Kathleen Alcalá

The Clueless Eater

Laughing Crow Farm

July 20, 2011

Betsey and Samantha by Joel Sackett
Betsey Wittick met me at a purple, open-sided shed on the eastern edge of Laughing Crow Farm. Her four acres are part of the Day Road Farmland Trust, an area protected by the City of Bainbridge from urban development. While waiting for Betsey to come out of the main farmhouse, I walked around and noted the garlic and potato beds near the house, the chickens in their coop making those low, rusty gate sounds that people find so comforting.

As we talked, Betsey stood and polished bell peppers to an emerald glow for market the next day. She reminds me of the woman in the ‘Rosie the Riveter’ poster from World War II, not just in her looks, but her innate sense of capability. You could leave your car, your toaster or your chicken here, and she would fix it. I faced southwest across sunny fields towards the Bainbridge Winery vineyards, adjacent to Betsey’s farm. The gusting wind turned the grape leaves over to show their pale undersides. The terrain here, at the midpoint of the island, is a series of low, open hills, entirely different from where I live. I held my papers down as I wrote.

“We don’t really know what will happen with climate change,” she answered cautiously. “It may be warmer, it may be wetter. I think there will be more variability. Industrial agriculture developed during a few hundred years of climate stability, but now it is fluctuating. Farmers can’t invest in large-scale industry and equipment unless they know that the crop they are cultivating is viable. Before industrial agriculture, there was greater diversity – you didn’t put all your eggs in one basket.
“Now, we need agriculture to be more local. Some think, ‘Technology will save us!’ but infrastructure takes awhile to evolve. We need to be more resourceful in how we raise food.”
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Selected Works

Creative nonfiction, memoir, environmental sustainability.
Combining memoir, historical records, and a blueprint for sustainability, The Deepest Roots shows us how an island population can mature into responsible food stewards and reminds us that innovation, adaptation, diversity, and common sense will help us make wise decisions about our future. And along the way, we learn how food is intertwined with our present but offers a path to a better understanding of the future.
Creative Nonfiction
Essays on Family and Writing

The Desert Remembers My Name makes an important contribution to discussions of ethnicity, identity, and the literature of place.”
Bloomsbury Review
Fiction
"...a mesmerizing tale... the author explores the fascinating confusions and contradictions plaguing a culture precariously poised between tradition and modernization."
Booklist
"She never forgot the power of storytelling as testimony."
The Utne Reader
"Kathleen Alcalá's Spirits of the Ordinary is an enthralling book..."
–Paul Yamazaki, City Lights Books

"This book entered my dreams."
–Alberto Rios
Short Fiction
"Thoroughly satisfying."
The New York Times Book Review

"By turns touching, entertaining, and surprising, and uniquely her own."
Publishers Weekly

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