Synopses & 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 revitalization and redemption, he finds the natural connections between generation and succession, fathers and children, booms and declines as he tells the story of his family and their farm. He brings us to the rich earth of America's Fruit Basket, under the vine trellises and canes where grapes are grown, and to the fruit orchards flush with green before harvest, where he uncovers and preserves the age-old wisdom that is fast disappearing in our modern, information-driven world -- and that is urgently needed in this time of food crises and social disruption.
Masumoto sees the price the family has paid to grow complex heirloom peaches -- when the market rewards tasteless, big, and red fruits -- and the challenges of maintaining traditions and integrity while working in the modern, high-pressure agricultural marketplace. As his father's health declines along with the profitability of the family farm, Masumoto has the further hard work of nursing his father back to health -- becoming master to the teacher who once schooled him -- and is driven beyond economic concerns to even larger questions of life, death, and renewal.
In his gorgeous, lyrical prose, Masumoto conjures the realities of farming life while weaving in the history of American agriculture over the past century, encapsulating universal themes of work along with wisdom that could be gleaned only from the earth. By the end of the workday, he understands the feeling of accomplishment when you've done your best...and discovers that it's when he lets go -- of both his father and control of nature -- that wisdom manifests itself. And, when Masumoto's daughter intends to return to the family farm, hope is found in the generations. In the quiet eloquence of Wisdom of the Last Farmer, you will see how your own destiny is involved in the future of your food, the land, and the farm.
"Wisdom of the Last Farmer is a fiercely tender book; it could forever change how you regard a parent and the way you eat a peach...[and] puts food and farming into a rugged perspective that both humbles and inspires." -- DEBORAH MADISON, author of What We Eat When We Eat Alone and Local Flavors
"An eloquent and moving memoir...a coming-of-age story for adults as well as a generous appreciation of the personal value of farming to farmers and its overall value to society. Masumoto's love for his family, their land, and the fruit they produce shines through every chapter." -- MARION NESTLE, Ph.D., author of What to Eat
"Masumoto passionately engages every fiber of his being in both his work and his writing, bringing the land to life for his readers….A philosopher in coveralls and work boots….Read slowly and savor."
"A graceful meditation on the work of growing food and its meaning across generations.
"The only voice from within farming that sings of both its pleasures and its pains, Mas Masumoto's words are so deeply rooted in his farmwork that they sweat, sting, and shine all at the same time. America's most articulate orchard-keeper, its most earthy writer, Mas eloquently captures the everyday beauty, heartbreak, and moral complexity of a multigenerational family intent on 'bearing fruit' despite insurmountable odds." -- GARY PAUL NABHAN, author of Renewing America's Food Traditions
"A graceful meditation on the work of growing food and its meaning across generations. A peach of a book... worthy of placement alongside the best of Wendell Berry, Liberty Hyde Bailey and other literary farmers."
David Mas Masumoto works a family farm, growing organic peaches, nectarines, and grapes. When Mas’s father had a stroke on the fields of their 80-acre farm, Mas confronted life’s big questions: what do his and his father’s lives mean? What have they lived and worked for? “A fiercely tender book,” (Debora Madison), Wisdom of the Last Farmer
“portrays the farmer’s life with so much passion, warmth and honesty that it’s hard to avoid seeing farming’s beauty and gritty appeal. Written from the author’s perspective, in language that is poetic yet unadorned, it’s part memoir, part manifesto, part philosophical discourse and wholly enjoyable” ( San Francisco Chronicle
). In the harvest of his father’s wisdom, and his own, gathered from a lifetime of farming and surviving, Mas finds the natural connections between generation and succession and life, death, and renewal. He shares how to tend and make things grow, and how to know when to let nature take over and give things away.
In Wisdom of the Last Farmer, Masumoto farms stories as he farms peaches. His insights are full of beautiful, lyrical descriptions on how to nurture both the tangible and intangible and make them grow. Through Masumoto’s quiet eloquence, we see how our own destinies are involved in the future of our food, the land, and the farm.
About the Author
David Mas Masumoto is an organic peach and grape farmer who works with his wife, Marcy Masumoto, and their two children, Nikiko and Korio, on their 80-acre farm just outside Del Ray, 20 miles south of Fresno, CA. He has a bachelors degree in sociology from U.C. Berkeley and a masters degree in community development from U.C. Davis. He is a columnist for The Fresno Bee,
has written for USA Today
and The Los Angeles Times,
and has been featured in Wall Street Journal
, Los Angeles Times
Magazine and New York Times
. His farm has been featured Sunset
, Country Living,
Magazines and on television as part of the California Heartland PBS series as well as the nationally aired program "Ripe for Change."
Masumoto has won numerous awards, including the James Clavell Japanese American National Literacy Award in 1986; the 1995 Julia Child Cookbook Award in the Literary Food Writing category, finalist for the 1996 James Beard Foundation Food Writing Award, and San Francisco Review of Books Critics' Choice Award 1995-96, all for Epitaph for a Peach; Commonwealth Club of California silver medal for the California Book Awards in 1999 and was a finalist for the Asian American Writers' Workshop award in New York for Harvest Son; and the University of California, Davis “Award of Distinction” from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 2003. He has been the key note speaker at diverse conferences including International Association of Culinary Professionals, Culinary Institute of America, American Association of Museums, and many more. He also was awarded a Breadloaf Writers Conference fellowship in 1996.