The recent popularity of literature about food and farming has produced an explosion of what might be generously termed lazy agrarianism or, less generously, organic fertilizer. This agrarianism features a mushy conflation of terms in service of a Manichean view of agriculture: local, organic, sustainable, and alternative versus global, industrial, unsustainable, and capitalist. It then transposes the former cluster of good characteristics onto an imaginary agricultural past. That the alternative food child should be as mythical as its nostalgic agrarian parent is fitting. As both Kathryn Cornell Dolan’s Beyond the Fruited Plain and Allison Carruth’s Global Appetites demonstrate, farming in the United States has been a privileged site for modernist imaginings. This is in part because the history of American agriculture is first and foremost the often-ugly history of capitalism, slavery, and settler colonialism. It is no wonder that many agrarian writers...

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