Let­ter to a Young Farmer

How to Live Richly with­out Wealth on the New Gar­den Farm

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews Climate Change -

Gene Logs­don, Chelsea Green Pub­lish­ing Soft­cover $22.50 (224pp), 978-1-60358-725-9

This en­gag­ing, con­ver­sa­tional book dis­penses life ad­vice for farm­ers and oth­ers who seek to live close to the earth.

Let­ter to a Young Farmer is an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of wis­dom with a large dol­lop of hu­mor and a con­ver­sa­tional tone that will en­dear it to al­most ev­ery au­di­ence. The book re­calls a con­ver­sa­tion with a par­ent or older fam­ily mem­ber in that many of its com­mon-sense di­rec­tives are in­formed by ex­pe­ri­ence, from the pur­chas­ing of land to the man­age­ment of ag­gres­sive rams. But not all the ad­vice here is spe­cific to farm­ers or “gar­den farm­ers”; gen­eral life ad­vice can be ex­trap­o­lated from dis­cus­sions of love, fi­nance, and other com­mon-sense as­pects of life.

Cat­e­go­riz­ing Let­ter is tricky at times, per­haps ap­pro­pri­ately so, stat­ing that “con­trary farm­ers,” as the au­thor self-iden­ti­fies, tend to defy stereo­typ­ing. It is philo­soph­i­cal, but it also dis­penses con­crete ad­vice. Like­wise, though it does present use­ful in­for­ma­tion, much of this is apoc­ryphal, cast in a slyly hu­mor­ous way, and even opin­ion­ated. For ex­am­ple, the au­thor agrees that cli­mate change is a prob­lem, but he also de­scribes peo­ple con­cerned over the is­sue as para­noid “hand-wringers.”

Let­ter is best read as an in­spi­ra­tional piece. It seems likely to lure many a gar­den­ing neo­phyte to the farm life, though it takes care to stress the dif­fi­culty of this path too. Above all, it preaches con­sis­tency, lo­cal­ity, and the long view, oc­ca­sion­ally con­trast­ing this phi­los­o­phy with the fran­tic pace of main­stream mod­ern life. In the book’s world­view, small farm­ing is the key to solv­ing the most se­ri­ous of our en­vi­ron­men­tal, men­tal, and phys­i­cal prob­lems as well as the ex­is­ten­tial empti­ness of con­sumerism. Yet at the same time, it does not ad­vo­cate com­plete aban­don­ment of cap­i­tal­ist modal­ity. Parts of the book re­call Bud­dhist prin­ci­ples of mod­er­a­tion.

With its unique point of view, Let­ter to a Young Farmer is a must-read piece of en­vi­ron­men­tal, agri­cul­tural, and so­cial phi­los­o­phy.

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