Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Sustenance and Sustainability

Sustenance and Sustainability: Missouri Humanities’ Fifth Annual Symposium with the Humanities & Ethics Center at Drury University

       By Dr. Katherine Anne Gilbert, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Humanities & Ethics Center at Drury University

The fifth annual Missouri Humanities Symposium, co-hosted by Drury University’s Humanities & Ethics Center, will take place this year on the evening of Wednesday, April 20 and throughout the day on Thursday, April 21. We are excited to be back in person again, while also allowing for those who would like to attend virtually to do so through a live feed of Symposium events. This year’s theme, Sustenance and Sustainability, ties into Missouri Humanities’ 2022 signature series, Eat, THINK, & Be Merry. After two years of not being able to gather in person, we are looking forward to collectively taking part in eating, thinking, and being merry together while listening to a series of talks on the intersection of both sustenance and sustainable practices in food growing and production. Our keynote speaker, who will deliver his talk during out luncheon, is Tom Philpot. Philpot’s recent book, Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It, has been called “the most important book on the food system in years” by Michal Pollan. Philpot is both a veteran journalist and a farmer. Drawing on his work on the land and in the newsroom, Philpot writes of hard truths but also offers important directions on what can be done to produce sustenance in sustainable ways. 

While Philpot will deliver his keynote during out luncheon, with foods that will offer special attention to Missouri’s own culinary history, we begin the morning  with coffee and conversation followed a talk by Etta Madden, Clif & Gail Smart Professor of English at Missouri State University. Madden’s talk, “Utopian Visions of Food in History & Literature,” considers the ways that people have longed for and dreamed of better, even utopian, or Eden-esque means of sustenance.  While Madden turns to history and literature to help listeners enter food utopias, she will be followed by Dr. Arbindra Rimal, Professor of Agricultural Business, Education and Communication at Missouri State, whose research on food hubs sheds pragmatic light on their feasibility in southcentral Missouri. In “Food Hubs: Feasibility of a Food Hub in Southcentral Missouri” Rimal will teach us how food hubs work, and the ways that a food hub could break even, three years after its initial launch in the region.

Following our luncheon, Dr. Wendy Anderson, Professor of Environmental Science and Studies at Stetson University will bring her research as a biologist and environmentalist to bear in teaching us about the ways that growing foods in cities “honors culture and connects community.” With years of experience studying and participating in urban farming, Anderson has also been deeply engaged in her community wherever she has lived. Anderson will discuss the ways that “learning how to grow food not only reclaims our connection to regionally specific foods and nurtures our connection to each other, it also strengthens our social fabric and skill sets for resilience in the face of economic, public health, and climate instability.”

Our final talk of the day will be given by Dr. Eric Sarmiento, Assistant Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Texas State University. Dr. Sarmiento places urban food growing in the context of additional economic revitalization efforts. He’ll share his research on  Oklahoma City as a case study in which we can be mindful of the ways that gentrification complicates the growing of local food in urban settings.

While these talks will offer food for thought throughout Thursday, April 21, we are also excited to launch our Symposium with a ThinkNDrink, A New Recipe, the evening before. A panel of creative and original local restaurateurs will share their thoughts on the relationship between food, community, culture, and putting down roots. A range of beverages will be available for purchase, as well as a food truck “Backyard Carnivore” on site. Doors open at 6:30PM on Wednesday, April 20, at Mother’s Brewing Company.

The past two years, in which we had to learn how to be “together apart,” have reminded so many of us that being together by sharing a meal, thinking about ideas, and raising a glass, is sustenance for the soul. In this sense, Sustenance and Sustainability will merge ideas about sustenance with the lived practices of eating, thinking, and being merry again. We hope that everyone will drop in, in person or virtually, for an inspiring evening and day of learning more about our connections to the land and each other, and how to sustain those in the years ahead.

Dr. Katherine Anne Gilbert is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Humanities & Ethics Center at Drury University. She serves as Project Coordinator for the symposium.