Only a few generations ago, small subsistence farming was the way of life in Bethel. Today, it has been replaced by fast food, now the town’s largest industry. We have noted the obvious break down of social connection that once necessarily existed in the community because of agriculture, and we speculate that the resulting sense of disenfranchisement may have led in part to the devastating opioid crisis.
Like much of the country, and particularly the state of Ohio, Bethel is plagued by food insecurity. According to recent studies, 1 in 6 households in Ohio are currently experiencing food insecurity, making Ohio the sixth most food insecure state in the nation.
As a result of our observations, we have identified access to food as one of the most important points at issue in Bethel. We have made finding a sustainable way to provide healthy food to this community a central focus of SOIL SERIES. We hope to accomplish this while simultaneously reconnecting local residents to Bethel’s meaningful past and establishing a new network of relational connectivity for Bethel’s present.
Through our Community Studio program, we are working to combat cultural isolation and to build a safe space where participants can explore new ideas and follow new pathways of thinking and creating. We are also developing agricultural programming for the sustainable production of healthy food. Both our Community Studios and the agricultural program are intended not only to teach new skills, but also to provide opportunities for mentorship and extend existing community networks (see Social Drawing).
We believe in a kinship between art and agriculture. Both involve an intimate encounter with the material world, a necessary curiosity, and the pursuit of specialized knowledge. Both the artist and the grower must labor and nurture in equal measure to arrive at their intended end, which, in both cases, is both nourishing and necessary.
Stay tuned for more about how we plan to make this happen, and please contact us if you would like to be involved.