Posts Tagged ‘Farming’

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

April 8, 2014

Flight Behavior by Barbara KingsolverDellarobia is a young housewife living on a struggling family farm in the mountains of Tennessee. She is sneaking away for an illicit affair when she stumbles across an incredible sight. Millions of Monarch butterflies have set down in a field on their land. Dellarobia is so moved by the sight she convinces her husband and father-in-law to put on hold their plan to sell logging rights to raise cash.

When word spreads, the butterflies become a worldwide sensation and focus for controversy. Visitors from all over arrive to see the wonder. Environmentalists mount campaigns to save the butterflies. The local church believes it is a sign from God. Scientists argue over climate change. News crews keep showing up on Dellarobia’s doorstep.

For Dellarobia, it means a glimpse of life outside her small world. In high school she was considered bright and had planned for college when she discovered she was pregnant. Since then she has grown stagnant living in her home town. Now, she goes to work for the scientists who have arrived to study the butterflies and she becomes wrapped up in their work. When they tell her that they will only be there for a few short months she is devastated.

Kingsolver’s novel is wonderfully written and is an insightful study of different worlds colliding. One of my favorite scenes is when an environmental activist tries to get Dellarobia to join the fight “to save the planet”. His list of things people can do to help aren’t remotely relevant to her life. Save electricity by turning off the computer? She doesn’t have one. Bring your own cup to Starbucks? There isn’t one, and they couldn’t afford it anyway. Recycle? Her husband’s truck is on its third engine and they never buy new clothes. The man becomes discouraged and leaves without talking to anyone else in the town. It is hard to reconcile that there are so many in this country living such different lives than what we think of as normal, but Kingsolver does a good job of making everyone in the book realistic and sympathetic. And by the end you are really hoping for a new life for both Dellarobia and the butterflies.

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The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

October 2, 2013

Honest and funny best describe this memoir. Kristin Kimball was living the single urban life in New York City in 2002. She had worked at a literary agency and taught creative writing. Now she was a freelance writer and about to interview a farmer who represented something that was just beginning to burgeon onto the American food scene: local and organic fruits, vegetables, and meats. She drove six hours for their first meeting in Pennsylvania, and was whirled into the vortex of his world that very day. They did not do the interview; instead, she helped him slaughter a pig.

The memoir proceeds at a breakneck pace, full of the wonderful details of the urban hipster falling for the “wingnut” (Kristin’s word!) farmer Mark and vice versa. They courted over bicycle rides, farm implements, setting traps for rats, and the amazing meals that Mark prepared for both of them from the fields. The course of their true love is strewn with the usual difficulties of learning each other’s foibles, follies, and facts of life. Kristin and Mark have the added twists of choosing land on which to start their own farm, finding their places in their new community, purchasing equipment and animals, and quickly becoming business partners. Mark has lived outside of “the American dream”- state, relying on the earth in ways Kristin (or most of us) have not encountered or attempted. Kristin has never farmed, and must to come to grips with the sheer physicality and sometimes heartbreak of the stunning change in her life’s path.

The writing is clear, warm, and personal. You don’t want the book to stop at the end of their first year on Essex Farm. You want to know more about the horses, neighbors, crops and babies. You want to sit right down and write a check for a share in their full-diet CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) farm and move to New York state to help them weed and harvest. Let’s sit down together and share a meal!

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The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

October 11, 2011

“What’s for dinner?” Probably the hardest question facing Americans every day. As omnivores we have endless choices and today’s supermarkets have miles of aisles of food to satisfy our needs, but maybe too many choices are not such a good thing.

My Book Club recently read and discussed this thought provoking look at the state of food and dining in America. By far one of our most lively and heated discussions we have ever had. Nothing brings people together like food and at the same time divides us as well. The author begins the book by discussing what is the American Paradox vs. let’s say the French Paradox. The French Paradox is that as a country they consume more fat and calories than most nations, but are one of the healthiest. The American Paradox is that although we aspire to healthy eating, we are one of the least healthy industrialized nations in the world. The author attributes this to several factors with one common denominator, corn.

Corn has become the basis of most of the food consumed by Americans. In fact, we consume so much corn it has actually altered the human genome. Take a look at some typical McDonald’s menu offerings and the percentage of corn and corn byproducts they contain:

Soda: 100% Milk Shake: 78% Salad Dressing: 65% Chicken Nuggets: 56% Cheeseburger: 52% French Fries: 23%

Corn, in the wrong hands, can be used for some terrible things, among them high fructose corn syrup (a major player in the obesity epidemic) and as feed for cows (who get sick when they eat it, requiring anti-biotics!) chickens and now even farm raised fish are forced to eat corn.  The governments continued subsidizing of the corn industry has made us find even more ways to use corn, i.e. ethanol which requires more energy to produce than it provides.

Omnivore’s Dilemma may not be for the faint of heart but it is a great look at where food comes from, how it’s processed and how agricultural production differs from large scale to small.  Michael Pollan took the time to answer a question that we all ask frequently….”what’s for dinner?” I highly recommend his book for its educational approach and warm writing style.

Visit Pollan’s website for more information.

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