Friday, January 22, 2010

Food, Inc[redible]

By: Erin Crissman, CuratorA few days ago, I had the pleasure of watching Food, Inc. for the first time with farmers, community members and friends. The program was sponsored jointly by Otsego2000 and The Farmers' Museum. With very little publicity, we were all amazed that the theater was completely full, people were sitting along the edges and I (with a few others) were standing in the doorway. I was moved that people of every age - literally from 8 through 90 were in the audience. Although I had heard all of the information presented in the film at some point, it was a much different experience to see chicken farming and feed lots on the big screen. I was most touched by the stories of the farmers interviewed in the film. I won't speak for the truth, fiction or otherwise of what was presented, because there are several sides to every story (truths, rather than TRUTH is an important part of how I approach my job- Monsanto, for example, has an entire web page devoted to their side of the story). Regardless, the farmers were passionate about their participation in our food system, how they would like it to change (or not) and most expressed concern about how their way of life had become unprofitable, mostly due to economies of scale. What does this have to do with my job? A lot more than I thought when I went into the movie. For me, this was a personal call to action, not only about how I choose to eat, but also about what my responsiblities are as curator of The Farmers' Museum. If you had my job and wanted The Farmers' Museum to collect some key objects that tell the story of agriculture today- what would those be? Suggestions welcome! Thanks again to: Otsego2000 Cooperstown Farmer's Market CADE and Foodshed Buying Club for their support!


Emily said...

Milking equipment from a variety of periods. Just in my lifetime (30 years) the equipment both sides of my family has used to milk the cows on farms in NH has changed dramatically.

I would not just include milking machines but all of the other materials used for cleaning off udders, sanitizing, etc.

Then there are the things that HAVEN'T changed very much since 1845 - how about an (interactive?) exhibit showing examples of shovels, rakes, or brooms - I think visitors might be surprised at how little some things have evolved in the past two centuries

Mellifera said...

If I were a young person who'd grown up in the suburbs who wanted to start farming (hey wait! I am!), I would love to have museums that can teach skills. For example, a place that not only has working oxen but can arrange lessons for people who want to acquire those skills. (Maybe you guys already do this.)

Tillers International is a great example. I'm hoping to be able to make it up there before we actually get started in farming, but I'm a young mom and I don't know that I'll ever be able to get up to Michigan and just take classes/intern for a while. Also, farming techniques would differ in different parts of the country.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, I think small-scale farming is back at least to some degree. I don't think it's completely a "back to the old days" thing, because there are lots of new ideas and technologies that should be incorporated, but on a small farm a lot of the old skills become worthwhile. A lot of them you just have to see and try with somebody to learn, or aren't safe to learn alone (ox driving... blacksmithing...). Living history museums can have a lot to offer in keeping those skills alive-- and moreso if they teach beyond the museum.

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