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Wisdom of the Last Farmer: Harvesting Legacies from the Land

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  131 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
It was when David Mas Masumoto's father had a stroke on the sprawling fields of their farm that the son looked with new eyes on the land where he and generations of his family have toiled for decades. Masumoto -- an organic farmer working the land in California's Central Valley -- farms stories as he farms peaches. In Wisdom of the Last Farmer, an impassioned memoir of rev ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published August 4th 2009 by Atria Books (first published 2009)
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David Stanley
Apr 15, 2013 David Stanley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The great thing about Mas Masumoto's books is I can use the same review. Here it is. "Every book that Mas Masumoto writes has deep roots - to family, his ethnicity, the soil. Every book that Mas Masumoto writes is done in prose that makes you turn the page, not just for what he says, but how he says it. And every book Mas writes takes you to his next book, and brings you back to re-read his earlier works. His books make you feel good about being human. Highest recommendations." Yes, he's that go ...more
Aug 09, 2009 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My husband Jake jokes that if you want to start a successful restaurant in the bay area, all you have to do is work for Chez Panisse for a day, and then bill yourself out as a former employee. People will come running on the assumption that all your food will be fresh, organic, and innovative. So, David Masumoto did a good thing having the introduction to his book about peach farming written by someone who treasured the experience of eating Masumoto's family fruit at Alice Waters's restaurant. W ...more
Aug 24, 2012 Becky rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read this book for a book club, and I never would have finished it if not for the book club pressure.

It's a memoir of a peach farmer in the southern Central Valley in California. He describes a few interesting things about fruit farmers' vulnerability to weather and about customers' desire for red fruit, even when it doesn't taste as good as the heirloom yellow varieties.

But overall: cliche. I've read a lot about farming, and I think that maybe I've reached my limit? Everyone loves their own fa
Aug 08, 2010 Susy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the writings of David Mas Masumoto; he has the most articulate & lyrical sense of place about his family farm set smack dab in the middle of California's Central Valley. This is the most somber of his memoirs to date simply because it deals with the aging and medical setbacks of his father and his inability to continue doing the only thing he knows in life. Clearly their bond which was cemented by their farming partnership is strong and needs little in the way of words to convey their ...more
Lisa Kelsey
Interesting to read this just after having read "Snow Falling on Cedars." The Masumotos grew peaches and grapes instead of strawberries, they were in California instead of Washington, and were interned at Gila instead of Manzanar, but their experiences were very similar to the fictional account in Guterson's novel. It's hard to believe what Japanese Americans went through during World War II. While his family was imprisoned and their property was confiscated, Masumoto's uncle was drafted and kil ...more
Snow Ford
Aug 21, 2012 Snow Ford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
on the one hand, this book could be viewed as "mean things to do to a 70 yr old stroke victim". Mr. Masumoto has his dad learn to drive a tractor and try to weld after a major stroke. On the one hand this may seem cruel, on the other, this is a man who knows his father, and is in tune with the things that make his father happy, even post stroke. Writing about three generation of farmers, this book is a beautiful testament to the care and stewardship David Mas Masumoto and his family have put int ...more
Jul 20, 2011 J rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not quite life changing enough to merit 5 stars but really close. 4.5 at least!
Read this while home sick and felt nourished just by reading.
I was already a Mas fan, but I feel that this book really pulls the bigger story together, with plenty of references to past events and characters to fill in those of us who haven't read his stuff in a while.
This is non-fiction at its best: humble yet universal, approachable yet lingering, plain spoken yet beautiful.
I can't imagine how he finds time to wr
Judy Gehman
Apr 02, 2010 Judy Gehman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Eloquently written, it is the story of growing heirloom peaches, organically in the Central Valley of California. It is autobiographical and philosophical. He muses about his grandparents, first generation Japanese in America. His father was in an internment camp during WWII and then drafted to serve in the US Army. After the war he bought the farm and nurtured it. Masumoto too, is drawn to the land and ends up coming back home after college and farming with his fathe ...more
Karen Jett
Jan 06, 2010 Karen Jett rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This book was very good. I read it with my husband who is an organic farmer and it touched both of us.

I was able to relate because my father has had numerous strokes and I know the pain of adjusting to different limitations after each stroke like the author did with his father. It made me teary in places.

My husband realized that the rigors of farming that he experiences are normal and that other farmers, even fruit farmers (he grows vegetables), face similar challenges like long hours, pests, a
Liz Murray
Mar 01, 2013 Liz Murray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading about David's experiences as a farmer and hearing his perspective on issues that go beyond the peach trees. He has an easy writing style that conveys his passion for farming; his insights are always welcome and never cliche. I'd imagine that it's very rare that working farmers write at the same time so that makes also makes this book special. An Early Childhood class I'm taking on Narrative Inquiry and Memoir required reading this book and I'm really glad it did. It's al ...more
Not quite as enjoyable for me as Epitaph for a Peach but still a worthwhile read. In contrast to many recent books about farming and homesteading which tend to be overly positive and optimistic, this book offers a more realistic view of farming families throughout the generations. The big takeaway for me was Masumoto's acknowledgement that although farming is physically backbreaking and often unpredictable, one can love it anyway.
Stacy Ho
Jan 16, 2012 Stacy Ho rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food
This book offers an interesting view from the perspective of a Japanese-American organic heirloom peach farmer in California's Central Valley, from constantly being challenged to meet the physical demands of farming (including near-death experiences), to using old and creative methods to make repairs, to living at the mercy of unpredictable rains and other weather, to dealing with the economic realities of being a small-scale farmer, to continuing family traditions....all while managing his fath ...more
Jan 27, 2013 Marleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David Masumoto is a third generation farmer who's working his grandparents peach and grape fields. After college, unlike his older brother, he joins is father on the farm. He spnds many hours laboring in the hot sun working the fields with his father. David's father suffers several strokes and can no longer work the land like he once had. Farming is changing and prized fruit is no longer judged by flavor but by shelf life and appearance. Can the independent farmer survive in a fast food world? T ...more
Feb 01, 2011 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What I liked about the book is that it is the perfect balance of universal and unique. A unique experience: Being Japanese-American and a farmer. A universal context: Age catching up to a beloved parent. Masumoto does an exquisite job of exposing himself without throwing a pity party. At the heart of the book is the writer's vulnerability. Along the way, he weaves in provoking thoughts, reflections, insight, and information. This isn't a book that made me angry about the state of the world. This ...more
Third generation Japanese American farmer David Mas Masumoto writes this beautiful memoir of life on an organic peach and raisin farm with his family, in the wake of his father's stroke. Masumoto's father farmed before him and for years, farmed with him as he took the reigns on the farm. But after his stroke, David had to mentor his father on the farm, set limits and reteach him how to farm. Along the way there are stirring reflections on farming, mortality and life's fragility (in both its huma ...more
Aug 16, 2010 Stacey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful tale of one farm, and the people that have loved it. Mas Masumoto's writing is elegant as he shares with you the story of his family. Each chapter is deeply touching as you travel with him through happy times, and sad times. Learning about our food and how we have industrialized it. It is heartwarming to know that there are still small farmers out there, and they are putting their love and time into our food so that we have healthy items to eat still!
Jul 07, 2010 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good insight into the work of farming and the rise of supermarket produce (produce which can be picked unripe, shipped long distances and still look good). Sad description of loss of heirloom varieties of fruit, but hope for revival of tree ripened local produce.
Masumoto a bit long winded and overly introspective, but just skim those parts.
Nov 03, 2011 Natalie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was ok. It was about a multi generation peach farm in California and the struggles and strife of it. i liked it, but not as much as other farmer stories like "the dirty life" and "Animal vegetable miracle"
Anne Van
Apr 14, 2010 Anne Van rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! Beautiful writing.... a riveting and soulful account of working his family farm in the California valley, and a moving tribute to his father. I'll think of the writer next summer when I bite into a perfect peach (if I can find, that is).
Kristen-Marie Freeman
I don't usually find non-fiction very interesting, but I liked this work okay. It's a combination of a collection of essays about organic farming and a memoir. Reminds me that I must look into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box...
Sep 24, 2012 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: slow-food
This was a poignant tale. I related to it in many ways as I'm Asian American and my grandfather was a poultry farmer who died from Alzheimer's. I made Bellinis made from organic peaches I picked up from a Farm Stand in VA.
May 13, 2013 Denise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoughtful, well-written, smooth read. His writing style has a quiet, pensive quality to it. He weaves in a variety of issues: his father's stroke and recovery; history of farming in the Central Valley; Japanese-American history/culture; the reality and economics of family farming today.

Jan 07, 2010 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Good work, importnat work, necessary work, is not always measurable by profits." This quote sums up the life of the organic farmer. This bio looks at the life of the author and I can tell you that I will not complain about the price of organic fruit the next time I'm at the store.
Jun 17, 2013 Jan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
This is a book not to be missed by those interested in food and farming and family and the history of agriculture in California and Japanese immigrants in the 20th Century...and so so so much more. LOVED it!
Jolene Haack
Jun 14, 2011 Jolene Haack rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 100-2011
This started out beautifully and the stories were lovely. But it became incredibly repetitive. It could have been a hundred pages shorter and been a better book for it.
Tammy Stuever Alhadef
This is a beautiful book. But, I got distracted with something else and ended up having take it back to the library before I'd finished. I would definitely pick it up again.
Aug 31, 2009 Grace marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I read the first chapter in an airline magazine. I really want to read the rest of it.
Christina Dudley
Sep 16, 2010 Christina Dudley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely and lyrical meditation on the farming life, what we inherit from our forebears, and the ties of family.
Sep 08, 2009 Paula rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
very beautifully written. often, writing about farming - hardships, equipment, crops, and all - can be dry. this is juicy.
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David "Mas" Masumoto is an organic peach and grape farmer and author of Epitaph for a Peach (1995), which offers a glimpse of life on a family farm in Central California, Letters to the Valley, A Harvest of Memories (2004), Four Seasons in Five Senses, Things Worth Savoring (2003), and Harvest Son, Planting Roots in American Soil (1998). His organic farming techniques have been employed by farmers ...more
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