You know organic food has hit its moment when it gets its own version of baseball cards. In photographer Francesco Mastalia’s book Organic, the Hudson Valley farmers who raise their plants and animals without synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers, and the chefs who cook with and celebrate their produce, get the star treatment.
The geographic focus makes sense: Because of both its rich farming history and its proximity to New York City, the Hudson Valley is one of the country’s hot spots for organic and farm-to-table agriculture. But it’s the dreamy portraits in this book, accompanied by brief texts from their subjects explaining what “organic” means to them (many of them have rejected the official certification offered by the USDA), that really stand out.
Mastalia uses a 19th-century process called wet-plate collodion that allows him, as Gail Buckland puts it in her introduction, “to make photographs the same way photographers did 150 years ago” just as “the farmers in the book are growing vegetables and raising cattle the way their forebears did 150 years ago.”
That sepia-tinged approach may ignore some the innovations and forward-thinking that characterizes much of the best organic farming and cooking, but for anyone who likes their locally-grown, pesticide-free carrots with a dusting of nostalgia, Organic is tasty indeed.