Mel Ford

Areas of Interest: 
agriculture, foodstuffs, & agropolitics; environmental and ecological design; feminist political ecology; disasters & extreme environments; climate change & the Anthropocene; multispecies engagements; futures; landscapes & spatiality; value; Japan

I am a first year graduate student interested in agricultural futures, spatial transitions of the farm, ecological and environmental design, and climate change. I hold a B.S. in Anthropology and a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies from the University of California, Riverside where I cultivated research interests in agriculture and the environment, broadly, from research with the Downtown Riverside Farmers Market and the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates in Menomonie, Wisconsin.

At Rice my project focuses on the future of farming and food in Japan after the 3.11 Fukushima nuclear disaster. I utilize anthropological critiques of nature, environment, and ecological design to question how radiation and disaster trouble notions of nature, natural disaster, agriculture, and food consumption in a potential post-nuclear agroscape. I intend to follow the organic movement in the questionably radiated Fukushima prefecture to understand how local knowledge-practices and notions of cultivation are challenged by numerical and statistical valuing of radiation, as well as challenge the conceptual frameworks for “safe” and “healthy” food. I am also interested in alternative spaces for agriculture that have emerged since the disaster, such as indoor vertical agriculture warehouses that utilize artificial light, hydroponic practices, and strict engineering and scientific methods to cultivate food deemed “healthy,” “clean,” and “sustainable” for human consumption and the environment.

Additionally, my project speaks to a much larger audience on climate change adaptation practices and policies surrounding farming and food security. Soil erosion and pollution, agribusiness, increasing arid landscapes, and urban development are conditions of the Anthropocene and climate change that are of global concerns for sustainable farming and food security. My hope is that researching agriculture in Fukushima aids in disheveling the ideological binds (such as organic/inorganic) of food consumption and agricultural production, as well as provides insight into the future of farming, sustainability, and food security. For these reasons, I believe there is urgency for anthropologists to critically engage with the rapid spatial, technological, and occupational transition of the farm, foodstuffs, and food supply.
Mel Ford
Graduate Student