Feeling paranoid about survival yet? Or maybe just have more time than money on your hands and want control over your food? The farm memoir just might be the thing for you. I myself am a dedicated armchair farmer: the hard work these farmers are writing about is alternatively repellant and massively inspiring. It’s also a good time of year to be dreaming about vegetables and contemplating the rewards of self-sufficiency. Whether you end up reading in your garden or going gung-ho for chickens, these writers have a lot to say about our current culture of food.
The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball
Kristin Kimball’s entertaining memoir about her shift from New York City journalist to farmer and wife is engaging on multiple levels. She deftly balances the seduction of a food centered life with a city dweller’s distrust of neo-hippie ideals. What I appreciate about this book is that it portrays neither uncomplicated bliss nor happily ever after, but a deep satisfaction in work and life that grows over time.
Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich
Ok, so this isn’t the most recent of Jenna Woginrich’s books, but it is a great place to make her acquaintance. Jenna possesses a rare and wonderful ability to share her failures as well as her successes in a way that is consistently encouraging to the fledgling urban farmer and frequently hilarious. Jenna wants us to succeed. She wants us to think about survival and self-fulfillment and about achieving our dreams. That she can do that without irritating your socks off is a true measure of her talent. And if you want to know what happens next, check out her Cold Antler Farm blog.
Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World by Joel Salatin
Oh, Joel Salatin, you fascinating curmudgeon. If the mild and joyful farmer’s memoirs leave you wanting more, jump into the thick of the agribusiness food debate with Joel. He’s challenging, interesting, and highly opinionated. I can almost guarantee that something in this book will tick you off, but some other part will almost certainly prove totally compelling. You may not agree with him, but he’ll certainly give you plenty to think about.
Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting by Michael Perry
If you don’t know Michael Perry’s work, then go read Truck: A Love Story and be introduced to our slightly goofy, often moving, verbal genius of a narrator. While this is the third of his memoirs, it’s the first that delves deeply into his childhood and continues the funny and heartbreaking story of his life. One of the best features of Michael Perry’s writing is that while it is deeply personal, it is also a remarkable portrait of his community in rural Wisconsin.
The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
You may or may not have heard of The Fabulous Beekman Boys or of Beekman 1802 but the story of a former drag queen and a Martha Stewart perfectionist and their love affair with a decrepit mansion is nothing if not interesting. The Boys are characters, the house and the goat farmer and the garden are all characters, and their adventures are legion. This is a memoir that speaks simply about the quest for perfection and about holding onto love when reality has become cold, expensive, and full of goat excrement. I only wish there was more about Polka Spot, the insanely bouncy narcissistic llama.
Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese by Brad Kessler
If you’re into cheese, or goats, or tracing the origins of words, then this is a great book for you. This is a wonderfully written, lyrical memoir about the author learning goat herding and cheese making. Alternatively fascinating, earthy, practical and peaceful, I’ve suggested it to practically everyone I know. The only caveat is that goats are graphic in their sex lives, and Kessler is a master at evoking imagery, so be warned that the combination can be potent and slightly alarming.
~ Jenny, Central Library