What do you do when you’ve been given a Notice to Vacate your suburban Melbourne home? Why, pack up your stuff and buy an old motorhome for an epic road trip across the USA, obviously. That’s what the Jonai do.
Who are these Jonai? I’m a PhD Candidate at the University of Melbourne investigating the role of food in a cosmopolitan, sustainable society. Stuart is the family brewer, baker and preserve maker, who has a business in solar thermal equipment catering to the DIY market. We are supported by a crew of interesting and interested kids — Oscar, Antigone & Atticus, ages 11, 9 and 7.
And so we’re off — lengthy tours of America and Australia have been on our list of Amazing Adventures to have with the kids for years. An unexpected eviction, Stuart’s plan to attend the 2011 National Solar Conference in North Carolina, and mine to be at Food and Agriculture Under the Big Sky were all we needed to send the gypsy Jonai off on the officially named RoadTripUSA.
I think of it as a smiley face tour of America: start in Washington, DC with history, and head down the eastern states exploring many of the original colonies before grinning our way through the South, where our focus is food and traces of the Civil War. As the middle states don’t offer so much of *ahem* interest (sorry Oklahoma), we’ll high tail it over to the west where nature is our guide and national parks reign supreme. We finish with my extended clan on the folks’ stunning ranch high in the mountains of southern Oregon, and a final week in San Francisco with my bro’ en famille.
As planning progressed, it struck us that with our imminent move to the country to raise free range pigs (a farm was secured today, in fact!), this is a marvellous opportunity to learn from small, sustainable, ethical producers in the States. After the wonderful Joel Salatin unknowingly convinced us that we too could be farmers, we learned a lot more about the ever-growing momentum of America’s ‘rebel farming’ movement, that is, those rejecting Big Food (industrial food production) and relying on ‘biological farming’ methods such as permaculture and organic agriculture. And so we will find these Rebel Farmers and learn from them what we can.
So now RoadTripUSA is not just a History/Food/Nature tour, it’s also a Rebel Farming tour, and we’ll rely on the recommendations of those we meet on the road to discover the parts of America we won’t find in the Lonely Planet. If you’ve got any recommendations, I’d love to read them down in the comments section.
We’ll be led by our desire to sample regional delights such as Philly cheese steak, shrimp and grits, pulled pork, fried okra and collard greens, and an equal desire to help the Jonai brood explore their American heritage through its history, politics and local culture. What we learn from America’s Rebel Farmers will shape our planning as we launch into our long-held dream to live near Daylesford in country Victoria and become sustainable producers ourselves.
And just how will we meander through the land of glorious contradictions? A land where Monsanto controls 90% of the technology for genetically modified seed production, but that also has a vibrant organic movement the likes of which we can only dream of in Australia? Where more than 30% of the population is obese and a shocking number of people have limited access to fresh, whole foods, and yet where there are now over 6,000 farmers’ markets bringing people closer to their food and the people who produce it? We’ll need to fit in a bit if we hope to navigate this complicated nation…
So we’ll be the ones in the silver 1977 GMC motorhome, the coolest house on wheels we could find, cruising the highways and byways, from organic farms to KOAs (yes, that’s Kampgrounds of America [sic]), we’ll sing the motorhome blues in Memphis and shoot the breeze eating cayenne-coated barbecue with the Cajuns in Louisiana. From Capitol Hill to the Beaver State, wherever there’s a road, there’ll be Jonai on RoadTripUSA.