Neglected Media, Part 1: Soil and Our Food System
April 16, 2019
This essay is the first in a four-part series reflecting on the modern American food system. The extent to which the US agricultural system has become a profit-driven, chemically-fed, industrial machine is evident in various ways: mono-cropping dominates the agricultural landscape, fossil fuel-sourced fertilizers are the sole source of necessary crop nutrients, and industrial farmers rely on synthetic pesticides with carcinogenic properties. But urban sustainable agriculture movements also contain the seeds of hope for a more synergistic food system.
This series will thus begin with a focus on the corporate industrialization of food in the mid-twentieth century before turning to inspirational snapshots of a hopeful future, with a focus on urban agriculture in Philadelphia. In the posts to come, artist Hannah Riddle will guide us through a collection of stirring collages exploring America's agricultural landscape through the lens of 1950 – 1970s era National Geographic Magazines; Lila Bhide will introduce the Penn Garden, a student-founded initiative promoting sustainable food production and a shared educational space for Penn and West Philadelphia communities; and Nina Berryman and Alessandro Ascherio from Northwest Philadelphia's Weavers Way Farms will share field-knowledge from their experience at the intersection of urban agriculture, community service, and local stewardship.