Missouri Humanities’ 5th Annual Symposium, Humanities & Food: Sustenance and Sustainability in Our Communities”, focused on the ways that sustainable and local food growing and sharing build community, heal the earth, and sustain connection and collaboration. Discussions featured topics such as historic food utopias in America, agriculture and economic growth, and the ways that regional identities are embedded in the practices of creating sustenance for the community.  

Hosted in partnership with the Humanities and Ethics Center at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri. This event was part of Missouri Humanities’ 2022 Signature Series: Eat, THINK, & Be Merry: Missouri’s Foodways and Edible History.  

This event happened April 2022


Dr. Etta M. Madden, Clif & Gail Smart Professor of English, Missouri State University 

Utopian Visions of Food in History & Literature 

An historical overview of utopian foodways—drawn from literature and intentional communities—this talk highlights dreams shared about food. From dreams of Edenic abundance to the contemporary explosion of urban gardens, people through the centuries have centered their lives upon desires to eat better. What “better” means varies from person to person and group to group: having plenty, having healthy habits, eating with others, or eating less.

Etta Madden

Dr. Arbindra Rimal, Professor of Agricultural Business, Education and Communication, Missouri State University

Food Hubs: Feasibility of a Food Hub in Southcentral Missouri 

This study examines the willingness and ability of producers in Southcentral Missouri counties to support a local food hub. The study determined that a food hub that will procure produce and livestock products from the nine-county area and sell to the buyers in Missouri is feasible. The proposed food hub is expected to breakeven after three years of inception.

Arbindra Rimal

Tom Philpott*, Author of Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent it

Perilous Bounty: Emerging Crises in Industrial Agriculture

Tom’s book is a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and according to Michael Pollen, Perilous Bounty is “The most important book on the food system in years.” 

From Bloomsbury Publishing:

“More than a decade after Michael Pollan’s game-changing The Omnivore’s Dilemma transformed the conversation about what we eat, a combination of global diet trends and corporate interests have put American agriculture into a state of “quiet emergency,” from dangerous drought in California–which grows more than 50 percent of the fruits and vegetables we eat–to catastrophic topsoil loss in the “breadbasket” heartland of the United States. Whether or not we take heed, these urgent crises of industrial agriculture will define our future.

In Perilous Bounty, veteran journalist and former farmer, Tom Philpott explores and exposes the small handful of seed and pesticide corporations, investment funds, and magnates who benefit from the trends that imperil us, with on-the-ground dispatches featuring the scientists documenting the damage and the farmers and activists who are valiantly and inventively pushing back.

Resource scarcity looms on the horizon, but rather than pointing us toward an inevitable doomsday, Philpott shows how the entire wayward ship of American agriculture could be routed away from its path to disaster. He profiles the farmers and communities in the nation’s two key growing regions developing resilient, soil-building, water-smart farming practices, and readying for the climate shocks that are already upon us; and he explains how we can help move these methods from the margins to the mainstream.”

Dr. Wendy Anderson, Professor of Environmental Science and Studies, Stetson University 

Roots: How Growing Food in Cities Honors Culture and Connects Community

Distinctive food defines cultures because each region has unique soils, climate, plants and animals that are the source of what they eat.  And yet, even as cultural boundaries have become blurred by the homogenization of our diets, our disconnection from growing our own food and from even knowing how to grow our own food further isolates us from our cultural foundations that are grounded in place. Relearning as a society 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. School gardens, community gardens, and even the latest trend of “agrihoods” show that what’s old is new: that growing food together in cities will bind us to each other and root us in our place.

Dr. Eric Sarmiento*, Assistant Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies, Texas State University 

Urban Justice, Food Justice: Local Food and Gentrification in Oklahoma City

This talk outlines some of the linkages between a robust period of urban revitalization in Oklahoma City and the development of Oklahoma’s dynamic, statewide local food movement. In particular, I focus on how the meanings associated with the object ‘local food’ shifted as the movement aligned itself with a changing suite of actors, particularly those associated with Oklahoma City’s revitalization efforts, including fossil fuel companies, real estate developers, and the city’s expanding ‘creative class.’ Ultimately, while the movement in some ways benefited from its alliances with revitalization, those alliances helped push ‘local food’ away from the movement’s early emphasis on balancing economic, ecological, and justice concerns in favor of capturing premium prices for more fetishized foods.