Skip to content

Michigan family farms as an example of strength and fortitude


“A farmer who is worth his salt is not just a technician – he is a nurturer and husband of the earth.” – Hunter Francis

This podcast features Professor and Department Chair, City and Regional Planning, Hema Dandekar, discussing her book Landscapes of the Heart & Mind: Michigan Family Farms and Farm Buildings published by the University of Michigan Press in 2010. Two invited respondents – College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science Center Director Hunter Francis and Professor of History Joel Orth – join Professor Dandekar in discussing her book.

Audio link is below.

Enamored with the countryside
While an architecture exchange student in Michigan in the 1980s, Hema became enamored of the barns and farm buildings of the surrounding countryside. Then, as an Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Michigan, she received a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities to study the relationships barns have with the land, including their function and form and the people involved in building and using them.

Insight into American ingenuity
Hema explains how gathering the stories of the Michigan farmers gave her insight into American ingenuity and how these families have carved out satisfying, frugal and self-sufficient lives for themselves. Hunter Francis and Joel Orth join the conversation and discuss the challenges family farms face in America today. Together they discuss how the cost of land and how urban planning effects the ability to farm. They discuss the growing organic, local and regional food movements in the country and how farming is a national asset to be preserved.

Family farming
Later, Hema, Hunter and Joel discuss how family farms require “all hands on board” – how the whole family has to be involved in the maintaining and running the farm. Hema discusses her hopefulness about farming in California with the use of indigenous plants, legacy seeds, heritage products and city planning of green spaces.

Farming as science and art
Finally, the group explores the economic problems of farming, the state of farm policy in the United States and how it compares to farming in India. They also talk about farming as a balance of science and art, and how we learn about nurturing and caring through meaningful relationships with each other.

Conversations with Cal Poly AuthorsConversations with Cal Poly Authors is a public program that occurs about once a quarter in Room 111H and is open to all. This podcast was recorded at the inaugural event on March 11, 2011.

For more information about this event including photos visit:

To request a transcript of this podcast, please contact scicafe at calpoly dot edu.

- EA