On their farm commune in upstate New York in the early 1970s, Ruth, her husband Steve and their fellow communards had to learn to use many new tools as they applied methods of food production, preparation, and preservation learned from alternative sources such as Mother Earth News, their food co-op’s cookbook, and their farming neighbors in the area. They would often buy their tools at second hand shops, farm sales, and yard sales in the area. The Mason jars, canning funnels (used to fill the Mason jars with food to be preserved (by canning), apple slicers, bread baking pans, and books, such as Stalking the Wild Asparagus, were all tools new, but necessary to the new farmers and foragers of the 1970’s and thereafter.
“Coming out of the 1960s, we were concerned about the war, where the country was going. . . [By] going to the farm, we would be accountable and have responsibility for our lives, for the way that we lived. .. . We had the Whole Earth Catalog, Mother Earth News. Reduce, reuse, recycle. We learned from the farm community. . . Be self-sufficient, live off the land. . . My whole life [on the commune] revolved around food. . . . We had a three-acre garden. . . canning and freezing. . .600 quarts of tomatoes , three 20 ft. freezers full [of] corn, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, carrots.“—Ruth, interview, 2011.
During the 1960s and 1970s, as waves of cultural and political change swept through American society, food became a tool of resistance, consciousness-raising, and self-expression. Embracing the motto “You are what you eat,” hippies, feminists, religious seekers, ethnic nationalists, and antiwar and civil rights activists rejected mass-marketed, mass-produced food, which they termed “slave” food, “corporate” food, and “white-bread,” as symbols of the establishment they rallied against. They questioned how the food Americans ate was produced, prepared, and consumed and advocated new models of food production and new diets. A major part of these movements were served, in the 1970s and forward, by the “back-to-the-landers,” those who left their mostly middle class or privileged lives to live “off the grid,” to feed themselves, to farm, to cook, to forage, to raise animals, to live self-sufficiently.
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