Unconventional Farmers: Artist/Farmer Matthew Moore

Matthew Moore, “Rotations: Single Family Residence #5” (2003–2004)

As the national conversation about food grows, new voices are adding great dimension and depth to the discussion. One to watch is Matthew Moore, a fourth-generation farmer and installation artist who has joined his two careers into one.

His earlier work took place on the farm itself, literally in the field. In “Rotations: Single Family Residence,” a commentary on his region’s rapid development of farmland into suburban housing, Moore grew a 20-acre barley field and carved out of it a geometric design like a modern crop circle; viewed from above, the design reveals itself to be the floor plan of a 3BR/2BA house—just the sort cropping up in the subdivisions nearby. On his website is a great time-lapse video showing the arduous work of hand-hoeing the design.

(I had the great pleasure of hearing Moore speak about his work in New York, and what really struck me—aside from the art itself—was his insightful observation of the many parallels between suburban sprawl and monoculture farming. I hadn’t thought of it before, but his slides underscored those common elements of visual repetition, blind focus on maximizing units of production, blandness in the name of efficiency.)

Ever since Moore returned to the family farm after art school, farming has informed his art. But I was intrigued to learn that his artmaking has gradually informed his farming. He continues to grow conventional crops for a wholesale market, but thanks in part to all his artistic reflection on monoculture farming, he and his wife have turned several acres of the farm into an organic vegetable CSA. And that, in turn, has influenced his installation work. One recent project deals with redesigning the supermarket to show how the food for sale was grown, the hope being that it will encourage shoppers to be more thoughtful with their purchases.

More about Moore and his work in this nice interview at Hearsight magazine.

Lisa M. Hamilton is the author of the recent Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness (Counterpoint).

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