DATE CHANGE Author Talk: Margot Anne Kelley

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Margot Anne Kelley

Foodtopia glides gracefully through the increasingly complex world of food, pandemic and all. An important contemporary book.” 

Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod and Salt: A World History

Ever wonder if there’s a better way to live, work, and eat? 

You’re not alone. 

In this illuminating alternative American history, Margot Anne Kelley details the evolution of food-centric utopian movements that were fueled by deep yearnings for unpolluted water and air, racial and gender equality, for peace, for a less consumerist lifestyle, for a sense of authenticity, for simplicity, for a healthy diet, and for a sustaining connection to the natural world.  

Foodtopia tells the story of five back-to-the-land movements, from 1840 to present day, when large numbers of utopian-minded people in the United States established small-scale farming as an alternative to mainstream agriculture. 

Millennials who jettisoned cities for rural life form the core of America’s current back-to-the-land movement. Their forebears were, of course, the hippies who chose to forgo modern comforts in pursuit of a simpler life in the 1970s. Prior to that, Scott and Helen Nearing and others decamped to the countryside during the Great Depression. At the turn of the last century, pioneering single-taxers created self-sufficient communities. Beginning in the 1840s, tens of thousands of people—including cultural icons such as Henry David Thoreau—participated in more than eighty food-centric utopian communities.

Today, food is no longer just about what we eat, but about how our food is raised and who profits along the way. Kelley looks closely at the efforts of young farmers now growing heirloom pigs, culturally appropriate foods, and newly bred vegetables, along with others working in coalitions, advocacy groups, and educational programs to extend the reach of this era’s Good Food Movement. 

Margot Anne Kelley holds a PhD in American Literature and an MFA in Media and Performing Arts. Kelley is the author of two books focused on people in relationship to the natural world, Local Treasures: Geocaching Across America and A Field Guide to Other People’s Trees. She taught at the college level for nearly twenty-five years. Since leaving academia, she served as the editor of The Maine Review and co-founded a community development corporation that runs a food pantry and community garden, among other programs. Kelley lives on the coast of downeast Maine.