The Alice Waters of 1938

By Kelly Snowden Posted May 12, 2009

A Californian such as myself might be forgiven for thinking that all roads from the current sustainable-agriculture movement lead back to Alice Waters. Not so! Last week I was at the Morgan Library, where I stumbled upon a New Yorker cartoon of a woman at a deli counter asking, “I wonder how much Louis Bromfield charges for his bacon?” Curiosity sparked, I did what every journalist does—I Googled him—and realized the movement was chic even before Waters was born. Bromfield was a Pulitzer Prize–winning writer who, in 1938, moved from France back to his childhood home in central Ohio and built one of the country's first organic farms, Malabar Farm. There he put his earlier study of agriculture to use, becoming a champion of sustainability and grass-based farming. Like food stars today, Bromfield also had Hollywood connections to help bring attention to his cause—Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart married and honeymooned at Malabar. Bromfield's farm still runs on the principles he supported decades ago, although it is now a historic landmark owned by the state of Ohio.

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