Rod Dreher

So says woman farmer Sharon Astyk, writing in In Character. Excerpt:

I was not raised on a farm. My parents or grandparents were NOT farmers. My husband comes NOT from farming people but from an apartment in New Jersey. Both of us are overeducated people who trained for firmly non-agrarian careers: my husband teaches astrophysics and I used to teach Shakespeare and early modern poetry. Even I find it reasonable when people ask me why it is I’m digging in the dirt all day, instead of all the other things that I could be doing. Heck, on mornings that involve spit-soaked rabbits before my tea, I may even agree with them that it seems crazy.
If my life is a little nuts, and it may be, I’m not the only woman out there who has consciously chosen a crazy subsistence life. Among professional farmers, the only fast-growing segment of American agriculture is independent women farmers. The state of Pennsylvania alone, which lost 2,000 farms in the net last decade, added nearly 1,000 farms run by women. But with only just over 1 percent of Americans working on farms, we can’t get a sense of the scope of women’s participation in self-sufficiency projects looking only at professional farmers. There’s a real sea change occurring in the relationship everyone has to food, especially the primary provisioners. From 2007 to 2009, for example, there were an estimated 2 million new vegetable gardens grown in the U.S. alone, and while it is hard to know exactly how often women are the primary or collaborative gardeners, previous evidence suggests that women constitute about 60 percent of all gardeners.
There has also been a boom in backyard chicken keeping and other forms of small-scale husbandry, and a return to home baking, jam making, and preserving. Some people attribute this to growing concerns about ethics and safety in food supplies, others to a new back-to-the-land movement. It is undeniable that movies like Food, Inc. and books like Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle have made it harder for people to be unconscious about their food choices. Now that everyone is talking about carbon footprints and we’ve all heard that we burn ten calories of oil to get every calorie of food we eat, the logical next step is to change this. For many people, safe food is something that you have to either get locally or grow yourself. Taking care of our families got more complicated as we learned more about our food system – but we also started to find some of the deep appeal of doing things for ourselves.

Read the whole thing.
(By the way, editors, as the publications editor for the Templeton Foundation, let me tell you that the Astyk essay, and anything of the other great essays on ethics and morals appearing on, is yours free to reprint — you only need to write me for formal permission. Rdreher (at)

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