Assistant Professor of History, Mississippi State University
What are you working on?
I've just wrapped up a book project on the agricultural and environmental work of George Washington Carver, so I'm in the process of shifting gears in terms of my research. Two projects have my attention right now. The first centers on the Black Belt of Alabama and Mississippi, and seeks to tease out the connections between land use, race, and poverty in the region. In doing so, I hope to blur the line between nature and culture in understanding the identity of the southern landscape and its people. The second revolves around the co-evolution of ecology and agriculture in the Progressive Era, examining the ways in which practitioners of the nascent science conceived of their work and its practical applications.
What does membership in the AHS provide you?
Chiefly, it provides me with a cadre of peers, many of whom are doing some of the most interesting historical research being done today—asking relevant questions and finding remarkably nuanced answers. The opportunity to hear about their research and bounce my ideas off of them has proven invaluable.
What is the next hot topic in agricultural history?
Food studies and issues related to sustainable agriculture seem to be attracting a good bit of attention these days. But if I had to choose one, I might well point to southern agricultural and environmental history—not because of a myopic obsession with my chosen field, but because there are number of bright and energetic young scholars working on the subject whose first books will attract a good bit of attention over the next year or so.
Favorite historical work on agricultural or rural life?
I suppose it depends on the purpose of the work. In terms of scholarly models, it's still hard to beat Don Worster's Dust Bowl, however much subsequent histories might have amended it. For teaching purposes (and for laidback reading), however, Janisse Ray's Ecology of a Cracker Childhood and Stuart McLean's Welcome Home: Travels in Small Town Canada answer as well any.