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From the Ground Up: A Food Grower's Education in Life, Love, and the Movement That's Changing the Nation
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From the Ground Up: A Food Grower's Education in Life, Love, and the Movement That's Changing the Nation

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  121 ratings  ·  39 reviews
An inspiring story for everyone who’s ever dreamed of growing the food they eat

When Jeanne Nolan, a teenager in search of a less materialistic, more authentic existence, left Chicago in 1987 to join a communal farm, she had no idea that her decades-long journey would lead her to the heart of a movement that is currently changing our nation’s relationship to food. Now a le
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by Spiegel & Grau (first published January 1st 2013)
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Jill Blackstone
So far the literary treat of the year for me. I can't even remember how I heard about this book but I found it at my local library on a day I happened to find 4 other books. On a whim I chose this one first, having no expectations. What a surprise! This book told a great story (and by the way the author's parents sound like saints) and was incredibly informative and persuasive without being lecturing. My 5 stars is relative to my experience in reading this book... I came in as a fairly captive a ...more
Part memoir of reclaiming life after living in a cult-like commune, part organic gardening primer, part locavore/slow food treatise, I loved and was deeply moved by every aspect of From the Ground Up. Jeanne Nolan fled her suburban Chicago home for Zendik Farm as a teenager, hoping for a life filled with meaning and connection to the Earth. When she returned to “mainstream society” with her young daughter seventeen years later she was broke, unemployed, disillusioned, and disoriented. All she kn ...more
I think of this book as One-Part-memoir, One-Mixed-Part-foodie/gardener/environmental - with both portions mesmerizing in their own ways.

Jeanne Nolan grew up in a fairly well-to-do neighborhood in Illinois in a caring, mostly conservative family. Along the way, she began to long for a more authentic life- so at 18 she joined a commune. I know this sounds like the 60s/early 70s, but it wasn't. It was late 1980s and the attraction for Jeanne wasn't an ideal of "free love" or feminist/equality com
I picked this book up because there were few choices at the library, but didn't expect to be very interested. I thought it would be a book guiltling me into the organic food movement and technical, maybe ever a bit dull. I was very wrong! I loved this book and literally could not put it down. Jeanne is a wonderful narrator and shares so much about her life, being in a commune and how it affects her now, in the most beautiful way. The Project she created in Chicago is amazing. This books was trul ...more
I admire Jeanne Nolan as a gardener. She taught our Openlands BUGs (Building Urban Gardens) class on growing organic veggies and I loved her insightful, accessible, and practical approach and advice. Her book is just the same – and more. That knowledge was gained through some difficult and unusual life experiences. She had the best of intentions and still ended up with some questionable people in a cultish community. Fortunately for her, her experiences, despite her fears of being a failure, rea ...more
This book is straight-forward, not particularly literary in language. The writing is well done. And the title perfectly sums up the story. The author is sharing her education, and detail, about life (especially her relationship with her parents), about love, and especially about organic food growing. The story of her life is also sufficiently interesting to make me like this book.

I'd recommend this book primarily to people who are passionate about learning organic gardening. If that's not impor
I won this in a Goodreads first reads giveaway. I was really excited about this book and even though it wasn't exactly what I expected I did enjoy it immensely. The book is a memoir that includes considerable discussion about the winding path the author took to become a leader in the small scale organic gardening movement in Chicago. The author moved from suburbia to a commune as a young adult, which is where she learned the nuts and bolts of organic gardening. This was also where she got caught ...more
Daniel P.
This was a random pick of mine and I'm glad I read it. It a personal journey for the author, it's an insight into being environmentally responsible, and it kept my attention the entire time. I picked it up because of the "growers movement" angle, but it has as many life lessons as it does environmental ones.
Melanie Ullrich
I honestly did not want this book to end! Definitely not your typical garden memoir. Jeanne feels suffocated and flees from suburbia to find a more meaningful life, which leads her to a cult-like commune, leaving her uncertain and unprepared for a regular life. When she has no other choice but to go home, she uses her unconventional skills to promote a green revolution in Chicago. This book was very inspirational for me and gave me the boost to come up with some better ways to engage my communit ...more
I really liked this book, a mixture of memoir and gardening, life on the "North Shore" and how gardening impacts the lives of both wealthy and impoverished.
I live in Chicagoland area, however, I discovered this book while on vacation in San Francisco (found in a bookstore in the Haight). Enjoyable read for any one interested in reading about social movements, organic gardening and Chicago area movements and local players in the food movement.
Amy Turner
I enjoyed the personal details as well as the information about organic and urban gardening.
Like "Eat, Pray, Love", except "Grow, Eat, Love"
Interesting but the stilted writing is very distracting.
Inspiring story.
Melanie Hernandez
Very informative on Organic Gardening.
Inspiring read. Great if you love gardening vegetables, as I do. I need to work more on the soil, evidently.
Great book that gives you insight into starting a garden design business. I really enjoyed the read with Jeanne sharing personal ups and downs along with her business growing. Really inspired me to go for my dreams.
Kathleen Cole
Engaging story of the restorative power of gardening. I very much enjoyed it.
Wonderful memoir about making mistakes and finding your way through. Also an excellent book about gardening, organic foods, and how to treasure things that really matter by making better choices. Well, ok, so that makes it sound either dry and boring or preachy in some fashion, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Jeanne Nolan walked a hard path and manages to tell us about it with humor, compassion and pretty excellent tips on soil.
Jeanne Nolan's seventeen years of living on a communal farm allow her to sow the seeds of organic gardening in her own community when she returns to suburban living seventeen years later. She is able to teach others about the benefits of organic gardening - benefits that transcend nutritional supplication to include environmental gains, infusion of meaning into one's life and an overall greater sense of community among city dwellers.
Daniel P.
what a surprise. I've been picking up a few books from the library recently on gardening. So when this book sprung up in front of me at the book store, I was intrigued & drawn to it. So I bought the kindle version when I got home & started reading... what a journey. Jeanne's journey is amazing & inspiring. You learn about her and her life add you also learn a thing or two about organic gardening.
This book is as much a love story and profound memoir as it is a garderner's companion. A wonderful story. Looking forward to meeting the author someday.
An inspiring book which tells an incredible story (true story) about coming to term with who you are and not shamed of confronting with one self. It is book about not only about gardening (as the book title suggests) and environmental awareness, but also about parenting, love, self-identity searching, and always looking forward. Love this book!
Foster Dickson
This was a really good book. It was easy to read because the story is told well, and the subject matter is current and relevant without taking a "cause celebre" tone. The narrative was very solid mix of family drama, coming-of-age story, love story, instructive explanation, and urgent call to action.
Mar 27, 2014 Julie added it
well written, interesting...wonder who ghost wrote it ...the author didnt attend college...she must have had a great editor. this book was interesting about her life on a cult/commune and after. she really landed on her feet...
Good read to help (re)inspire urban farming/gardening. Mostly focused on Chicago area :)
Diana Vance
Meh. I was hoping for "how to" or " how I did" and instead got a diary of "why I am what I am". Nothing wrong with that, but the title of the book is very misleading.
Sheila Read
Jun 16, 2013 Sheila Read marked it as to-read
Shelves: books-won
I rec.ed this book from the goodreads giveaway site and once I get some of my other books that I have won I will be reading this book.
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Jeanne Nolan has been growing food organically for over 20 years. She is a well-known educator and consultant and is the founder of The Organic Gardener Ltd., which works with families to develop gardens that are beautiful, productive, and uniquely suited to their homes and lifestyles. She also works extensively with schools, restaurants, not-for-profits organizations, and other institutions. In p ...more
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