With so much talk about food safety, organic produce, and local eating, do you ever have the urge to just move to the country and start your own farm?
You may be familiar with The Fabulous Beekman Boys from their TV show on Planet Green. This sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking behind the scenes account of their impulse decision to buy a neglected farm and house in Sharon Springs, NY will make you stop and think about whether the life of a farmer is really for you. From dealing with gardens and goats to figuring out how to make the farm a profitable enterprise so that they could quit their jobs, this is a story of community support, relationship ups and downs, and the immense satisfaction that can result from making a meal entirely from food you've grown yourself. Many of us may never have the time, money, opportunity, or desire to live the farming life, but The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers will give you a taste of what it might be like. Another of my favorite unexpected farmer books is Catherine Friend's Hit by a Farm: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Barn. Check these out, and then go visit your local farmer's market and support the folks doing the work!
This book looks very interesting and will probably be worth a read. However, please be careful about believing everything you read and hear in the media regarding agriculture. Farming and ranching does not have to be done on small New York (or any other state for that matter) farm to be done in an environmentally friendly and healthy way. My in-laws and I are a farming and ranching family on the eastern plains of CO. We are both excited and cautious at the renewed interest in agriculture. It means that people are becoming more and more interested in what we do, how we do it and the nuances of our lifestyle. But, even with the renewed interest in "returning to the farm", please remember that the average US farmer feeds 155 people per year. Without much of our new technology and modern techniques, our country would not enjoy the bounty of our harvests and act as a net food exporter that enables much of the world to rely upon our food.
In the end, we need all levels of agriculture, ranging from production to niche sizes. But, American agriculture is the envy of the world and its efficiency enables less than 2% of our population to produce our food while allowing the rest of the population to seek meaningful careers advancing American business, arts and sciences to help raise our standard of living far above that of most any other country in the world.
Thanks for your comments, Caleb. I hope my review didn't imply that this is the only way to go about farming. People are dependent on farmers growing and raising food in many ways and in many locations, and reading the many books out there about agriculture can help us make informed decsions about our food. This is just one of them (and really, this is more of a personal story than a look at farming as a whole), and the library provides many other books and articles for people who are interested in modern agriculture and what it means for them.