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Harvest: A Year in the Life of an Organic Farmby Nicola Smith
Synopses & Reviews
The world of farming — one that is disappearing quickly — informs every aspect of our modern culture, from the food we eat to how we use and preserve the land we live on. Most of us have never set foot on a working farm, however. Now, through insightful prose by journalist Nicola Smith and photographs by Geoff Hansen, readers can enter the life of a couple who believe in the importance of the land and its harvest.
It was a dream of Jennifer Megyesi's to run a farm, and when she and husband Kyle Jones founded Fat Rooster Farm, it became a dream come true. By tapping into the public's desire for organic and artisanal food — and with lucky breaks such as selling their milk-fed pigs to celebrated chefs such as Mario Batali — they are finding some success.
The farm embodies both the newer and more traditional faces of farming. Megyesi and Jones are in their early 40s, college educated with advanced degrees, well traveled, influenced by the environmental and social movements of the 1960s and 70s, and savvy in their use of marketing and Internet skills. But in the scale and management of their operation, they revert to an older, more pastoral ideal: sheep out at pasture, chickens that roam free, cows trailed by their calves, hand-gathered honey and maple syrup, their four-year-old son helping with the chores. They're big enough to grow and sell their own meats, eggs, and vegetables at a modest profit, and small enough to have strong ties to the community. It's a life worth living — and learning about.
"Freelance writer Smith and her husband, photographer Hansen (My Life as a Dog), dispel the 'dreamy, nostalgic haze' surrounding urbanites' notions of smallholder agriculture with this detailed look at life on a working farm. For a year, they follow their Vermont neighbors, Jennifer Megeysi and Kyle Jones, through the snow, mud and manure as they work Fat Rooster Farm. Numerous vignettes, illustrated by Hansen's appealing pictures, pile up a wealth of detail about this small organic establishment, which raises both livestock and produce. It's a gritty life: Megeysi and Jones, who also hold jobs off the farm, must deal with murderous raccoons, hypothermic piglets, ducks overdue for slaughter, byzantine food regulations (and the legislators behind them) and their own difficult marriage. More than most writers on farming, Smith is attuned to the people who do it: Megeysi may be one of the most vividly drawn farm women since Letters of a Woman Homesteader. Readers who garden seriously, however, may notice a few inaccuracies, as when Smith calls minuscule garlic shoots 'scapes' (the term refers to flowering stalks). And occasionally unruly sentences and a not quite chronological, not quite thematic structure can obscure the larger patterns by which Megeysi and Jones manage their farm. Farming is an intricate, sometimes brutal dance with the land; this book demonstrates most of the moves, but never quite the full performance." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Smith...writes an intimate, unsentimental portrait of the couple's stresses...and it's this close-up view of the private, painful, and real negotiations necessary to keep the farm running that, along with Hansen's fine photographs, may resonate most strongly with readers." Booklist
"Given its unique and personal focus, this fascinating book will appeal to a wide audience, especially those considering organic farming." Library Journal
"Nicola Smith's lucid prose and Geoff Hansen's wonderful photographs have brought us not just a year in the life of an organic farm but a love story and an inspiring portrait of modern farm life." Julia Alverez, author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
"Smith presents a true-life farm narrative to pain you and entertain you, but mostly to enlighten you." Ronald Jager, Author of Eighty Acres and The Fate of Family Farming
"This remarkable account is unsentimental and realistic, and also profoundly moving; I know many people living this life, and every page in Nicola Smith's book rings true. Peel a local apple, cut a few slices of farmhouse cheese, and settle in with this adventure story." Bill McKibben, Author of The End of Nature, and of Wandering Home
An unforgettable portrait of a family farm, in words and photographs.
If youre interested in where our food comes from, read Harvest, an intimate portrait of a small Vermont farm. Jennifer Megyesi and Kyle Jones put everything on the line—their ideals alongside their savings—to start Fat Rooster Farm. By tapping into the interest in organic goods, the couple hope to succeed where other farmers have failed. The number of American farms is dropping every day, yet we are still fascinated by the idea of the farmer checking his crops, the sheep out at pasture, cows trailed by their calves.
Harvest gives us insight into the life of a farm run on a small scale, by family, with support from the community. Its about the bucolic scenes of maple syrup gathering and a young boy trailing his parents, helping with chores. But its also about the day-to-day reality of family life: arguments over work, money, and child-rearing, as well as disputes over who is going to take produce to market or how many animals to keep. Life and death are in stark relief here, but ultimately Harvest is about relationships: the relationship between husband and wife, parent and child, man and land. Its a book that will surprise and ultimately captivate you.
About the Author
Nicola Smith, a freelance writer, holds an MFA from Columbia University.
Geoff Hansen is a photographer and editor at New Hampshire's Valley News and author of My Life As a Dog: The Many Moods of Lucy. His work has appeared in Newsweek, USA Today, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe. They live in Tunbridge, Vermont, with their daughter. You can learn more about the book at www.harvest-book.com.
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