Michael Ableman is a farmer at Foxglove Farm, in Salt Spring Island, BC, where he raises a variety of row crops, berries, and grains. He is the author of “From the Good Earth: A Celebration of Growing Food Around the World”, “On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm”, and “Fields of Plenty”.
Michael Ableman is the founder and executive director emeritus of the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens, a non-profit organization based on one of the oldest and most diverse organic farms in southern California, where he farmed from 1981 to 2001. At its peak the farm served as an important community and education center and a national model for small scale and urban agriculture, hosting as many as 5000 people per year for tours, classes, festivals, and apprenticeships. Under Ableman’s leadership the farm was saved from development and preserved under one of the earliest and most unique active agricultural conservation easements of its type in the country.
Ableman has consulted on, designed and installed farms and food production gardens at the Santa Barbara AIDS Hospice, an 11-acre farm at the Midland School, a three-acre market garden at the Jordan Downs housing project in Watts, an agricultural training center in the parish of Trelawny, Jamaica, and a city-wide urban agriculture initiative in Vancouver, British Columbia. His work as an educator and consultant has helped to inspire dozens of projects and initiatives throughout North America and the Caribbean.
In 1984 Ableman traveled to mainland China where he observed the remnants of a traditional system of agriculture that had sustained people and the land for thousands of years. This experience inspired him to travel around the world documenting other cultures culminating in the internationally acclaimed publication of From the Good Earth: A Celebration of Growing Food Around the World (Abrams, 1993). Called “hopeful and inspiring” by the LA Times and “a compelling photographic essay” by the NY Times, From The Good Earth was one of the first books to visually document the dramatic changes taking place in food and agriculture worldwide. The book has become a timeless classic that challenges us to participate, in the marketplace, in our kitchens, and in our own backyards.
Ableman’s second book, On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm (Chronicle Books, 1998), is the emblematic story of his fight to preserve a piece of what was once some of the richest farmland in the world, and a paean to the sweet obsession of growing food. The Philadelphia Inquirer stated, “that if Henry David Thoreau had been a farmer, he would have written a book very much like Michael Ableman’s On Good Land”. Booklist called it “inspiring and utterly absorbing” and the literary book review Kirkus Reviews said that “among a sprawl of books incessantly issued and hyped, this small, wise volume quietly calls us to read and be renewed”. The book, graced with Ableman’s lush photographs, argues articulately for farmland preservation and provides a blueprint for a farm that thrives in cooperation with its surrounding community.
Ableman’s photographs have appeared in publications throughout the world and in solo exhibitions at the Oakland Museum, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Field Museum in Chicago. He has lectured extensively throughout the U.S. and in Europe. His work has been covered in National Geographic, on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, in the Utne Reader, Gourmet Magazine, and the L.A. Times. An award-winning film about Ableman’s work, Beyond Organic, narrated by Meryl Streep aired nationally on PBS in 2001.
Ableman has received numerous awards including the 2001 “Sustie” Award for his work in sustainable agriculture, Eating Well magazine’s 1995 Food Hero Award, and the 1997 Environmental Leadership Award from the governor of the state of California.
His third book Fields of Plenty, A farmer’s journey in search of real food and the people who grow it was released in the fall of 2005.
Ableman currently directs the SoleFood project in Vancouver, British Columbia, a city wide social enterprise providing urban agriculture employment and food to Vancouver’s most underserved individuals. He is also directing the Center For Arts. Ecology, and Agriculture at Foxglove Farm on Salt Spring Island where he grows a diversity of fruits, vegetables, and grains.