper, an environmental epidemiology PhD candidate at Harvard, and Khaliah Pitts, a culinary artist and co-founder of Philadelphia non-profit Our Mothers’ Kitchens. I hope you enjoy it. It triggered some thoughts about my upbringing in the folds of my grandmother’s farm in central Sweden. I’ll post on that soon.