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The Natural World

Agriculture

Photography

The LaBrie Farm

I was working on a documentary project about a section of Route 11 that spans New York State when I stopped at Edward and Mary LaBrie’s dairy farm in Jefferson County, about twenty-five miles from the Canadian border. During that first visit, in 1985, I resolved to do a separate documentary project on this family. Procrastinator that I am, it wasn’t until the spring of 1998 that I finally set out to record their vanishing way of life.

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Of Coyotes And Conversations

On the way to the chopping block, I picked up the hatchet. I laid him down, and he stretched out his neck. I swung the hatchet, but alas, not hard enough. He was wounded. His eyes caught mine, and I will never forget that look. They were soft, like a lover’s, and they said, “This hurts. Get it over with.” I swung again, and he was dead.

The Sun Interview

Armed And Dangerous

The Desperation Of Rural America — An Interview With Joel Dyer

Five times as many farmers now die of suicide as die from equipment accidents — which, historically, have been the single biggest cause of unnatural death on the farm. And that’s not even counting suicides made to look like accidents: if you’re about to lose your farm and have life insurance, you can crawl into your combine, and your family might be able to keep the farm. Personally, I suspect there are more fraudulent accidents than straightforward gunshots to the head. So it could be that ten or fifteen times as many farmers die from suicide as die from accidents.

The Sun Interview

The Broken Promise Of Democracy

An Interview With Frances Moore Lappé

The hunger that is so common worldwide and that kills so many people every day does not result from a scarcity of food. Hunger is not about the relationship of people to food: it is about a human relationship in which a small number of people determine who has access to food and what is grown on what land. In Diet for a Small Planet and with my work at Food First, I’ve tried to drum home the fact that, in many of the countries where people are the most hungry, much more land is devoted to crops grown for international trade than to crops that sustain the people who work the land.

Fiction

Dry Roots

The wheat is starting to turn, flashes of deep gold streaking through all that tall, waving green. Before we moved to Colorado, I used to think wheat grew golden yellow, like in all the photos I’d seen. I suspect most city folk think that. They don’t realize that wheat grows up green and living and then dies, and that’s when it becomes useful.

The Sun Interview

Nature Of The Beast

An Interview With John Robbins On The Great American Food Machine

We call some animals pets and other animals dinner because our culture says that some animals are part of our circle of compassion and others are not. To some extent, an animal that is destined for human consumption is exempt from the laws restricting cruelty to animals. In other words, you can do anything you want to an animal as long as you’re going to eat it. There are Filipino communities in the United States whose members carry on their cultural tradition of eating dogs, and many people who don’t think twice about the treatment of veal calves find it very objectionable to see a dog treated that way.

Fiction

The Illustrated Diary Of Doris Koppleman

Only about half the number of people come to Ma’s funeral as to Dad’s. And Paul didn’t even bother to show up. I might have been madder if he did, anyways. At church Father Dietz didn’t have much to say about her. A woman’s life is not worth as much as a man’s, especially on a farm.

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