Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Creating Community at the Farm: A Contested Concept

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Creating Community at the Farm: A Contested Concept

Article excerpt

9:00 p.m., A Tuesday Evening in July

"Has anyone seen George?" The screened door had not even - thwacked - before he finished his question.


"Not since this morning. "

"I told him we were meeting tonight at nine." Mosey sounded mildly annoyed as he stood in the middle of the kitchen. Mosey had been working on a home remodeling project for the past week and he now looked as if he had just come from the job site. His blue jeans were dusty and stained and his orange t-shirt had seen better days. Mosey took out his mobile phone and disappeared into the hallway that led back to the house's bedrooms.

His tone added to my anxiety about this meeting. Mosey had called me yesterday afternoon and informed me that we were having a "family meeting" tonight. He didn't say what the meeting was about, but I had a feeling it had something to do with me. For several years as a graduate student, I had entertained the idea of studying a community for my dissertation, and George, our missing roommate, had provided me with the opportunity to do so. Knowing of my interests, George had casually suggested that I consider visiting the communal farm that he and six others called home. I did so and immediately embraced the idea of exploring the Farm for a study on community. In particular, I believed the Farm offered a unique context to describe how groups of individuals who purport to be a community manifest that concept in their daily lives. Having gained the approval of the Farm's residents to pursue my research, I had finally moved out to the Farm about a month ago. I was conducting ethnographic research, which entailed living on the Farm in a small camper and to the extent permissible, participating as a member of the community. During my short stay at the Farm, I had not knowingly exchanged so much as a cross word or grimace with my new neighbors. Perhaps tonight's meeting was the result of having violated an unspoken rule or norm of communal behavior. Regardless, as a member of the community and as an ethnographer, I welcomed this opportunity to explore the Farm's communal norms.

I turned back to Wendy who was sitting across the table from me. "You were saying?"

"I was saying? Oh yeah, I think this is the simplest bread recipe I've ever made. You don't even have to knead the dough. " Wendy passed a worn piece of white paper to me that contained hand-written instructions for making bread. "Feel free to make a copy," she said.

The Farm was actually a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm and Wendy was one of the co-managers of this operation. As opposed to funneling their harvest into the industrial agriculture system, CSAs such as the Farm sell fresh, organic produce directly to local consumers. CSAs utilize a seasonal shareholder system in which individuals purchase a "share in the farm" at the beginning of the growing season and in exchange receive large, weekly deliveries of produce. In cooperation with Bernie, her co-manager, Wendy gave her fidi energies to the Farm's prosperity.

Mosey returned to the kitchen. "I didn't get George, but I've left him a message. We won't wait for him, so if you all want to get started with dinner, go ahead. I'm going to grab a quick shower and then I'll join you. " Mosey disappeared from the kitchen again.

The Farm house's upper floor is explicitly divided into a public space, which consists of the kitchen, dining area, and family room, and a private space, including its bedrooms and bathrooms. The kitchen is roughly a ten-by-ten foot square that is framed on three sides by cabinets and appliances. The kitchen's contents are an eclectic and organic mix of bought and shared dishes and appliances. The upper cabinets' doors have been removed for ease of access and their shelves are filled items such as vegetarian cookbooks, spices, and a sizable collection of unlabeled glass bottles containing untold Hqidds. The kitchen's appearance is unpretentious and bespeaks a life of continual and communal use. …

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