Culture & Agriculture

Editor's Note


  • Kendall Thu

As spring miraculously transforms the Midwestern United States, I'm pleased to present the first volume of C&A for 2010. For C&Aers, cycles of life and death are natural processes we are inherently attuned to in the course of our agricultural work. It is with both celebration and grief that the birth of this issue follows the passing of Robert Rhoades, a pioneer of agricultural anthropology and a founding member of C&A. As we are reminded in the reflective piece by Todd Crane, one of Bob's many students, Robert Rhoades was a passionate supporter of anthropological involvement in agricultural inquiry. One of the first anthropologists to work at an International Agricultural Research Center, Bob put anthropology on the map as a legitimate field in agricultural development studies and in so doing opened the door for all forms anthropological involvement in agriculture. The preface to his classic book “Breaking New Ground: Agricultural Anthropology,” written in 1984 while working in Lima, Peru, reflects Bob's sentiments about the role of anthropology.

In each phase of my own involvement I looked upon planned agricultural change with different emotions, ranging from naïve optimism to intellectual pessimism, and finally, to a more seasoned realization of what is possible, needed, and desired if our hungry planet is to survive. Throughout this process, I have become convinced that anthropology and should play a positive role in agricultural research and development.

[Rhoades 1984:x]

We will all miss Bob's physical presence in the ranks of C&Aers, but his intellectual and humanistic passion for agricultural anthropology will be the heritage that we carry forth in these pages.

The first two articles in this volume on community-supported agriculture continues the intellectual tradition and spirit of Bob Rhoades' work. In the first article, Brandi Janssen explores the social embeddedness of community-supported agriculture beyond producers and eaters in the U.S. state of Iowa. Brandon Lang explores the emergence of a CSA in Maryland, identifying changes and challenges such efforts face. He raises the question concerning the extent to which CSAs in general share similarities in their development and function. Steve Romanoff's contribution explores whether certifying traditional shade-grown coffee pays off for growers in El Salvador. Romanoff's work is extremely important as the range and scope of certification processes for a variety of food and beverage products emerge world-wide. And finally, Judith Porcasi's article reminds us of the vital importance of detailed archaeological work in contributing to our understanding of changing subsistence strategies and dietary patterns through time.

Thanks once again to our contributors, reviewers, and C&A members. And once again, thank you Professor Robert Rhoades for helping to create and shape the space that we know as C&A.