Farm to Text

Agrarian - georgic - pastoral - agri/cultural. A working group of the NYU English Department.

Author: John (page 1 of 2)

Farm to Text Film Series: February

November Events

Reading group, farm plays, and a visiting poet, oh my!

This is the month, y’all. The Poet Laureate of Iowa is coming to NYU and we want to show her a good time.

First, we’re meeting NEXT WEDNESDAY, Nov 9, at 4:00 in the Event Space, in advance of Mary’s visit, to read and discuss her one-act play Farmscape, which has toured all over the US, including a performance for Tom Vilsack of the USDA. Farmscape documents the struggles and joys of the modern farmer trying to get by in this country’s midwestern heartland and is based on documentary interviews with Iowan farmers. Mary has toured the play especially in many small towns across the Midwest, where she often has local community members learn and act out the parts of the various characters, taking the concept of “community theater” to a different level. I once saw it performed in a rickety hundred-year-old church house at a crossroads town in the Iowan countryside. It’s quite an interesting read.

We have ten copies of the play available. I’m going to bring the box of them into the mail room tomorrow. It’s not a long play and should be a quick read, and the book version also comes with a host of interesting essays about contemporary rural issues, from sustainable agriculturists to rural sociologists. We’re providing these at no cost to you. If we run out of copies and you’d still like to read it, let me know and I’ll see what we can do. We’ll have our usual munchies and whiskey at the reading group meeting.

Second, Mary is coming to New York for a staging of two of her more recent one-act farm plays, Vang and Map of My Kingdom, or Who’s Going to Get the Farm?, on the topics, respectively, of recent immigrant farmers and farmland transfer (what happens to farmland kept in a family for generations, including the drama around new generations that aren’t interested anymore – implying the struggle between big and small ag, corporate vs family ownership – etc). This will take place on Sunday, Nov 13, at 3:00 in the Kimmel Center, Eisner and Lubin Auditorium (a block west of Bobst) and is free with your NYU ID. The event will feature both plays, followed by a talk-back with Mary. I’m attaching the program here.

Third, Mary has agreed to give a reading and Q&A on Tuesday, Nov 15, at 2:00 in the English Department Event Space. This should be a lot of fun — Mary is very personable and engaging on stage. We’ll have some munchies.

I really hope you can join us for some or all of these great events. Please feel free to pass this information on to whatever friends and colleagues might be interested.



Reading Group 9

Wednesday, November 9, 2016, 4:00, English Department Event Space

  • Swander, Mary. Farmscape (play). North Liberty, IA: Ice Cube P, 2012. Print.
    • We have a number of copies available for Reading Group participants, which will be available in the English Department mail room.  If we run out and you’d still like to read it, contact John at

Reading Group 8: Charles Chesnutt and the Modern, October 19

Wednesday, October 19, 2016, 5:00, English Department Room TBD

  • Chesnutt, Charles. The Conjure Stories, three stories. Ed. Robert B. Stepto and Jennifer Rae Greeson. New York: Norton, 2012. Print.
    • “The Goophered Grapevine” (1887) — if you only have time to read one, maybe this one
    • “Po’ Sandy” (1888)
    • “Dave’s Neckliss” (1889)
  • Reddy, Chandan. “Modern.” Keywords for American Cultural Studies. Ed. Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler. New York: NYU P, 2007. Print.

Reading Group 7 — First in the New Year!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016, 5:00, English Department Room 103

  • Williams, Raymond. The Country and the City (excerpt). New York: Oxford UP, 1973. Print.
    • If you want short and poetic, read the first 12 pages; if you want longer and a more meaty argument, read the last 33; if you rock, read it all
  • EXTRA BONUS: Williams, Raymond. “The Country and the City.” Politics and Letters: Interviews with New Left Review. 1979. London: Verso, 2015. Print.


Sixth Reading Group – April 27

Wednesday, April 27, 2016, 12:30, English Department Room 103

  • Posmentier, Sonya. Cultivation and Catastrophe [unpublished; book in progress].
    • Excerpt: “Cultivating the Nation: Postwar Periodicals and the Critical Reterritorialization of Black Poetry.” Please email to obtain a copy.


Fifth Reading Group – March 23

Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 5:00 PM, English Department Room 306

  • Berry, Wendell. The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (excerpt).  San Fransisco: Sierra Club Books, 1977. Print.
    • We’re asking that folks read through at least Chapter 1 if they can, which is short and should be easy going; the excerpt we’re providing goes through Chapter 4, however, so we encourage you to read as much of it as you have time for.

Questions?  First time joining us?  Email us at

Reading Group Feb 11 to prepare for Fred Kirschenmann Visit

Thursday, February 11, 2016, 6:00 PM, English Department Event Space

In preparation for our guest speaker Frederick L. Kirschenmann’s visit on February 18, we will watch the 20-minute documentary Food for Thought, Food for Life, which features Kirschenmann and a number of other leaders in the sustainable agriculture movement, and we will discuss several of his short essays and speeches:

  • Cultivating an Ecological Conscience by Frederick L. KirschenmannKirschenmann, Frederick L. Two uncollected essays.
    • “The Industrial Economy’s Swan Song, and the Resettling of America”
    • “Sustainability in our Future Food System”
  • Kirschenmann, Frederick L. Selections from Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher. Ed. Constance L. Falk. Berkeley: Counterpoint P, 2010. Print.
    • “The Pleasure of Good Eating”
    • “On Becoming Lovers of the Soil”
    • “Challenges Facing Philosophy as We Enter the Twenty-First Century: Reshaping the Way the Human Species Feeds Itself”

If you’re interested in the larger scope of Kirschenmann’s work, check out the collection of articles available for free online from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, where Kirschenmann is Distinguished Fellow, here.  You can also watch his 2012 talk at TEDx Manhattan, titled “Soil: From Dirt to Lifeline,” here.

February Events: Talk with Fred Kirschenmann, Screenings of “Food for Thought, Food for Life”

From Farm to Text – Ag and the Arts

A Talk with Fred Kirschenmann and a Film Screening

poster 4 - kirschenmann event - landscape

A Talk with Fred Kirschenmann

“Anticipating and Adapting to Future Food and Farming Challenges: The Role of the Arts”

Since the Industrial Revolution and the dawn of the Anthropocene, our food system has come to be based increasingly on nonrenewable carbon. As that fuel disappears, we will need new systems to sustain human civilizations. What role do the arts have to play in this new future for food? Join farmer, author, and President of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture Fred Kirschenmann for a lecture, discussion, and light refreshments.

When – Thursday, February 18, 6:00 PM

Where – NYU English Dept., 244 Greene St., first-floor Event Space

Film Screening: Food for Thought, Food for Life

A new documentary by Susan Rockefeller, featuring Fred Kirschenmann and many others.  Watch the trailer here.

When – Thurs, February 11 and Wed, February 17, at 6:30 PM

Where – NYU English Dept., 244 Greene St.—room will be posted.

Run-Time – 20 minutes.  Feb. 11 screening to be followed by monthly reading group discussion; for details, email

For further information on any of our upcoming events, or to be added to our mailing list, email


Third Reading Group – December 10

Thursday, December 10, 2015, 1:00 PM

You can view details of both our upcoming meeting and our previous ones here.

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