Is Williams-Sonoma's Agrarian Brand the Real "Portlandia"?

Who needs Portlandia when we have Williams-Sonoma Agriarian?
The urban DIY sustainability movement comes painfully close to self-parody with Williams-Sonoma's new Agrarian line of tools and supplies.

Launched last week, Agrarian brings us shiny tin bronze garden trowels hand-forged by Austrian coppersmiths ($58.95 not including optional monogramming on the linseed oil-rubbed turned beech handle), the cedar shake-roofed Alexandria Chicken Coop and Run ($389.90 in your choose of colors with "White Glove delivery; we'll assemble the coop and place it for you"), and a $4.95 ball of twine "handcrafted in Scotland by a company known for its high-quality garden twine since 1922." The merchandise line also includes a $299.95 metal tub that can be repurposed as an herb planter (described as an "authentic found object, circa 1920s–1940s") and the Kumbucha Brooklyn Kit complete with "organic, fair-trade cane sugar from Brazil" and a "pristinely propagated symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast;" everything you need to brew your own ancient tea-based beverage just like they do by the Belt Parkway.

American Hipster by Kyle Mahan


It's the self-conscious virtuousness of urban homesteaders.
Agrarian will give a big déjà vu feeling to fans of the Portlandia television series. The sketch comedy loves to skewer the precious concerns of the studiously trendy, and foodies are a favored target. Portlandia has brought us the lactose- and wheat-free Allergy Pride Parade, the overzealous briners of We Can Pickle That!, and the unforgettable Colin, a menu item presented to restaurant patrons with a pedigree and photograph identifying him as a local, free-range, heritage-breed, woodland-raised chicken that was fed a diet of sheep’s milk, soy, and hazelnuts.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for a conversation about our broken food system. I have nothing but respect for the ethos of sustainability and self-reliance. I admire the artfulness, passion, and ingenuity of those who reclaim fallow land for food production. But the high-end, sanitized homesteading represented by Agrarian smacks of elistist puttering by hipster backyardatarians and status beekeeping by weekend getaway home-owners.

It's an easy target for Portlandia-style parody; like hitting the broad side of a barn painted a perfect Martha Stewart Living™ Barn Door Red.

I think you'll like Brokelandia. A love letter to Portlandia, it's a Brooklyn-based spoof of a spoof covering everything from beer-flavored salted caramels to deep-fried sardine skeletons.

Gigabiting: where food meets culture and technology. gigabiting.com

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