Petaluma author demystifies food culture

Douglas Gayeton of Petaluma has been on the road this summer, hopping from Alaska to the East Coast to promote his latest book, "Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America" (Harper Design, $35).

For the past three years, Gayeton followed the same path, interviewing farmers and producers across the country about a few of the most common grocery store buzzwords, from Asphalt Agriculture and Pasture Management to Permaculture and Urban Apiary.

The multimedia artist wrote the book with his wife, Laura Howard, to help consumers navigate through the often complex vocabulary of America's food and farming movement.

"A lot of these terms and principals are foreign to them," he said. "My wife and I thought, 'What if we create a dictionary of all these terms that could help people live more sustainably?'"

Like his first book, "SLOW: Life in a Tuscan Town," the book tells the story of an evolving food community through easy-to-digest portions of text, photos and handwritten notes artfully scrawled on top of the photos.

Under the umbrella known as The Lexicon of Sustainability, the couple has expanded the book into a series of PBS films, "Know Your Food," and a social media initiative, "The Food List," which explores a sustainable theme each week.

The author grew up around farming. His grandfather worked his own vineyards in Santa Rosa, and that gave Gayeton a deep respect for the connection between food and culture. His goal is to spur consumers to support local farms and local events that are defined by food.

"If you do one thing this week, buy something that was grown locally,'" he said. "If you're already doing that, buy something from somebody you know. If you know who is growing your food, it will totally change the way you look at your food."

A few of the North Bay farms and producers highlighted in the book include Della Fattoria bakery of Petaluma, the Seed Swap of Sebastopol and Marin Sun Farms of Inverness.

Gayeton plans to do some "Local" book events around the North Bay in July. For more details, and to watch his PBS film series, go to lexiconofsustainability.com.

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