An art exhibit that captures the lifestyles of far East Contra Costa farmers and how they have contributed to modern agricultural practices and the growing local food movement is coming home.
After being displayed across Northern California, "Shifting Perspectives on the Urban Edge" will be displayed in several Brentwood venues over the next few months. Currently, these 19 banners featuring Brentwood area farmers with their stories told through quotes and candid photographs are on display at Apex Securities in downtown Brentwood.
On Jan. 26, it will be shown at a Summerset event "In Our Own Backyard: Celebrating Fresh and Sustainable Local Foods." In early 2013, it will also be exhibited as part of the Brentwood Community Center's new public art wall program, which involves art displays that change quarterly.
The exhibit was created by Brentwood resident and photographer Doreen Forlow and Walnut Creek resident Gail Wadsworth, who conceived the project and assisted Forlow by conducting the oral-history interviews of farmers. This was in 2007 and 2008, coming on the heels of tremendous residential growth in this former agricultural community.
After spending many hours with the farmers in the fields and packing sheds, Forlow said that she learned how they were creating a niche for themselves through organic farming, innovative equipment and unique crops during an era of tremendous growth and development.
"Farming is not easy. It is tough," said Forlow, whose grandparents and parents were also local farmers. "I saw that farming is not dead in Brentwood."
Forlow said that she believes in educating people about eating locally grown foods and often advocates for local farms being featured in area grocery stores and businesses. Even with winter fast approaching, Forlow said that she is still eating local persimmons, honey, walnuts, olives and pomegranates.
"I realized how I needed to get that important information across to the public," said Forlow, who is a board member of the East Contra Costa Historical Society. "I strongly feel that if we lose the ability to feed ourselves, we lose our freedoms of choice."
The exhibit first opened at county offices in Martinez in 2008 and has since been displayed at the Brentwood CornFest, Los Medanos College and even the California State Fair where it won second place for the county. It received funding from and was part of the California Stories Project, which Forlow said aims to educate people about the benefits of supporting farmers.
"Some people have been touched by the memories that it brought back of growing up in Brentwood," Forlow said. "For the ones (farmers) that I know, I rediscovered them through this process."
Farmer Mike Arata, who grows fruit in Byron, said that the exhibit and ongoing local food movement has helped to promote far East County farms and keep them sustainable.
"There has been quite a bit of activity at the Brentwood Farmers Market," he said. "The buy local campaign has helped."
Contact Paula King at 925-779-7174.
"Shifting Perspectives on the Urban Edge" is being displayed at Apex Securities, 8660 Brentwood Blvd., Brentwood.