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Radishes in Suburbia: Documenting Urban Growth and the End of a Family Farm Radishes in Suburbia: Documenting Urban Growth and the End of a Family Farm

Radishes in Suburbia: Documenting Urban Growth and the End of a Family Farm

by Thomas Gorman

April 4, 2011

When Matthew Moore returned to his family's 1,000-acre carrot farm outside Phoenix in 2003, he was struck by how much the landscape had changed. During the seven years the 35 year-old spent studying sculpture in San Francisco, the city had expanded into the surrounding land. What was once a 30-minute drive into civilization was now a stroll across the road. A new Target big-box store broke ground nearby and a Wal-Mart is close behind.

In order to save his family's farming legacy, if not the farm itself, Moore set about documenting everything his farm produces. He set up solar-powered time-lapse cameras paired with weather-tracking systems, covering the entire growing period of his crops. He collected his compendium of short films into a project called Lifecycles.

Moore says he'd like to expand Lifecycles to stores around the country to spark a nationwide debate about farm policy. "I can get a raging conservative and an organic activist to shut up and watch transfixed for three minutes," he says. "In the process, I can gently wipe their minds clean for a minute."

With the initial success of Lifecycles in January, Moore launched a larger, more ambitious expansion of the project called the Digital Farm Collective. The idea would be to replicate his time-lapse cameras and weather stations at farms around the country, to record the particular regional varieties and inherited wisdom of independent farmers.

Moore hopes the eventual online omnibus could simultaneously educate consumers about the ecosystem of food plants while also giving producers access to the collective expertise of aging farmers.

He's looking for start-up capital through the online crowd-sourcing site United States Artists, and he's recruited a pair of farmers in California and Kentucky into his first class of contributors for this summer. Moore hopes to have recording equipment in the hands of six more farmers—including at least two in Arizona—by the end of 2011, as the next stage of his project's world-wide expansion.

"I sometimes daydream that this project will one day find its way to some farmer in Peru," Moore says. "That would go a long way towards re-centering the conversation."

You can watch more of Moore's timelapse videos, including crookneck squash, broccoli, and kale, online here, and if you like what you see, you have until April 29 to help support his Digital Farm Collective. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this story later this spring as we report back on Moore's progress.

All images courtesy Matthew Moore.

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Radishes in Suburbia: Documenting Urban Growth and the End of a Family Farm