Given the growing interest in small-scale sustainable agriculture and the people who run these farms, it should come as no surprise that books on the subject aren’t far behind.

Earlier this year saw the release of Farmer Jane, East Bay author Temra Costa’s take on female farmers and the role they play in the emerging food movement.¬† That book was followed by Growing Roots: The New Generation of Sustainable Farmers, Cooks, and Food Activists by Katherine Leiner, who crisscrossed the country to meet cheese mongers, mushroom foragers, and beekeepers, and shares their stories and recipes in an anthology collection.

Now comes the home-grown Farm Together Now: A Portrait of People, Places, and Ideas for a New Food Movement by Amy Franceschini and Daniel Tucker (Chronicle Books, hard cover $27.50).

Tucker calls Chicago home, but folks may know San Franciscan Franceschini for her role in the city’s Victory Gardens project. A member of the artist collaborative Future Farmers, Franceschini was approached by Chronicle to, well, chronicle a crucial time in the nascent alternative farming movement.

In the summer of 2009, Franceschini, Tucker and San Francisco-based photographer Anne Hamersky took separate road trips around the country, and logged thousands of miles and hundreds of hours of face time with farmers. This book is the result, a portrait of 20 farms that gives readers a sense of the challenges faced by people pursuing an alternative food system to conventional Big Ag.

The guide, which takes a Q&A interview format, gives immediate voice to a diverse range of farmers and food activists.

Barbar Ann Christian harvests strawberries from a City Slicker Farm project./Photo: Anne Hamersky

Close to home we meet Willow Rosenthal and Barbara Finnin of Oakland’s City Slicker Farms, an urban farm, backyard gardening, and farm stand project in one of Oakland’s most food-challenged areas. Farm Together Now was completed¬† before City Slickers received a massive $4 million dollars in state bond funds to expand their works, a poignant coda to their story, which documents the real hardship of making change in communities with scant funds.

We also hear from the people who run Freewheelin Farm’ in Santa Cruz, an organic fruit and vegetable producer focused on conservation measures. To that end, farmers Kirstin Yogg, Amy Courtney,and Darryl Wong deliver Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares by bicycle and trailer.

Franceschini notes that while there’s a growing band of young, modern agrarians in the U.S., there’s also a massive collapse in small ag and the knowledge inherent in small-scale farming.”My hope with this book is that people take away a sense of urgency and a willingness to support local farmers and get involved intimately with the producers of the food we eat,” says the artist and designer. “I also hope the examples in the book reveal the true cost of food: social, material, and mental.”

Farmer Darryl Wong of Freewheelin' Farm washes arugula./Photo: Anne Hamersky

Pressed for a thumbnail sketch of sustainable ag, photog Hamersky adds: “It runs the gamut from window box basil to chickens raised by urbanites on squatted land to biodynamic large-scale production farms that feed thousands of families.” Why now? “We’ve latched on to this movement for many reasons: safer ecology, personal health, deeper community, simpler economy, and plain old deliciousness.

Hamersky feels that some of the most interesting stories in Farm Together Now come from folks whose families have been conventional farmers for generations who have now embraced sustainable methods of food production, lived and worked on both sides of the issue, and have a lot of wisdom to impart. These trailblazers, she notes, are often living in very conservative communities across the road from lifelong neighbors who don’t easily trust new work methods.

City dwellers, she says, may be surprised at the sophisticated, progressive farm philosophies and business models created in the middle of “nowhere.”

Check out the Farm Together Now YouTube video.

Locals can learn more from Franceschini and Hamersky at their book launch event (Tuesday, December 21) at The Green Arcade.

(Full disclosure: Hamersky is a professional colleague and long-time friend.)

[This post originally appeared on KQED's Bay Area Bites.]

You might also like:

Garden Teacher Kim Allen Offers Youth Space to Grow
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food
Farmer Jane: Females in the Fields
A Shout Out for the Garden

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel December 24, 2010 at 1:58 pm

I always wanted to do some farming by myself as our ancestors used to do it. I mean we still do it, but for commerce purposes and feeding an entire population. Farm Together Now looks promising. Thanks for sharing.

Happy Holidays.
Daniel´s last [type] ..Slipper socks


sarah henry December 28, 2010 at 12:40 am

Hi Daniel, Thanks for weighing in. I think many of us like the idea of growing food for our own consumption.


Daniel December 28, 2010 at 8:02 am

You are right, I think is healthier as it is possible to know what kind of chemicals you put in your farms. It is also a good option for saving money too.
Daniel´s last [type] ..Compression Socks


Jennifer Margulis December 28, 2010 at 10:47 am

This sounds like a wonderful book Sarah. I’m inspired just reading your review of it. We have garlic growing in our garden and I plan to grow a lot more of our food this coming year.
Jennifer Margulis´s last [type] ..What Did I Learn From Being Robbed


Sarah Henry December 28, 2010 at 11:52 am

Home-grown garlic sounds like a great start to me, Jennifer.


james January 8, 2011 at 4:08 am



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