Welcome to the Buttery Hatch!

Thanks for visiting. I figured I’d start by saying a little about who I am, what I hope to do here and why I started this. (Why the name “The Buttery Hatch?” See the “about” link above.)

I moved to Kalamazoo in June of 2004 when my soon-to-be wife took a job at Kalamazoo College, having spent my grad school years in Pittsburgh and Chicago, then finally Salt Lake City. One of the first things we discovered was the Bank St. Farmers’ Market, which was, like lots of farmers’ markets around the country, just at the beginning of a period of really rapid growth. In our second summer here one of her colleagues offered to split a Bear Foot Farm CSA share with us – CSAs just then really beginning to become available – and the following year we added a share with Blue Dog Greens (now Blue Dog Family Farm). Those shares, along with winter shares from Blue Dog and Eaters’ Guild that became available a couple of years later (this was pre-winter farmers’ markets) gave us a crash course in eating seasonally.

My wife and I had grown up in relatively rural areas, she in the flats of northeastern Ohio, I in the nearby hills of western Pennsylvania. We both had parents who had gardens and did some preserving from them. So eating locally and seasonally wasn’t totally foreign to us, and we found ourselves happily drawn back to, and newly appreciative of, what we’d grown up with but had largely moved away from. In 2007 I started a job as a professor in the Philosophy Department at IU-South Bend (where I still work), and in 2008 we had a child. This was about the time Lori Evesque started the eatlocalswmich yahoo group, which I joined relatively early on. The first year or so I found myself not only learning what was available locally but also participating in a lot of intense discussion of agricultural issues on the list with Lori, Ron Klein, Mark Ludwig, Brigette Leach, Donna McClurkan, and others, which, along with reading everything I could get my hands on in the burgeoning sustainable ag/local food literature, provided a real education, as well as a real sense of community and energy around local food. This really gave me the itch to garden, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to join Donna and Olga Bonfiglio in a gardening project at Ron and Suzanne Klein’s farm in Texas Township. Ron was busy with the goats and had garden space to spare, so he let us take over and grow all sorts of things. I’m eternally grateful for that summer and how much I learned, especially from Ron, who always seemed to find time to share his knowledge with us despite the endless tasks he seemed to have to do to keep his farm going.

But it hit me that fall that the time I was spending on food and ag issues was time not being spent on the research my job required of me (which is in rather arcane areas of the history of philosophy). That, combined with the increasing effort that parenting was requiring (funny how a baby sleeping less and becoming mobile makes for more work), led me to severely curtail my online food-and-ag involvement. I kept eating and thinking locally, and I created an environmental philosophy course to teach that would let me incorporate my extra-curricular interests at least a little with my work, but I’ve mostly been on the sidelines in terms of conversation and community.

Lately, though, my professional interests have been shifting towards the history of political and economic thought and the nature and purposes of education, and with that – Wendell Berry’s Unsettling of America working in the back of my mind here – has come a resurgence in my interest in thinking, writing, and talking about food issues. So that’s what I want to do here. Some of this will be on the quasi-academic side, some more personal. I want to understand better things like how we see local food issues through the lenses of our larger political ideologies, and how the economics of local agriculture work. But I also want to write about what food is coming in and what we’re doing with it, as well as who it’s coming from.

One thing I’m hoping is that many of the farmers and other food folks I’ve gotten to know will let me talk with them on record and post the conversations. Look for that to start soon — Aaron and Kari of Molter Family Orchards have agreed to be first! (If you’re interested in being featured, shoot me an email and I’ll see if we can work something out.)

And, since blogs can be interactive, I’m hoping some of you will take the chance to strike up a conversation – I miss those early eatlocal exchanges! So thanks for tuning in, check back often, and please feel free to comment or contact me.

2 thoughts on “Welcome to the Buttery Hatch!”

  1. Hi Matt,
    I fondly remember finding the eat local list too. I remember learning so much, so fast that my head spun but it was amazing. I still keep my fingers in the proverbial pie (I left food as a profession 4 years ago, alas it was not going to support me or my family) by doing a program at the market 1 X a month. This summer has been tough to continue but I hope that I will be able to pick it up soon.

    I am happy to see your blog, you remind me why I love this topic.

    Keep it up.
    Sincerely, Channon

  2. Hi Channon – I’ll have to look for you at the market! I remember you used to do some interesting stuff on culinary history. And yes, those early discussions really were head-spinning. Always so much to learn and so many interesting perspectives to digest. Glad you’re on board here!

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