The New Colonialist Food Economy.” If you don’t want your blood to boil, then don’t read Alexander Zaitchik’s essay on the colonial efforts of NGOs and seed corporations to take over the seed market in Africa and Central America: “the new generation of agricultural reforms seeks to institute legal and financial penalties throughout the African Union for farmers who fail to adopt foreign-engineered seeds protected by patents, including genetically modified versions of native seeds. The resulting seed economy would transform African farming into a bonanza for global agribusiness, promote export-oriented monocultures, and undermine resilience during a time of deepening climate disruption.”

The Cruel Fantasies of Well-Fed People.” George Monbiot criticizes the “lucrative industry” that is local agriculture. I’m not sure what numbers he’s relying on to portray small-scale farming as “lucrative,” and this long essay consists mostly in setting up and demolishing a strawman version of yuppie foodie-ism (which does exist and does deserve some criticism, but critiquing this consumerism seems to be his way of avoiding actual local agrarian economies and the difficult questions regarding the implications—quantitative and qualitative—of his own preferred food future). He engages some here with Chris Smaje’s recent book-length argument and FPR may publish more on this debate. Monbiot is at least right that how we feed ourselves is a pressing, primary question that is too often sidelined in public life today. And his conclusion about how to approach such questions is also right: “In seeking to address our great predicaments, we should be, as much as is humanly possible, open-minded, open-hearted, receptive to evidence, argument and persuasion. The answers, contradictory, incomplete and inadequate as they will always be, will be social, political, economic, organisational and technological. We might not like some of our own conclusions. But it’s not just about us.”

Poetry at Home.” Jane Clark Scharl argues that poetry should be part of family life: “Poetry’s proper place is not, first and foremost, in academia, but in our homes. Poetry should be nourished beside the hearth, not in the lecture hall. When we invite poetry into our homes, we make our family life more abundant, but we also help poetry itself grow richer and more beautiful.”

The Island with No Words.” Paul J. Pastor wrestles with the intense challenges that silence poses to us: “Practically speaking, we plant our feet when we decide to allow for silence, to be in a place without words. But this way of being is not easy. This is not an idyllic existence. We idealize silence and emptiness when we are in the world of noises and appearances. When silence and emptiness exist only as desires, or as brief tastes, then they may be objectified and idealized. But their reality is harsh and inhospitable.”

Look at the Owl.” In this excerpt from her new book, Tiffany Eberle Kriner stands vigil with a wounded owl and ponders the meaning of these strange birds: “Of the owl, my first impression was of a cat – that size – but a mechanical cat, head pivoting round and back at stops on the compass, face toward all of the threats. He did not seem, from my unpracticed eye, to be thriving. His head pivoted again and again, as if looking would tell him what next action might suffice to save him.”

The Ultimate College Football Road Trip: Why a Sportswriter Quit his Job to Take It.” Christopher Kamrani describes Roger Sherman’s rather crazy plan to attend as many college football games as possible this fall. He is doing so in a season that seems to mark an inflection point for the sport, as traditions and places and rivalries give way to advertising dollars: “Sherman’s ultimate road trip also provides a glimpse into the shifting existence of college football as a whole. With conference realignment combining schools that have no regionality in common, this experience also proves how the sport is losing the shine that made it so compelling for so long. ‘We are moving away from the era of road tripping to see your school play a conference game,’ he said. ‘This sport is changing. The things that make this sport so road trippy are going away because it is more valuable to watch games on your couch. That’s generating the most money for the sport is if we get all the games delivered to us on TV.’”

Roque is Alive and Well in Angelica, New York.” Bill Kauffman praises a game that flourishes in one particular city: “The last rulebook was published by the long-defunct American Roque League circa 1960. (It wistfully — or delusionally — called roque ‘the game of the century.’) Jim tells me that someone once showed him a copy, but the rules didn’t correspond with those handed down by tradition in Angelica, so the locals ignored it. ‘We’re interested in how we play, not how they played,’ he states with admirable firmness.”

These 183,000 Books Are Fueling the Biggest Fight in Publishing and Tech.” Alex Reisner explains how pirated ebooks have been used to train various LLMs. You can search the database now to see which books are included. There’s a whole bunch of books by Wendell Berry, who I’m sure would not exactly be thrilled to find out his words are training machines to imitate human language.

Classical Education’s Aristocracy of Anyone.” Micah Meadowcroft narrates the multi-stranded story of how classical education was reborn in America: “The classical-education movement of the last four decades comes out of a peculiarly American combination of close-to-earth dwarfish realism and confident aspirations to gianthood. Where else but in America would it be conceivable to start these schools from scratch, in church basements and mobile buildings and roller rinks?”

The Unsettling of America with Spencer Hess and Laurie Johnson.” Spencer Hess and Laurie Johnson are leading a four-week online course on Wendell Berry’s Unsettling of America: “Berry’s insistence that we cannot dislocate people, physically, mentally, and spiritually, without destroying who they are, is a message that is both conservative and radical, as it calls for us to recognize the harm dealt in the name of efficiency and progress, and to live differently at every level to repair the damage done.”

Townbuilders.” Aaron Lubeck has hosted a podcast on New Urbanism in recent years and has several episodes that may be of interest to Porchers. (Recommended by John Murdock.)

Why the Fading of the Southern Accent Is Bad News.” Jack Butler mourns the erosion of regional dialects and the cultural loss this portends: “Regional accents and dialects are some of the strongest aspects of the federalist culture that exists alongside, and in part because of, America’s federalist politics. Ours is — and ought to be — a vast and variegated country, not some homogenous blob.”

Welder of Words.” Steven Knepper praises An Ordinary Life, a new volume of poetry by B.H. Fairchild: “Fairchild, now in his eighties, has indeed drawn on the metalworking craft his father gifted him. Yet he did so by taking its virtues into the writing life and by showing that it is, in a sense, poetic.”

They Studied Dishonesty. Was Their Work a Lie?” Gideon Lewis-Kraus details the sad story of an epidemic of dishonesty that appears to run rampant among at least some portions of the field of cognitive psychology: “As one senior faculty member told me, of bridging the academic and corporate worlds, ‘You see what the money can buy you, you fly business class on work trips. It tickles you in that little place, and you need to have more of it.’ The difference between p-hacking and fraud is one of degree. And once it becomes customary within a field to inflate results, the field selects for researchers inclined to do so.”

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture


  1. Seth D. Kaplan, whose recent book is titled “Fragile Neighborhoods: Repairing American Society, One Zip Code at a Time,” wrote an interesting article for National Affairs for which there is no paywall.

    The article is called “Saving Trees, Losing Forests” and is about the importance of the rehabilitation of neighborhoods — as in material, non-abstract places — to the rehabilitation of our sociability, or, dare I say, our conviviality.

    Seems right up FPR’s alley.

    The article is here:

  2. Again, FPR has gravely misrepresented me. I did not state that small farming is lucrative. I stated that food and farming writers, influencers and film-makers have a lucrative industry. My statement was crystal clear, and it’s hard to see how you could have got it so wrong. Talk about straw men!!

    Please issue a correction – again.

    Thank you, George Monbiot

    • Sorry if my summary was unclear, George. Folks can click through and read your essay for the full version. I don’t see any evidence in your piece to support your claim that writing about or advocating for local agriculture is lucrative. I also bent over backward to find some common ground in a piece where you accused Chris and those who advocate for such local agriculture of “cruel fantasies.” As I said, I find your argument misguided and based on a very selective use of evidence, but these are difficult questions, and I linked to your essay so people can read it for themselves and evaluate your arguments.

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