Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Our Hero: Joan Dye Gussow

The following article was written by Leslie Hatfield of EcoCentric, a blog about food, water, and energy – where this piece originally appeared.

Like many of the women I admire most, Joan Gussow has a bit of an edge to her.  One gets the impression that she doesn’t gladly suffer fools.  But as an avid gardener and longtime professor of nutrition at Columbia University’s Teachers College, she is also a world-class nurturer and a mentor to many, including Michael Pollan, whose quote on the back of Joan’s latest book, Growing, Older, reads:

“Once in a while, I think I’ve had an original thought, then I look and read around and realize Joan said it first.”

Joan is also a practice in dichotomy – though she bemoans new media for its “misinformation pollution” and is known best for her expertise in that old-timey tradition of subsistence farming (though on an extremely small scale), she is also an unrepentantly radical thinker and the first person I ever heard speak coherently about nanotechnology.

For the uninitiated, Joan Gussow is known as the matriarch of the local food movement.  She and her late husband Alan began growing most of their food in their backyard decades ago. She wrote a memoir about the experience that included recipes but also told the story of our broken food system — never too preciously — in a way that connected it to her life, but also couched it in the context of larger environmental and economic systems.

The first time I met her (in 2008, I think), Joan had agreed to host a group of food activists at her home.  I was thrilled to finally lay eyes on the garden I’d spent so much time picturing while reading her first book, This Organic Life, and I was struck by how close the reality of it was to my mental images — a testament to her descriptive prose. (We made a short video that day, you can view it here.)

One year ago this week, Joan’s garden was devastated by a massive storm and flood.  It wasn’t the first time; the garden, shaped like a bathtub and fenced in on each side, had flooded each year since she and Alan first broke ground on the edge of the Hudson River. The damage was more serious than ever before, but this time, she could rectify the situation. Her neighbor had torn down his house and had yet to build a new one, so for the first time since she’d owned the property, there existed a land-based route to her backyard that wouldn’t involve thousands of wheelbarrows full of dirt, and thus existed the potential to fill in the bathtub-ness, once and for all.

Maybe it’s Joan’s connection to the garden and its inhabitants, which, as she notes in this video, “always seem to hang in there.” Or maybe Joan Gussow is just a tough old bird (or more aptly, a phoenix) who really does have a bit of an edge to her.

After last year’s storm – and anyone who has ever tended a garden could guess this – Joan was devastated. Foodies rallied. My good friend Kerry Trueman and her husband Matt Rosenberg built this website, where donations — monetary and in-kind — were encouraged and her legion of fans expressed their support. McEnroe Farms generously donated a great deal of high quality top soil. Soon, Joan had the resources to rebuild her garden and raise it by several feet. Joan saved what she could of what was in the ground and hired a local landscaper who had the machinery necessary for what was turning out to be a major undertaking. A skilled group came from the Stone Barns Center and in the style of an old-fashioned barn raising, put everything back.

Continue reading the full article at EcoCentric.

Joan Dye Gussow’s Growing, Older is available now.


10 Books to Curl Up With This Winter

William Wordsworth was right when he said, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Nevertheless, the cold, dark days of winter can still get the best of even Nature’s most tenderhearted admirer. What’s one to do? We here at Chelsea Green have concocted the perfect cabin fever remedy with our suggested winter reading […] Read More..

Draft Power: The Life-Affirming Alternative to “Big Ag”

Farmers young and old are seeking new ways to shrink their carbon footprint and promote more ecologically friendly ways of getting chores done. So, what’s a modern farmer to do? For some, the centuries old approach of using draft animals—especially horses—is offering a very 21st century solution. Read More..

Top 8 Chelsea Green Books the Self-Styled Oregon Militia Should Read

The ongoing armed militia occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon is showing no signs of ending — so, rather than send them snacks, or sex toys, we had an idea: Send them a book! Better yet, send them several Chelsea Green books. Don’t worry, we’ve picked five key titles that we think […] Read More..

A Book for the Fruit Nerd on Your Holiday Gift List

Have a fruit enthusiast on your holiday shopping list this year? Then give the gift that Booklist calls, “a thorough investigation of one wonderful fruit”—The Book of Pears by Joan Morgan.Sure cherries, plums, peaches, and other fruits have their unique qualities, but nothing quite compares to the pear’s luscious texture, richness of taste, and fragrance reminiscent […] Read More..

Unlock the Secret to the Perfect Salad with Soil Sprouts

As the weather gets colder and seasonal produce only means root vegetables, we begin to dream about fresh greens and colorful salads. Without a greenhouse or expensive equipment, it’s hard to imagine a reality in which you can have fresh and local greens every day. Luckily, Peter Burke has a method: in his book Year-Round Indoor […] Read More..
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com