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 started food gardens at the Santa Barbara
AIDS Hospice, an 11-acre farm at the Midland School,
and a market garden at the Jordan Downs housing project
in Watts. 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
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 is currently farming on an island in British
Columbia with his wife and two sons.
"Ableman is a gracious rebel who knows that industrialized
farming wrings the life
out of both soil and communities.
His joy in stewardship and in people celebrates a
psychic sustainability that won't appear on
- Sierra, Magazine of the Sierra Club