Farmscape reviewed in BookList

Swander’s students in Iowa State University’s Writing about Environmental Issues course set out to gather the stories of Iowa farmers from which this set of monologues was created. The voices here describe the perpetual challenges and change of farm life and its personal impacts. Commentary follows the script, accompanied by black-and-white photographs evoking times past. Testimonies cover the struggles and opportunities of three different (at times antagonistic) types of agriculture: direct-market farming, undifferentiated commodity-market farming (one or two bulk commodities sold to food chains), and differentiated, branded-product farming (Eden Farms, Berkshire Pork). All this comes alive in the stories of a middle-aged failed family farmer, an organic vegetable truck farmer, a senior citizen winery owner, and a twentysomething slaughterhouse worker. As this chorus of disparate voices somehow connect, Swander creates a unique achievement: a volume that records how this oral history and theater project “has helped fuel positive change and dialogue” in Iowa. Now, in book form it just may do the same on a national level.
— Whitney Scott
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