When I was a teenage my favorite summer activity was reading. Whether on a rainy day like today or out on the beach, I usually had a book in hand. Now that we farm, I rarely have time to read during the growing season, but come winter I try to pack it in and read everything I can.
Some of my favorite books from the last few years have been written by farmers. This list, in no particular order includes some of those I’ve most enjoyed. Whether you are interested in growing your own food, aspire to be a farmer in the future or read to understand a different perspective, I think you’ll enjoy the following books. You’ll find most at your local library or independent book store.
Written by Forrest Pritchard of Smith Meadows Farm in Virginia this is a tale of English major turned farmer. Pritchard’s casual and endearing way of writing will have you sympathizing with the challenges he faces turning a multi-generational crop farm into a grass-based livestock operation and you’ll laugh out loud at his misadventures. Jake worked at Smith Meadows back in 2008 during a year-long apprenticeship that brought him back to Apple Creek.
The Shepherd’s Life
If you’re a farm newsletter subscriber then you’ve had the chance to read excerpts of this book. The author, James Rebanks describes his home in England through a historical context that weaves together land conservation, modern challenges and a perspective of shepherding that stretches back through multiple centuries. Rebank’s captures the essence of farming and the relationship between shepherd and sheep in a powerful way. I’ll let you read it and see how well he puts it!
Turn Here, Sweet Corn
This book follows a family farm, Gardens of Eagan through its formative years. Author, Atina Diffley does a delightful job of writing a memoir that is as much about her own development as that of her farm. Along the way, Diffley shares the struggles farmers contend with- land development, resource extraction, natural disasters that are well out of their control and illustrates just how important communities can be during these events.
If you want to know how it feels, sounds and smells to start a large-scale pasture based egg operation then read this book! Author, Lucie Amundsen writes with humor and wit that belies the difficulties she and her husband Jason have faced in becoming the largest pasture-based egg operation in the upper Midwest. In her book, Amundsen introduces readers to the important concept of “middle ag,” which she believes can be a key economic driver vital to the revitalization of agrarian communities across the country. The book follows Lucie and Jason as they hatch the idea for their new business and through the first year or so as their plans get scrambled (puns all intended). This book made me laugh out loud and if you’re considering starting a farm, I’d consider it mandatory reading.
The Dirty Life
In many of the books included in this list you’ll begin to understand the powerful pull of farming. For some, it is a life they were born into and for others it is an adventure that may feel a bit like falling down the rabbit hole. Kimball does an elegant job of describing how she went from big-city reporter to living in the Adirondacks and operating with her husband one of best known and largest “full-diet” CSA farms in the country. The book follows the farm’s first couple of years as Kristin and Mark find land and begin asking neighbors to commit to purchasing all their food from the farm, by buying a share per person. I won’t spoil the ending too much to tell you- it works and the farm now sends shares as far south as New York City.