by Margot Anne Kelley
David R. Godine Publisher
Ever wonder if there's a better way to live, work, and eat? You're not alone. Here is the story of five back-to-the-land movements, from 1840 to present day, when large numbers of utopian-minded people in the United States took action to establish small-scale farming as an alternative to mainstream agriculture. Then and now, it's the story of people striving to live freely and fight injustice, to make the food on their table a little healthier, and to leave the planet less scarred than they found it.
Throughout America's history as an industrial nation, sizable countercultural movements have chosen to forgo modern comforts in pursuit of a simpler life. In this illuminating alternative American history, Margot Anne Kelley details the evolution of food-centric utopian movements that were fueled by deep yearnings for unpolluted water and air, racial and gender equality, for peace, for a less consumerist lifestyle, for a sense of authenticity, for simplicity, for a healthy diet, and for a sustaining connection to the natural world.
Millennials who jettisoned cities for rural life form the core of America's current back-to-the-land movement. These young farmers helped meet surges in supplies for food when COVID-19 ravaged lives and economies, and laid bare limitations in America's industrial food supply chain. Their forebears were the utopians of the 1840s, including Thoreau and his fellow Transcendental friends who created Brook Farm and Fruitlands; the single taxers and "little landers" who created self-sufficient communities at the turn of the last century; Scott and Helen Nearing and others who decamped to the countryside during the Great Depression; and, of course, the hippie back-to-the-landers of the 1970s.
Today, food has become an important element of the social justice movement. Food is no longer just about what we eat, but about how our food is raised and who profits along the way. Kelley looks closely at the efforts of young farmers now growing heirloom pigs, culturally appropriate foods, and newly bred vegetables, along with others working in coalitions, advocacy groups, and educational programs to extend the reach of this era's Good Food Movement.
Foodtopia is for anyone interested in how we all might lead much better--and well-fed--lives.
“Kelley puts a human face on the back-to-the-land movement with fascinating profiles of the “renegades” behind the centuries-old phenomenon . . . she excels at drawing the big picture around human relationships to food, resulting in a satisfyingly substantive work. Farmers and foodies will savor every delectable insight." — Publishers Weekly
“Essential reading on the state of local and organic growing and eating, and a useful addition to the history of American utopianism.” — Library Journal
“Foodtopia gives us a generous overview of Americans’ historic and contemporary involvement in utopian communities through the lens of their dietary beliefs and practices. From Thoreau’s Walden to Penniman’s Soul Fire Farm, the search for agrarian values and food justice should inspire us to support—and join—these movements.” — Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health
About the Author:
Margot Anne Kelley has a PhD in American Literature and an MFA in Media and Performing Arts; for nearly 25 years, she taught at the college level. She is the author of two books for general audiences focused on people in relationship to the natural world, Local Treasures: Geocaching Across America and A Field Guide to Other People's Trees. Since leaving academia, she served as the editor of The Maine Review and co-founded a community development corporation which runs a food pantry and community garden, among other programs. Ms. Kelley lives in Port Clyde, Maine.