BELFAST — The Maine Farmland Trust and Left Bank Books invite the public to a free talk and book signing with Port Clyde author Margot Anne Kelley Sunday, Oct. 9, at 2 p.m. to celebrate the recent release of “Foodtopia: Communities in Pursuit of Peace, Love & Homegrown Food.” The event takes place at Left Bank Books, 109 Church St., and reservations are recommended at 207-338-9009 or

Margot Anne Kelley

In “Foodtopia,” Kelley details the evolution of food-centric utopian movements in the United States that were fueled by deep yearnings for unpolluted water and air, racial and gender equality, peace, a less consumerist lifestyle, a sense of authenticity, simplicity, a healthy diet, and a sustaining connection to the natural world.

Kelley has organized “Foodtopia” around the stories of five back-to-the-land movements. The first took place in the 1840s when large numbers of utopian-minded people in our country — including Henry David Thoreau and Bronson Alcott, along with his daughter, Louisa May — established small-scale farming as an alternative to mainstream agriculture. Kelley then examines what she calls another “groundswell of foodtopian experiments” in the 1890s and 1900s as the U.S. moved away from its rural, agricultural origins and toward an urban, industrialized future. Next, in the midst of the Great Depression, she focuses on destitute urbanites who began turning to the land and the proliferation of utopian religious communities. Most famously, Scott and Helen Nearing went back to the land during this time. The fourth movement Kelley examines took place in the 1960s and early ’70s, when hippies and back-to-the-landers adopted foodtopian lifestyles in communes or as homesteaders. Finally, she concludes with a look at how today’s young farmers — who are growing heirloom pigs, culturally appropriate foods, and newly bred vegetables — along with others working in coalitions, advocacy groups, and educational programs, are working to extend the reach of this era’s Good Food Movement.

Kelley, who holds a PhD in American Literature and an MFA in Media and Performing Arts, is the author of two books focused on people in relationship to the natural world: “Local Treasures: Geocaching Across America” and “A Field Guide to Other People’s Trees.” She taught at the college level for nearly 25 years. Since leaving academia, she served as the editor of The Maine Review, co-founded a community development corporation that runs a food pantry and community garden, and serves as an adviser or board member for several other nonprofits focused on finding creative approaches to living more sustainably.

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