Crop Stories is a food-based magazine, with each issue focusing on a particular ingredient. Its fourth edition highlights sweet potatoes—histories and how-tos, stories of real people who work the land, and a whole mess of delicious recipes. According to editor Andre Gallant, the magazine wanted to seek out diverse narratives and writers. “What we hope most is how the stories presented in the following pages begin to complicate or discard any idyllic notions of farming in the American South. We share the same love for what draws others to the field—independence, soil that nurtures, a rustic gastronomy—but we refuse to blot out difficult topics like race, class, gender, and age, that permeate every aspect of modern life.”
Within this 144-page fourth edition, you will find a history of the sweet potato, different types of sweet potato, tips on growing the crop, including tips on handling pests, and stunning photographs—some by friend and collaborator Rinne Allen. Perhaps most moving are the stories of the people trying to make a living off the land: local independent farmers, slaughterhouses, why Black land matters, and farmers getting by in The Sweet Potato Capital of the World—Vardaman, Mississippi. Of farmer Loyd Lewis, who owns and operates a roadside vegetable stand, Keia Mastrianni writes, “In an instant, it is clear what inspires Loyd Lewis to work each day. The farm is an extension of himself; an identity so tethered to the land, it’s as deeply rooted as the trees that shade the property.”
Editor Gallant said, “So far we have not followed a formula. We are making this up as we go along, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s something I like to tell the team, who often turn to me to understand the rules of the journalism/publishing world. I say, ‘There are no rules to what we are doing.’ We aren’t Bon Appetit or Modern Farmer. We’re inventing the identity of this thing with each issue.” Crop Stories encourages readers to get to know their farmers and know there is a story behind everything they consume, but it also aims to get the average person more comfortable with ingredients and with cooking new things. Above all, it pulls no punches about farming life, all while celebrating the crops produced.
Beginning September 25th, The Factory Café will begin serving sweet potato wedges in homage to Crop Stories fourth ingredient. For more sweet potato recipes and stories, pick up a copy of Crop Stories here.