I was looking through one of my favorite books today, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, and, as always happens, Practical Farmers of Iowa drifted into my mind. PFI has had an influx of non-farmer members in recent years. To me, that is a natural progression for this most wonderful of sustainable agriculture organizations.
Nature’s Metropolis, by William Cronon, makes the case that there is no distinct line between “urban” and “rural.” Chicago grew to its great size and its unique character by relying on the railways that connected it to the “hinterland” and the lumber, grain, and meat that the railways carried to the unimaginable (to me) population that congregates there. Farmers and ranchers thrived because of the lumber, the grain, the meat they could sell into the great city.
Writes Cronon at the end of his book: “To do right by nature and people in the country, one has to do right by them in the city as well, for the two seem always to find in each other their own image. In that sense, every city is nature’s metropolis, and every piece of countryside its rural hinterland. We fool ourselves if we think we can choose between them… each is our responsibility. We can only take them together and, in making the journey between them, find a way of life that does justice to them both.”
By being a town person or a city person joining a group called “Practical Farmers of Iowa,” nonfarmers recognize these rural/urban connections and embrace them. These welcomed “city folk” are committed to supporting Iowa farmers with their PFI membership, their food dollar, and their hearts.