This book is a perfect introduction to Louis Bromfield. Each essay is representative of a certain period in the life of Malabar farm, and Little's int...moreThis book is a perfect introduction to Louis Bromfield. Each essay is representative of a certain period in the life of Malabar farm, and Little's introductions illumine each essay with interesting contextual information.
Little's contributions at the beginning and end of the book are wonderful--he obviously has great affection for Bromfield, but speaks about his farm writings very objectively, weighing both his successes and failures as a writer, farmer, and visionary.
The last essay, "Fifteen Years Later," is by far the most powerful in the collection. Writing one year before his death, Bromfield casts doubt on many of the naive visions he had for Malabar, which he shared in essays printed earlier in the book. Little wrote a beautiful introduction to this essay, which bear quoting perhaps more than the essay itself:
"Reading this essay, from the advantage provided by several decades of hindsight, it is poignant to see how Bromfield misunderstood his work as a writer, his role as an experimental farmer, and his effort to expand the Jeffersonian lessons of Malabar onto the larger canvas of American political life....
"He should have known better, of course, but how many of us recognize our own false assumptions? The performance was not weak; the objectives were falsely constructed, a difficulty experienced by nearly all creative people--the touch of hubris. In the end, the failures of self-understanding are unimportant, especially when compared to the one, big thing that Louis Bromfield got right: that his work at Malabar gave him a sense of belonging to something larger than himself, 'to something vast, but infinitely friendly.'"(less)
Great resource for CSA farmers or hopefuls. There's lots of good information to start with, including a wealth of data on planting and harvesting, but...moreGreat resource for CSA farmers or hopefuls. There's lots of good information to start with, including a wealth of data on planting and harvesting, but it's not a substitute for old-fashioned trial and error on your own terrain. Great inspirational reading for community farmers and those stuck in midwinter and dreaming of spring...(less)
This is one of those revolutionary gardening books that would change the way I garden if I was willing to dig two-foot deep beds, which I am not. If y...moreThis is one of those revolutionary gardening books that would change the way I garden if I was willing to dig two-foot deep beds, which I am not. If you aren't, either, I would recommend Eliot Coleman as a satisfying alternative if you're looking to feel both inspired and inept as a gardener (I say this with humor and all affection, as a Coleman devotee).(less)
This book is no revelation. Kingsolver herself says in the acknowledgments: "Everything we've said here, Wendell [Berry] said first, in a quiet voice...moreThis book is no revelation. Kingsolver herself says in the acknowledgments: "Everything we've said here, Wendell [Berry] said first, in a quiet voice that makes the mountains tremble." True that.
That said, I am grateful to Kingsolver for writing a book on food ethics that my mom could read, because it's not a book on food ethics. For anyone who is already passionate about sustainable agriculture, this book will not teach you anything you don't already know. But, it may very possibly take its place as the religious tract of the sustainable movement: Here is a book I can give to all my friends that is accessible, practical, written by a household name, and may just have what it takes to change someone's mind.
My favorite quote in the book receives that designation because it perfectly describes what I have been feeling the past few months but have not taken the time to articulate, even for myself. When I read it, it was like a little flash of light:
"I share with almost every adult I know this crazy quilt of optimism and worries, feeling locked into certain habits but keen to change them in the right direction. And the tendency to feel like a jerk for falling short of absolute conversion. I'm not sure why. If a friend had a coronary scare and finally started exercising three days a week, who would hound him about the other four days? It's the worst of bad manners--and self-protection, I think, in a nervously cynical society--to ridicule the small gesture. These earnest efforts might just get us past the train-wreck of the daily news, or the anguish of standing behind a child, looking with her at the road ahead, searching out redemption where we can find it: recycling or carpooling or growing a garden or saving a species or something. Small, stepwise changes in personal habits aren't trivial. Ultimately they will, or won't, add up to having been the thing that mattered."
This is the empathy, the hope, the encouragement we all need to turn and face a different direction, and make small steps forward.