The Death of a Family Farm

From Fast Company:

At the end of a road lined with the skeletons of old field equipment, Tony Azevedo sits in the living room of his white farmhouse and tells me not to expect much from his son Adam.

“He had a breakdown,” says the 62-year-old organic dairy farmer. “The Adam you met isn’t the Adam we raised.”

The house is a California Central Valley ode to country kitsch: Plates decorated with roosters hang on the walls; chicken-shaped salt-and-pepper shakers huddle on shelves; milk-maid figurines pose in a glass cabinet topped with silk flowers. Through the lace curtains of the front windows rises the “Old West” town that Tony built to showcase his antique collection and make money hosting cowboy-themed soirees.

But if the décor is charming, the farm’s soon-to-be empty pastures are not. Sixty years after Tony’s father started the Double T dairy in Stevinson, the 600 Azevedo cows are for sale, and Tony and his son aren’t speaking to each other. Neither man will walk the thousand yards that separates their two houses in order to make peace.

Wedgeworth on the “Agrarianism” of Allan Carlson


Earlier this year we were sent a review copy of his newest release, The Natural Family Where It Belongs: New Agrarian Essays. This book continues Dr. Carlson’s project of stimulating social critique and imaginative constructive proposals, illustrating and explaining the family-centered socio-economic policy. In what follows, we will summarize The Natural Family Where It Belongs, highlight some of its more salient observations and criticisms of modern liberal capitalism, and raise a few questions that need still to be addressed as well as some important concerns.

The book asserts “the remarkable thesis that agrarianism is alive in twenty-first century America and—if not exactly well—showing clear and enticing prospects for the future” (ix). But, and this is a point we will return to towards the end, it isn’t clear that Dr. Carlson’s central proposal is necessarily agrarianism, though that is certainly a feature, nor is it clear that The Natural Family Where It Belongs is really a book about agrarianism, despite the subtitle. Instead, it seems that the main argument is for “household” economies and “household” politics. Indeed, as we will see, this book begins by laying out a basic theory of what politics is and how it ought to work, then it explains the modern “fall” away from household-centric life, lists noteworthy critics of this fall, and then concludes with specific policy proposals for restoring the household to its place of central importance. The household obtains such necessary importance because it is the one domain where “the ‘sexual and the economic’ are merged” (ix) and the natural family (a husband and wife pairing in which children are normative) can flourish. And so, as foreword goes on to state, “the common thesis is that family renewal will only occur as these bonds and goals are recreated and strengthened in the years and decades ahead” (x). In short, this is a book about family renewal and its relation to the rest of public policy and political theory.

Leaving the NFL to Farm

An interesting story from CBS:

LOUISBURG, N.C. – At one point number 60, Jason Brown, was one of the best centers in the NFL.

At one point he had a five-year, $37 million contract with the St. Louis Rams.

And at one point he decided it was all meaningless – and just walked away from football.

“My agent told me, ‘You’re making the biggest mistake of your life,'” said Brown. “And I looked right back at him and I said, ‘No I’m not. No I’m not.'”

So what could possibly trump the NFL?

You wouldn’t believe.

Jason Brown quit football to be a plain, old farmer — even though he’d never farmed a day a in his life.

How Restaurants Become Impervious to Criticism

From Grub Street:

I first heard the term “**** line” from a British journalist who’d spent years in the trenches of Fleet Street. He was describing a venerable old gasbag editor of his, a once-reputable gentleman who was now beyond reproach, despite the fact that he drank himself senseless at lunchtime and took lengthy afternoon naps. This was not meant as a putdown. On the contrary, those who ascend above the mythical demarcation are impervious to the random quibbles and criticisms of everyday life. Those below (i.e., most of us) are judged by harsher standards, and doomed to a life of striving and disappointment. But to be above the **** line is to enter the realm of immortality and myth.

The London Beer Flood

From Gizmodo:

On October 17, 1814, over a quarter million gallons of beer were unleashed onto London’s streets. The 15-foot tall tidal wave of booze crashed into buildings and flooded cellars, even killing eight especially unfortunate souls. The culprit? A bursting vat.

The epicenter of the London Beer Flood was Horse Shoe Brewery on Tottenham Court Road, which was brewing porter in huge vats. A metal hoop on one of these vats snapped. The force unleashed by one bursting vat broke a several others, and pretty soon there was a flood of porter pouring through the streets.

When 2nd Graders Eat at an Elite Restaurant

The NYT sent a few second graders to Daniel, one of the most expensive restaurants in New York City:

One Saturday afternoon last month, six second graders from P.S. 295 in Brooklyn got a head start on the fine-dining life when they visited the acclaimed French restaurant Daniel. There, five waiters presented them with a seven-course tasting menu (after the trio of canapés and an amuse-bouche, naturellement). The meal was overseen by the star chef and eponym himself, Daniel Boulud, whose goal was, he says, “for the children to really discover a lot of flavor, a lot of layers, a lot of texture.” These discoveries included Smoked Paprika Cured Hamachi (the “most-foreign thing for them,” Boulud says), Crispy Japanese Snapper (“which they loved to see”) and Wagyu Beef Rib-Eye (“a big success”). To capture the children’s reactions, the magazine asked Jeffrey Blitz, the director of the Oscar-nominated documentary “Spellbound,” to make a video.

The High Cost of Homemade Food

An interesting story from Reason:

France’s restaurants and French cooking are under attack. The enemy comes from within-and wears a white hat.

In July, the country debuted the fait maison law. The first of its kind, the law holds the professed purpose of promoting fresh French cooking, which has been on the wane for years. More than half of the country’s restaurant revenue last year came from fast food joints and sandwich shops. One study, carried out by French catering union Synhorcat, claims nearly a third of restaurants and bistros use packaged ingredients to prepare meals. A poll performed for the industry publication L’Hotellerie Restoration last year suggests that the number is much higher.

While France’s chefs still have a reputation for producing great eats, even the country’s top restaurants no longer dominate the global culinary scene. Only five of the world’s top 50 restaurants call France home today. That’s down from 14 in 2004. Last year Bloomberg News reported that the title of “world’s capital of gastronomy” had packed up and left Paris for Tokyo.

Despite all this data, nearly three quarters of the French people polled by L’Hotellerie Restoration state that they’re happy with restaurant meals there.

The Aging American Farmer

From National Geographic:

TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan—Art McManus slowly threads his 2001 white GMC pickup through a rolling grove of cherry trees, their limbs heavy with crimson fruit. Eyeing his 25-year-old grandson working with a crew of farmhands, he stops to watch them attach a mechanical shaker that grips a tree and violently rocks its cherries into a canvas catch frame and conveyor.

“Each one of those trees is like a child—when a limb breaks, it bothers me,” says McManus, who planted this orchard of maraschino cocktail cherries more than a decade ago. “It took all this time to get it to this point, and I’d like to keep it going.”

But the 73-year-old owner of the 150-acre Southview Orchards isn’t sure he can make that happen. None of McManus’s three grown children wants to take over the tart cherry farm. (Read “The Next Green Revolution” in National Geographic magazine.)

His son makes good money as a lineman for the local power company. A daughter works as a physical therapist. Another is a stay-at-home mom who isn’t interested in farming.

And so McManus remains a reluctant poster boy for the dramatic graying of the American farmer.

An Apple a Day Keeps Putin Away

From Roads and Kingdoms:

My family has a long history with apples. My 96-year-old paternal grandmother now lives in a Stalinist apartment block in Warsaw’s Mokotow district, but she comes from an apple-growing village outside Grojec. At the end of World War II, after the Germans had killed her husband for being in Poland’s underground Home Army, she moved to the ruined Polish capital as a single mother. With the help of a relative, she set up a fruit stall in a corner of a destroyed school to sell apples to local workers rebuilding the city.

My mother’s father, upon his return from Buchenwald, was a broken man who found solace in growing fruit. He sold nearly all of his possession to buy a plot of land south of Warsaw where he nurtured his hundreds of trees with the reluctant help of his children. Apple profits bought my mother her one-way ticket to London on the eve of the communist declaration of Martial Law in Warsaw in 1981.