The Art of Farming: A Public Symposium, December 4-5, 2009

Jeff Main repairing cultivator, Main Family Farm, Good Humus Produce, Capay, California. Photograph by Alix Lowrey Blair.

The Art of Farming: A Public Symposium
December 4–5, 2009

Keynote Speaker: Verlyn Klinkenborg
“Farming and the Problem of Complexity”
December 4, 7:30 p.m., ETC Auditorium, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Durham
Presented by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

In conjunction with the national documentary project Five Farms: Stories from American Farm Families

Verlyn Klinkenborg, widely known for his literary meditations on rural life, will give the opening-night keynote address for a public symposium looking at the farming of food as a place-based creative act and a central metaphor for contemporary community. Klinkenborg, whom Tom Brokaw has called “our modern Thoreau,” will speak on “Farming and the Problem of Complexity” on Friday, December 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the ETC Auditorium, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, Durham (driving directions link below).

“Verlyn Klinkenborg is the ideal writer and thinker to address the important issue of rural life, creativity, and traditions of farming,” says Tom Rankin, director of the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke University. “His distinctive literary voice provides a beautiful accompaniment to the range of documentary work at CDS about farm life.”

Born in Colorado in 1952 and raised in Iowa and California, Klinkenborg graduated from Pomona College and received a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University. He is the author of Making Hay (The Lyons Press, 1986), The Last Fine Time (University of Chicago Press, 1991), The Rural Life (Little Brown, 2003), and Timothy; Or, Notes of an Abject Reptile (Knopf, 2006).

His column “The Rural Life” appears regularly in the New York Times, where he is a member of the editorial board. His work has been published in many magazines, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, National Geographic, The New Republic, Smithsonian, Audubon, GQ, Gourmet, Martha Stewart Living, Sports Afield and The New York Times Magazine. He has taught literature and creative writing at Fordham University, St. Olaf College, Bennington College, and Harvard University and is a recipient of the 1991 Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

He was the 2006-2007 visiting writer-in-residence at Pomona College, where he taught nonfiction writing. In 2007, he received a Guggenheim fellowship. His upcoming book, The Mermaids of Lapland, is about the life of William Cobbett (1763-1835), an English pamphleteer, farmer, and journalist best known for his book Rural Rides.

Klinkenborg lives in rural New York.

Flak Magazine interview with Verlyn Klinkenborg

The Art of Farming symposium continues on Saturday, December 5, with two panel discussions and a closing picnic. The symposium builds on the Five Farms project, which followed the lives of five farming families (from Massachusetts, North Carolina, Iowa, Arizona, and California) during the course of one year. Their experiences, captured in audio and photographs, are presented in a series of five one-hour radio documentaries on public radio stations nationwide; in a series of radio features on National Public Radio’s™ All Things Considered™; on a multimedia website; and in an exhibition, which was on view earlier this year at CDS.

The first symposium session, The Five Farms Project: A Case Study from California, features Annie and Jeff Main of Good Humus Farms in Capay, California, along with the photographer and audio producer who documented life on their farm over the course of four seasons. This session will be held from 10 a.m. until noon in Room 124, NC School of Science and Math.

The afternoon session, The Family Farm Today: A Conversation Among Farmers from North Carolina, Massachusetts, Iowa, Arizona, and California, features family members from each of the farms documented in the Five Farms project. John Biewen, series producer and field producer for the North Carolina portion of the project, will moderate. This session will be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in Room 124, School of Science and Math.

A closing picnic will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Center for Documentary Studies, which produced the Five Farms project with Wesley Horner Productions. Major funding for the project came from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and from the Council for the Arts, Office of the Provost, Duke University.


PARKING: Available in the main lot, accessible at the intersection of Club Boulevard and Ninth Street, and along Maryland Avenue.

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    1. […] The Art of Farming: A Public Symposium – Fri, December 4, 2009 Fri, December 4, 2009 7:30 PM – Sat, December 5, 2009 6:00 PM None. Free. With a keynote address by Verlyn Klinkenborg (“The Rural Life”), two panel discussions, and a closing picnic The event will be held at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics Full details at: […]

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