Yesterday, I drove my daughter Laura back to Iowa City for her spring semester at the University of Iowa. I've heard remarks about how dull a drive it is along Interstates 88 and 80 - about how there is nothing to see. I disagree. I paid particular attention yesterday and discovered that there was almost always farmhouses, barns, or other agricultural buildings in view. There were vast fields covered in light snow, ponds covered in ice, rivers to cross, and cows and horses breathing out steam in the cold. Near the Mississippi River, I saw a bald eagle circling right over the highway. A redtailed hawk sat on a post. Rather than a void, the land between the western Chicago suburbs and the college town is rich farmland, especially lovely with the snow.
This morning I read the January/February 2008 issue of World Ark, which includes an interview with novelist/poet/farmer/environmentalist Wendell Berry. Berry has written a lot about farmland and the people of rural America. He'd be able to read the land along the Interstate and know which family farms are thriving and which have been taken over by corporations. The maintenance of the barns and house would shout at him. In an interview on pages 16-19, he says that he regrets how our urbanized society has lost touch with its food supply and discusses how even city neighborhoods can reconnect with land. He suggests models from the past to make the future better. Ancient Greek cities included farmland to keep them self-sufficient.
World Ark is a publication from Heifer International, which sponsors giving farm animals to third world countries. I suspect only contributors ever see its articles. I checked Worldcat to see how many libraries carry World Ark and found only five.
There is a way, however, for many people to read this article. Heifer International posts the entire issue on its magazine on its website using services of Nxtbook Media. Click on a page of the magazine and the digital reader turns to the next. The magazine allows zooming, bookmarking, stick notes, saving, and printing. without my having to download any software.
Libraries could use similar digital publishing on their websites for annual reports, tutorials, or online children's books.