A lyrical memoir of the relationship among farming, eating and sustaining community in Sonoma County, Calif.
Raskin (Communication Studies/Sonoma State Univ.; The Radical Jack London: Writings on War and Revolution, 2008, etc.) begins this chronicle of a year’s exploration into the origins of the local- and slow-food movements in Northern California with the observation that in this region “the feeling of paradise lingers.” While acknowledging the environmental damage that has been wrought on the landscape that most of the world thinks of as wine country, the author credits the area’s small farmers, agriculturalists and vintners with fostering a unique sense of community in what remains, despite its proximity to San Francisco, a predominantly rural area. Raskin’s firsthand approach allowed him to get to know some of the farm’s owners and field laborers. Along the way, he writes about well-known local figures such as Alice Waters and the late M.F.K. Fisher, about pioneers of the organic-farming movement in California, about small community meetings and about the many individuals who make up the area’s farm-to-table network. Though he traveled to New York and London to compare notes, and he references current books on food production in the United States, what distinguishes Raskin’s account is the intensely local approach. Rather than exploring the economics and ethics of farming at a national level, the author provides a finely textured account of how the origins of eating and drinking reveal the nuances of modern community in rural Sonoma County.
A fresh contribution to the public debate on the economics of consumption and the health of American communities.