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By Eric Sean Weld   Date: 5/8/09 Bookmark and Share

Exhibition: Voice and Visibility to Local Food Producers

Though residents of the Pioneer Valley are frequently impacted by the work of local farmers, the stories of those who produce our food are not often heard. A group of Smith students recently set out to change that.

Faces of local food producers:

Those who grow the food we consume are usually not prominent in the public eye. They work the soil on farms scattered about the region’s rural lanes, and distribute their food via wholesalers who face the customers.

But on Tuesday, May 12, the faces and voices of those who grow our food in the Valley will be on display during a one-night exhibition titled Food Doesn’t Grow in Aisle 1: Bridging the Gap Between You and Your Local Farmers. The multimedia exhibition, which comprises photographs and audio clips of local farmers, will be open to the public from 7 to 9 p.m. in the A.P.E. Gallery at 126 Main St. in downtown Northampton.

Food Doesn’t Grow in Aisle 1 is the brainchild of students in the course Anthropology of Food (ANT 342), who seek to help people engage with the production of food and better understand its origins.

“What the students have done with this exhibition is make visible the people who are growing food in the Valley,” said Suzanne Zhang-Gottschang, associate professor of anthropology, who teaches Anthropology of Food. “Who are these farmers? Why are they doing what they do? And what are their thoughts on food policy? The students aimed to answer such questions.”

In compiling the exhibition content the students asked a series of questions: Where is food grown in the Pioneer Valley? Who are the local farmers of Western Massachusetts and what are their histories? What are the farmers’ opinions of food and farming policies statewide and nationally? Can the Pioneer Valley be sustained on local food?

“It’s been very gratifying watching the students put this together,” said Gottschang. “They’re very interested in food production in the Valley, and this ties in well with the course material. This is what anthropology does—reveals what is right in front of our noses that we may be missing.”

Though Food Doesn’t Grow in Aisle 1 will be on display in Northampton for only one night, the students have packaged the exhibition for availability at other galleries and plan to produce a DVD version. Already, they have received interest from Target:Hunger North Berkshire, a program affiliated with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and Nuestras Raices, a Holyoke organization that promotes economic, human and community development.


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