Long before Martha Stewart printed her seasonal gardening chores on the first pages in each issue of Martha Stewart Living, The Old Farmer’s Almanac outlined the farm-related tasks for any given month in a not dissimilar tone.
“The almanac as a form is actually much older than The Old Farmer’s Almanac,” said The New Farmer’s Almanac Vol. III lead editor, Nina Pick. There is, for example, the Babylonian Almanac, which dates back to the first millennium BCE and detailed the relative auspiciousness of each day of the year for any endeavor of ordinary life—including activities related to food, health, travel, and business. In the first century ACE, Greek writer Ptolemy connected celestial movements with future weather patterns. By the Middle Ages, people saw little difference between predicting the movements of the stars and tides and predicting the future for purposes of divination. In other words, you could read your horoscope in medieval almanacs—just as you can today.
Pick said the new publication is “drawing on a very old, traditional form, and while keeping the integrity of this old form, we’re also radicalizing it—bringing in ideas that are more revolutionary, more radical—to have these conversations with a new agrarian movement.”
Contributions come from farmers young and old, activists, economists, poets, ecologists, and a former Russian literature professor. One contributor, Elizabeth Henderson, has been an organic farmer since 1980 and is two weeks away from celebrating the end of her 28th season at Peacework Organic CSA—which she says is the oldest CSA in New York State north of Long Island. She has contributed to The New Farmer’s Almanac for two years, and the latest volume includes two more of her essays: one on GMOs and another on raising the minimum wage for farmworkers.
There is a strong anti-GMO theme running throughout the volume, Pick said, and support of local and alternative economies. Henderson, for her part, said she has been able to sustain her farm for so many years by building and relying on networks of social capital. The members of Peacework, for example, contributed money to the Genesee Land Trust to purchase the farm’s land.
Poet Douglass DeCandia was eager to contribute to the third volume because “I feel that The New Farmer’s Almanac is giving voice to the people who are coming to agriculture to help heal the land, ourselves, and our communities.”
What the almanac as a form can do—and what The New Farmer’s Almanac does—is unite two distinct human needs between the covers of one book.
-Sarah McColl has written for Yahoo Food, Bon Appétit, and other publications. She’s based in Brooklyn, New York. This piece was created for Takepart, published on November 6, 2016.