The Maine Farmland Trust and Left Bank Books invite the public to a free talk and book signing with Port Clyde author Margot Anne Kelley on Wednesday, August 24, at 7 p.m. to celebrate the release (August 9) of Foodtopia, an illuminating history that details the evolution of food-centric utopian movements in the United States. The event will take place at Left Bank Books in downtown Belfast and reservations are required: (207.338.9009 or email@example.com).
In Foodtopia, Kelley details the evolution of food-centric utopian movements in the United States that were fueled by deep yearnings for unpolluted water and air, racial and gender equality, peace, a less consumerist lifestyle, a sense of authenticity, simplicity, a healthy diet, and a sustaining connection to the natural world.
Kelley has organized Foodtopia around the stories of five back-to-the-land movements.
The first took place in the1840s when large numbers of utopian-minded people in the country, including Henry David Thoreau and Bronson Alcott, along with his daughter, Louisa May, established small-scale farming as an alternative to mainstream agriculture.
Kelley then examines what she calls another “groundswell of foodtopian experiments” in the 1890s and 1900s as the U.S. moved away from its rural, agricultural origins and toward an urban, industrialized future.
Next, in the midst of the Great Depression, she focuses on destitute urbanites who began turning to the land and the proliferation of utopian religious communities. Most famously, Scott and Helen Nearing went back to the land during this time.
The fourth movement Kelley examines took place in the 1960s and early 70s, when hippies and back-to-the-landers adopted foodtopian lifestyles in communes or as homesteaders. Finally, she concludes with a look at how today’s young farmers— who are growing heirloom pigs, culturally appropriate foods, and newly bred vegetables— along with others working in coalitions, advocacy groups, and educational programs, are working to extend the reach of this era’s Good Food Movement.
Foodtopia has received widespread advance praise:
“Foodtopia glides gracefully through the increasingly complex world of food. . . . An important contemporary book.” Mark Kurlansky, Cod and Salt: A World History
“Kelley makes the strong case that changing our food system is central to everything from quality and availability of the food we eat to the fundamentals of our very democracy. I agree.” Congresswoman (and 1970s back-to-the-lander) Chellie Pingree
“[This] is an engaging, informative, and inspiring journey, exploring the deep political and ecological values that motivate alternative agriculture.” Mitchell Thomashow, author of To Know the World: A New Vision for Environmental Learning
Kelley, who holds a Ph.D in American literature and an MFA in Media and performing arts, is the author of two books focused on people in relationship to the natural world: Local Treasures: Geocaching Across America and A Field Guide to Other People’s Trees.
She taught at the college level for nearly twenty-five years. Since leaving academia, she served as the editor of The Maine Review, co-founded a community development corporation that runs a food pantry and community garden, and serves as an adviser or board member for several other nonprofits focused on finding creative approaches to living more sustainably.
Copies of Foodtopia are now available for pre-order at the bookshop. Left Bank Books is located at 109 Church Street in downtown Belfast, and there’s ample, free parking in front of the shop and in an adjacent city lot.