womanpoweredfarmMuch of the impetus to move back to the land, raise our own food, and connect with our agricultural past is being driven by women. They raise sheep for wool, harvest honey from their beehives, grow food for their families and sell their goods at farmers’ markets. What does a woman who wants to work the land need to do to follow her dream? First, she needs this book.

It may seem strange to suggest that women farmers need a different guide than male farmers, but women often have different strengths and goals, and different ways of achieving those goals. In Woman-Powered Farm, Audrey Levatino shares her experiences of running a farm and offers invaluable advice on how to get started, whether you have hundreds of acres or a simple lot for an urban community garden.

Filled with personal anecdotes and stories from other women farmers, from old hands to brand new ones, from agricultural icons like Temple Grandin, to her own sister, this book is a reassuring and inspirational guide that discusses: should you do an internship or jump right in? how to find a farm or how to handle one that you’ve inherited, best practices for selling at the farmer’s market and how to sell your goods locally, farmhouse chores and how to get them done right, how to handle large power tools, including a chainsaw, planning and growing an organic farm garden, incorporating animals as part of a farm ecosystem, where to get started if you want to farm-school your kids, tips for keeping your mind, body and spirit healthy while undertaking the demanding nature of farm work – it’s all here. (description from publisher)

Modern FarmerYou may notice a new magazine at the Fairmount branch. Modern Farmer is a quarterly hipster/agriculture magazine . It’s a fascinating combination of actual horticultural information but with a  small-is-better vibe. There is no pretense that they are the voice of big ag. “We’re making fun of ourselves, in a way, because we don’t know anything about farming,” said former editor-in-chief Ann Marie Gardner.

The sophisticated design aesthetic is  an interesting contrast to the stories about goats, cows and pigs.  Recent stories feature news about a bird flu vaccine, as well as Brad Pitt. Some of the most inspiring articles are about young men and women trying and succeeding in diverse ventures – such as a husband-wife team of alpaca farmers in New York, a woman raising quail in California, and three young people growing papayas, coconut and other fruits and vegetables in Bali.

The magazine, founded in 2013, is struggling. It actually suspended operations earlier this year, then promised a summer issue. We hope that they can overcome their financial difficulties. It fills a unique niche, with  a point-of-view not seen in mainstream magazine publishing.

some luckLonglisted for the 2014 National Book Award From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize : a powerful, engrossing new novel – the life and times of a remarkable family over three transformative decades in America.

On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different children: from Frank, the handsome, willful first born, and Joe, whose love of animals and the land sustains him, to Claire, who earns a special place in her father’s heart. Each chapter in Some Luck covers a single year, beginning in 1920, as American soldiers like Walter return home from World War I, and going up through the early 1950s, with the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change. As the Langdons branch out from Iowa to both coasts of America, the personal and the historical merge seamlessly: one moment electricity is just beginning to power the farm, and the next a son is volunteering to fight the Nazis; later still, a girl you’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own, and you discover that your laughter and your admiration for all these lives are mixing with tears.

Some Luck delivers on everything we look for in a work of fiction. Taking us through cycles of births and deaths, passions and betrayals, among characters we come to know inside and out, it is a tour de force that stands wholly on its own. But it is also the first part of a dazzling epic trilogy–a literary adventure that will span a century in America: an astonishing feat of storytelling by a beloved writer at the height of her powers. (description from publisher)

shepherdUpon moving to Appalachian Ohio with their two small children, Richard Gilbert and his wife are thrilled to learn there still are places in America that haven’t been homogenized in Shepherd: a Memoir.

The Gilberts excitement over the region’s beauty and quirky character turns to culture shock as they try to put down roots far from their busy professional jobs in town. They struggle to rebuild a farmhouse, and Gilbert gets conned buying equipment and sheep – a ewe with an “outie” belly button turns out to be a neutered male – and mysterious illnesses plague the flock. Haunted by his father’s loss of his boyhood farm, Gilbert likewise struggles to earn money in agriculture. Finally an unlikely teacher shows him how to raise hardy sheep – a remarkable ewe named Freckles whose mothering ability epitomizes her species’ hidden beauty.

Discovering as much about himself as he does these gentle animals, Gilbert becomes a seasoned agrarian and a respected livestock breeder. He makes peace with his romantic dream, his father, and himself. Shepherd, a story both personal and emblematic, captures the mythic pull and the practical difficulty of family scale sustainable farming. (description from publisher)

adventuresCity and suburb dwellers sometimes dream about what it would be like to live on a country farm and raise animals. Adventures in Yarn Farming invites readers to participate vicariously in the daily life of a working sheep farm without ever having to muck out a barn, be chased by a recalcitrant ram, or lift a hay bale.

Told through the eyes of veteran shepherd and textile artisan, Barbara Parry’s stories follow her flock over the course of a year, showing all the facets of life connected to sheep and making yarn. Readers get a front-row seat to the sheep show – tending sheep on winter mornings, shearing day, the round-the-clock chaos of lambing season, preparing fiber for yarn – and a visit to Barbara’s dye studio, where she colorfully transforms skeins for hand-knit creations. With the growing locavore movement, the rising eco-friendly trend in sustainable farming, and the ever-increasing interest in crafting, this book is relevant on many fronts. It will draw readers who yearn for a closer connection with a rural lifestyle and who enjoy making things by hand. Through 13 projects, as well as sidebars and side excursions, readers get a slice of life on a New England farm. (description from publisher)

harvestNovelist and nature writer Richard Horan embarks on an adventure across America to reveal that farming is still the vibrant beating heart of our nation in Harvest.

Horan went from coast to coast, visiting organic family farms and working the harvests of more than a dozen essential or unusual food crops–from Kansas wheat and Michigan wild rice to Maine potatoes, California walnuts, and Cape Cod cranberries–in search of connections with the farmers, the soil, the seasons, and the lifeblood of America.

Sparkling with lively prose and a winning blend of profound seriousness and delightful humor, Harvest carries the reader on an eyeopening and transformational journey across the length and breadth of this remarkable land, offering a powerful national portrait of challenge and diligence, and an inspiring message of hope. (description from publisher)

 

Five Thousand Days Like This One is from an Italian toast and reflects the hope for legacy and whatever permanence exists these days. This memoir by Jane Brox is  beautifully written, and it’s  also a fascinating insider look at running an orchard and farm stand in Massachusetts Merrimack Valley.

This very slim book is specific to one family, and the history of textile mills. Yet it is also  a universal story of  losing one’s heritage – either that of a family’s or an industry or a region.

Here and Nowhere Else: Late Seasons of a Farm and its Family is an earlier book and also evokes the simple pleasures and the back-breaking rigors of farm life. Brox is a master of the telling detail; the satisfaction of growing things  blue Hubbard squash, corn, blueberries and tomatoes.