Founder and Executive Director
Center for Urban Agriculture, California
After all, what good is a country if there is no more fertile soil, no ancient forests, no clean water, no pure food? If you really love your country, protect and restore some wildness, support local agriculture... Those who do these things are the real patriots.
from an interview in
Sun magazine, 2003.
Michael Ableman is a farmer, educator, photographer and writer. When he’s not traveling the country or the world talking to farmers about their techniques, Ableman works his own fields with his wife and two sons on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. An advocate for integrating communities with local agriculture, Ableman is the founder and executive director of the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens, north of Santa Barbara, California.
Originally founded in 1895, Fairview Gardens is one of the oldest organic farms in southern California. Even so, in 1994, the farm faced pressures from the suburban community growing up around it. Ableman, then manager of the farm, formed a nonprofit organization and less than a year later had raised $1 million to buy the farm. The historic parcel of land is now preserved in perpetuity through an agricultural conservation easement, employs 25 people, and helps feed more than 500 families through its community supported agriculture (CSA) program, an on-site retail store and local farmers’ markets.
In his recent book, Fields of Plenty: A Farmer’s Search for Real Food and The People Who Grow It (Chronicle Books 2005), Ableman drives across the country to hear the stories of America’s farmers, hoping to find answers to questions relevant to the next generation.
Other books by Ableman include From The Good Earth: A Celebration of Growing Food Around the World (Abrams 1993) and On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm (Chronicle Books 1998). In 2001, he was also the subject of the award-winning PBS broadcast “Beyond Organic.” His work has been profiled on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, in National Geographic, The Utne Reader and the Los Angeles Times, among other publications.
Ableman received the 2001 "Sustie" Award for his work in sustainable agriculture, as well as Eating Well magazine’s 1995 Food Hero Award. He also received the Environmental Leadership Award from the governor of the state of California.
"My great-grandfather understood firsthand that a little land and a good start could make all the difference. He must have seen agriculture, much as I do now, as a life-affirming opportunity, best done on a personal and community-oriented scale—a way to have a rich life, rather than an affluent one... I have tried to trust in the permanence of land and soil, always understanding that all farmers are just temporary tenants and caretakers of a larger natural force. But now, as I picture the chain of lives that my great-grandfather affected, I see that, unbeknownst to me, I was a link in that chain as well. Thousands of miles away, with no knowledge of my past, I have continued his work, using a little bit of knowledge and experience to offer a model and a start to the next generation."
From Fields Of Plenty (Chronicle Books 2005)