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Are you buying, cooking and eating locally grown food? In these four books, Vermont farmers write and talk about farm life and what it takes to produce the bounty available at our farmers’ markets, grocery stores and CSA’s.
Forty-Six Years, in documenting the farming lives of Larry and Grayson Wyman and their Weybridge, VT farm, helps readers understand why family farmers work long hours for meager economic returns. For the Wymans, “farming is for those who value the rhythm and routine of the seasons and the diversity of each day’s challenges, for those who accept that farming is a difficult way to make a living but steadfastly believe that it can be a fulfilling way of life.” State Representative Chris Bray says that “Every reader will come away informed about the day-to-day realities and sensibilities of a small farm operating in the second half of the 20th century.” The text is accompanied by evocative black and white photographs.
“Philip Ackerman-Leist writes about homesteading, using his experience in Vermont as an example. Ackerman-Leist challenges conventional notions of homesteading (owning one’s own land, self-reliance, independence). Those days are gone, he writes. Today, you can homestead anywhere (a student of his has founded the “back to the yard” movement), not only in rural settings, and the key to successful homesteading is interdependence, not independence. It is no longer possible to fully retreat from society. “Homesteading is an act of defiance and of reliance: defiance of cultural norms and habits and reliance on self and local community.” It is, he writes, “much less about location than it is about intent.” Up Tunket Road raises the issue of mentors, literary and practical. Ackerman-Leist cites Thoreau, Helen and Scott Nearing and others who have written about the experience. (Thoreauvians try not to disturb the land; followers of the Nearings bring “shelter, order, and a whir of activity to a place.”) He writes with great reverence about a local farmer-gardener who gave Ackerman-Leist time, tips and help. “Up Tunket Road” takes us through the choices the author and his wife made about their lifestyle: how to create light, how to bathe, how to eat. Homesteading brings you “face to face with ecological choices,” forcing the homesteader to confront, to realize the effect we have on our environment. The book also contains an excellent reading list for people dreaming of a different American Dream.”-Los Angeles Times
“Novelist and journalist Kessler (Birds in Fall ) introduces us to a more personal side of his life—his life with goats. But this book is more than just a memoir. As Kessler recounts the early years when he and his wife moved from Manhattan to a farm in Vermont where they raised goats, he intricately intertwines the relationship humans and goats have had throughout history, pulls in several literary works that inspired him, and takes readers back to the roots of the pastoral lifestyle. This pleasant and poignant book journeys between present and past, demonstrates the delights and challenges of raising goats, and explains how fresh milk and cheese can make the effort worth undertaking. VERDICT Whether experienced with goats or not, readers will appreciate Kessler’s ability to weave explanatory passages into his text to enlighten and promote an understanding of the herding way of life that continues today. Sure to appeal to urban dwellers thinking about going back to the land.” -Library Journal
“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.” -Publishers Weekly.