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Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers' Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm
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Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers' Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  1,556 ratings  ·  275 reviews
One fateful day in 1996, upon discovering that five freight cars’ worth of glittering corn have reaped a tiny profit of $18.16, young Forrest Pritchard undertakes to save his family’s farm. What ensues—through hilarious encounters with all manner of livestock and colorful local characters—is a crash course in sustainable agriculture. Pritchard’s biggest ally is his renegad ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 21st 2013 by Lyons Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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Becky
I'm kind of a sucker for food documentaries... but I am so tired of all the horrifying, disgusting, show-it-all-for-the-shock-value type project. Yes, it gets that visceral reaction, and yes, maybe some take a hard look at their habits and start putting their money and support where their conscience is... but there's only so much cruelty that I can stomach when it comes to animals. And my tolerance is extremely low for it.

So it was lovely and refreshing and all sorts of happy-making that this b
...more
Shari Henry
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Part memoir, part how-to, this book by Berryville, Virginia farmer Forrest Pritchard is worth your time. Early on, Pritchard makes the case for writing the book: the world needs books written about farming. I hadn't thought about it before but he is right. Pritchard also makes the case for growing and buying local, particularly in respect to farmer's markets. (In fact, he saw his farm finally begin to make a financial turn-around thanks to the Arlington Courthouse market.) He refuses to sell to ...more
Jessie
Sep 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wow! What a fun read. I can't recommend this book enough - everyone can enjoy it. It's a quick, easy read and you'll definitely learn something along the way.

I'll admit upfront that I've been buying meats (beef, lamb, chicken, pork) and eggs from Smith Meadows farm for the past 3-4 years - conveniently brought every Saturday morning to my local Del Ray farmers' market. I also used to go to the Arlington farmers' market where they also have a Saturday stand. It was in Arlington that I first met F
...more
Christopher
Dec 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting, quick read about a guy who decides to save his family farm by converting to a completely organic, free range cattle operation. I recommend it for anyone who has a dream similar to mine, that of getting out of the city and doing some old-style farming.
Elizabeth7781
Aug 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biographies
Farming - I just read a book about FARMING, and I could not put it down!! Started it on the airplane on the way home from a business trip and read it into the night. It is now 1:00 in the morning, and Forrest Pritchard, you cost me some shut-eye but it was worth every lost minute!

Mr Pritchard is a good steward of this earth, and as the chapters mounted, so did my respect and appreciation for his farming methods - free range, grass fed animals. Organic farming. Growing food the way it is suppose
...more
Robert
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very well written personal story about keeping the farm and turning it into something quite extraordinary; grass-fed, no chemicals, no antibiotic livestock. He sells at farmers markets in the DC metro area. Gives one a real appreciation for small farmers and farmers' markets. Couldn't help but cheer him on as I read the book.

During the past two years I have found myself spending more time/money in MOM's and Whole Foods. I am alarmed (more than alarmed, in fact) by the emptying of the oceans b
...more
Carol Bakker
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Forrest Pritchard had me at Foreward by Joel Salatin. He kept me with his story telling, his prose, and his pitch. He chronicles the process of turning around a failing farm without bogging down in soggy sentimentality or in detailed lamentations of exhaustion.

He exposes his failures and false steps with humor. A large part of Forrest's farming success is marketing. He not only sells frozen meat and free-range eggs; he builds relationships with his customers. I especially appreciated the interp
...more
Jimmy
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: environment
Mr. Pritchard had so many problems raising animals for meat, I'm surprised he ever succeeded in his farm. It's difficult work, and I appreciate it. I'm still a bit troubled though about killing animals and about the effect of raising animals on climate change and other environmental issues.
Elsabet
I really enjoyed this book. It's a story of how a man took the failing family farm (that was kicking out a profit of $18.16!) and turned a profit by going organic. It was fascinating to see all the different steps he took, trying, and sometimes failing, to pull himself up by the bootstraps. In the end though, he succeeded. I wonder if some of the ideas he had would be applicable to our little, ten acre homestead?
Janie
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: x-2017, audio, non-fiction
Loved this book! The audio version was so easy to follow while tasking. I was familiar with much of the basics except farmers' markets, as we attended Joel Saladin's farm tour almost twenty years ago and read most of his books. For whatever reason that I have never been able to pin down, I have been drawn to these farming ways and for a time, we had a milk cow, chickens, a pig, and some rabbits and goats. If you're not familiar with sustainable agriculture, you'll learn a lot from this informati ...more
Andi
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love this farmer memoir because it's funny, accessible, and deeply touching. Forrest Pritchard writes directly from his heart, and the resulting chapters move from amusing to hilarious, heart-warming to heart-breaking, finally culminating in both triumph and tragedy. It's not just a good model for our food system, it's simply an amazing read!

Forrest Pritchard is a farmboy at heart, as evident by his childhood memories of chickens, cows, pigs, crop fields and gardens—though not always all at on
...more
Mark
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even today most people think of the "family farm", they think of green pastures, happy creatures, and simple life. Gaining Ground is a story that ends on the path towards that utopian view of the American farm, but begins where most farming today ends: crushing debt, broken machinery, and slavery to the corporate food industry.

When one is reading the book, it is about farming; pure and simple. Forrest is the prodigal son returning to reality of his parent's agricultural nightmare. However, throu
...more
Helen
Jun 12, 2014 rated it liked it
In many ways, I love Pritchard’s story of rebuilding his family farm. Against the advice of pretty much everyone, Pritchard takes up farming the land that his parents could never make a living off of. His journey really is an amazing one. He starts off with crushing debt, little help, and no plan. Through trial and error, trial and error, and then a little more trial and error, Pritchard finds a way to make the farm not only his own, but profitable for the first time in many years.

Yet, as Pritch
...more
Suzanne Moore
Dec 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This family's story is inspiring and encouraged me to buy local and eat organic. I'm glad I read this book early in the year, so I could pledge to eat better foods along with my New Year's resolutions. I enjoyed Forrest's storytelling style and hearing about the lessons he learned while turning around the fate of his grandfather's farm. After years of barely making it and on the verge of losing money, he learns how to raise livestock and maintain pastures to save his family's farm. The whole fam ...more
T. Carter Ross
May 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable memoir about turning a small farm into a locavore success. I've bought eggs from Forrest at the Takoma Park Farmers Market for years and have heard bits and pieces of his story before, but in Gaining Ground he lays out all the trials and doubts along his way to becoming a trailblazer at DC-area markets. His writing has a lot of dry humor but the hunger to build something new (and simultaneously regain something old) underpins the tale. The book includes a small critique of industria ...more
Megan
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book!! It's about a 30-something man who finishes college and decides to take on the family farm that has been in his family for 7 generations. After his grandfather died in the 80s, they were almost constantly on the verge of losing it. Having been a cattle farm for most of the time, this is his journey into how he started out (selling fire wood and straw), learning about grass farming, raising cattle organically, finding a butcher instead of selling to feedlots, gaining ...more
Amanda Harrison
All nonfiction should be this readable. I flew through this memoir by Forrest Pritchard about saving his family farm. Forrest makes a great chance for how farming in America is broken by the first chapter and then talking about how he made it work through a lot of trial and error. His stories are one part amusing and one part sentimental as he waxes poetic on his land. Almost over the top, Forrest is earnestly honest about his life and very self reflective about his place in society. Recommended ...more
Koren
Jul 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food
Best book I have read this year. Very interesting to learn how much work it takes to farm organically. I was especially interested to read the end of the book that tells why organic food is more expensive than non-organic. You will laugh and cry when you read this book. This is a book where you want to know the author and his family and when you are done you feel like you are leaving a friend. I will definitely look for more organic food and farmer's markets.
Rob Johnson
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I did not expect to enjoy a book about farming but I really loved this story. It's well-crafted, inspiring and, at times, a bit of a page-turner. I've read books with much more intriguing subject matter but weren't half as interesting as this book. I'd recommend it to anyone. Honestly, this farmer can write!
Sara
I loved this book! Here is a memoir with a compelling plot line ... will the family farm be saved? .... told by a likeable and humble writer with a supporting cast of interesting and quirky characters. I was deeply moved by this quest to grow good honest food, protect a family legacy, and live a life of rewarding hard work.
Joel
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Quick read. Look at agriculture and economic plight of many family farms. Plenty of human story as well as farm story. Happy to see the changed system worked for him and his family.
Katie
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really interesting book about the early movement away from industrialized farms...it's funny and I learned a lot as well!
Tom N
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A real eye-opener regarding what organic farming is all about. If you think you know about the origins of the food on your table--think again. The author of GAINING GROUND, Forrest Pritchard, tells of his past experiences of the family farm, as well as his outlook on how organic farming can not only produce wholesome food, but a sustainable environment as well. His stories are both funny and thought-provoking. I highly recommend this book. It was suggested reading by our local library; and it wa ...more
Jessica Lidh
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A great read for aspiring farmers and for the American consumer.
James
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm by Forrest Pritchard is the perfect book for a wannabe farmer. In fact it’s the perfect book for anyone who has had a dream and wondered what the process might be to make dream reality. It doesn’t have to be a farming dream, because all dreams are achieved the same way: by hard work, determination, and sacrifice. Sure, there are some other things that go into the recipe for success, but I believe these are the ba ...more
Elizabeth
Sep 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Usually I tear through a book like a "Nor'wester" but this one seemed to slip into limbo. It was start stop hit miss the first time around. I guess real -time farm life had me in it's grip. The second time I started it, spring was a dreamy haze where gardens perfectly manicured waited.

The equinox came with the promised rains and Gaining Ground was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now the pages were soggy, wrinkled and color stained from my bookmark of a picture I had printed out. You'd thin
...more
Chris
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food-health
Several years ago, after reading Michael Pollan's 2 books, In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma, I swore off conventional meats that come from feed lots where animals are pumped with antibiotics and hormones and treated inhumanely.  It is refreshing to read a book about a man who turned his struggling family farm into a successful business and did so by using environmentally sustainable and humane practices.  

Pritchard's book was a joy to read.  His story begins when he returns home fro
...more
Lanette
Sep 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I went to see Forrest Pritchard speak at the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello because I'd seen "Gaining Ground" seemingly everywhere. I figured I'd hear what he had to say and then decide whether or not to buy the book.

His talk was great. When I previewed the first chapter of the book on Amazon, I was hooked. What a great, easy read. I love his voice and hope this isn't the last we'll be seeing of him. There were parts that had me laughing right out loud (Pedro in the truck, 'Princess Fo
...more
Peg Lotvin
Oct 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
The boy can write. Maybe that will be more lucrative with less sweat than the farming. Wonder if he had any idea before choosing the title how many other books are called Gaining Ground?
I do give all these back-to-the-landers credit though. The work is incredibly hard with not a lot of return for it. They seem happy though with just the sunshine, animals, and good soil for return. More power to them.
Sharon T.
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a delightful book! Besides being very informative, it's written with such a gentle, humorous style. Lyrical. I literally laughed out loud sometimes. And it's amazing what he was able to accomplish with the farm, with what sounds like more strength and stamina than I can imagine. I'm hoping he writes more books.
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“All farms require a resident dreamer, someone to thumb through seed catalogs in the cold days of late January, imagining summer fields of squash and cucumbers, tomatoes and sunflowers. Fall harvests are the reward of winter dreams. Someone must decide where the next fence should be placed, or conceive of a clever new way to organize the market stand. On a farm, there's no shortage of little dreams needing to be dreamed.” 3 likes
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