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Gene Logsdon: Looks Like The New Agrarian Age Has Arrived

Is back-to-the-land agrarianism—by way of optimistic urbanites—here to stay?

Those who used to be called rebels and malcontents because they didn’t believe in what large-scale agriculture was doing are today not so out of the ordinary. They aren’t called “rebels” anymore—they’re called “farmers.” More people are recognizing the importance of ecological and organic farming, and the optimism is infectious.

Contrary farmer Gene Logsdon recently attended the OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association) Conference and witnessed it firsthand.

I define “new agrarian age” as a society in which rural and urban lifestyles become indistinguishable. Roof top vegetable gardens in downtown Manhattan for instance. A more typical example is a landscape where urban agriculture and rural manufacturing exist side by side in harmony.  I saw a photo recently of horses plowing a large garden plot with the Cleveland, Ohio, city skyline in the background. Some years ago I visited Paws Inc., where Jim Davis, the creator of the comic strip “Garfield” has his business headquartered. The location in rural Indiana (where Davis grew up), is so far out in the country that there was no suitable sewage system to handle the waste from his three big office buildings and fairly large number of workers. He had engineers design and build a greenhouse where plants, fish, and other aquatic animals flourished by feeding on the nutrients in the wastewater while purifying it before its return to natural waterways. Aquaculture and urban culture surely joined hands in that greenhouse. Silviculture too because Davis was also raising tree seedlings in the greenhouse to reforest wornout farm land in the area.

Last week I attended the annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), spending the day signing and selling books and gabbing with people. Those of us who remember the early days of OEFFA were stunned and jubilant at the overflow crowd. So many people wanted to come to the conference in fact, that about 200 had to be turned away because of space limitations, Carol Goland, OEFFA’s executive director told me regretfully.  I looked around the main exhibit hall (a highschool gymnasium) crammed with booths where all sorts of organic and natural farm supplies were being sold. I was remembering the early days, when, said Mike McLaughlin, a farmer and OEFFA official since the early days, “we thought that four exhibitors was a major achievement.”

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