This new blog will act as the forum I use to offer my own personal response to the items I read about and listen to relating to the subjects of food, farming, environmental and rural affairs. Being a student of history, albeit one with an interest in the agricultural and environmental sectors and in the way people in rural areas live their lives today, I may sometimes approach subjects in a slightly different way to other farming and environmental bloggers. Looking at the ways that things have been in the past, being critical, creative and original and looking for trends amongst the evidence are some of the things that I have been taught to do as an academic historian, so please forgive me if I digress into somewhat unrelated topics during my entries. Sometimes I will explore my own experiences and write about the people I meet or the practices I see. Sometimes I will look explicitly at what others are writing about and think about why it is that they have come to their view. Some entries will be about the books or reviews I read, regarding environmental and agricultural history, or current affairs. In short though, it is the fields of agriculture and the environment that I am interested in, be that from an historical or a contemporary perspective.
Environmental historian Alfred Crosby wrote, in the 1990s, about how he saw the subjects of the sciences and the liberal arts increasingly merge as people became more interested in the specific strengths of all disciplines (Crosby, Germs, Seeds and Animals: Studies in Ecological History, New York, 1994). Environmental history itself has grown to involve knowledge of fields of study as diverse as historical geography, ecology, agriculture, the history and philosophy of science, biology, climate science, forestry, archaeology, anthropology, psychology, sociology and ecological and environmental economics, amongst others. It has come to be recognised, in this discipline at least, that all subject areas and all writers have something positive to offer. In the non-academic world I believe that people should seriously consider thinking along these lines. Yes, of course we need and will always need ‘specialists’ but we also need ‘specialist generalists’, with a good depth of knowledge in a wide range of fields and skill sets, that can be related back to and utilised in one sector; in this case, food, farming and the environment.
This ‘specialist generalist’ approach is something that I personally aspire to achieve, using and learning about a range of disciplines to then approach modern concepts of how we should be running our current worlds of agriculture and environmental activities. I hope that there are others out there who share my belief that, sometimes at least, a wider experience and acceptance of using different disciplines when approaching a subject, such as the way we work our environment, is helpful in reaching a more nuanced and ultimately more effective conclusion.