Shiloh Bellamy has ditched bright and sunny Los Angeles and has made a road trip back to her childhood farm in Cherry Glen, Michigan, accompanied by her loyal pug, Huckleberry. Farm to Trouble is the first book in a new cozy mystery series, Farm to Table Mysteries by Amanda Flower. Shiloh’s mission is simple : to reignite her family homestead, Bellamy Farms, with financial help from an investor in order to make the farm profitable again as an organic and sustainable farm. Bellamy Farms has fallen into despair and Shiloh’s father is in no condition to bring the farm back on his own and has enlisted her help. Just days after her arrival into town her investor, Jefferson Crocker, is found dead by Shiloh at the farmer’s market and all eyes in town turn to the Bellamy family.
As the town focuses on Shiloh as a likely suspect, she begins to learn that her investor was not a very popular man in town with his big plans to install wind turbines across the serene pasture of the countryside. Shiloh is now doing double duty – trying to find a new investor willing to take a chance on Bellamy Farms and attempting to catch the real killer. She learns that numerous townspeople had reasons to hope for Crocker’s demise and as the police close in, Shiloh knows time is of the essence for her to try to find the real culprit. The list of suspects grow and as Shiloh uncovers more about the master wind farm plan, numerous suspects rise to the top of the list, which includes many Cherry Glen residents that Shiloh has known her entire life!
Farm to Trouble kept me guessing the culprit until the very end and the novel does a good job of balancing a cozy mystery with creating a sustainable, organic farm narrative. The second book in the series, Put Out to Pasture, is already scheduled to be published in early 2022. I’m looking forward to the continued saga between Shiloh, the residents of Cherry Glen and Huckleberry and to see if Shiloh turns the family farm around!
guest post from Laura V
The Biggest Little Farm documentary follows John and Molly Chester as they transition from L.A. apartment dwellers with cool jobs to organic and biodynamic agriculture farmers. He is a filmmaker and she was a personal chef and food blogger. Molly continues to blog and has written a traditional foods cookbook. This beautifully touching story unfolds in a captivating manner and has breathtaking camera shots that had me wondering how John achieved them.
The story’s main characters include John, Molly, a rescued dog named Todd, a regenerative agriculture guru named Alan York, Emma the pig, their son Beauden, and the living, breathing, 210 acre farm north of Los Angeles. The film opens with a wildfire quickly approaching the farm. We come to realize how utterly catastrophic this would be as we view footage of hundreds of animals and thousands of fruit trees. They close the film by bringing the story back to the fire as we find out what happened.
I’m guessing that much acreage near Los Angeles had to have cost more than they personally invested or garnered in contributions from their friends but financial details weren’t addressed. Alan guided them through the steps necessary to regenerate the overused, unhealthy soil to basically build a thriving ecosystem that could be somewhat self-sustaining. Somewhat is the operative word. It was heart wrenching to see one problem after another crop up after so much effort. It was equally heartwarming to see them find a solution to a problem right before them, like using existing organisms as natural control for a pest infestation with some modifications in their structure or practices.
I felt the young couple’s exhaustion and thrills along with them since I’m trying to use regenerative practices (no till, composting, rain garden, using predatory insects for pest control) in my gardens and yard with difficulties that now seem almost trivial. It was honestly difficult to understand how they tackled such a large project in such a short amount of time. I can’t imagine they slept much for a few years. Although they didn’t mention the name of the organization from which the volunteers were recruited, I believe they may have been from WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.
This documentary is as honest as one can get within the short span of a film. The adorable opening animated sequence highlights Molly’s optimistic outlook on what she pictures the farm to be. The reality is much harsher but the rewards are literally life-changing for them, their employees and volunteers, vegetation, soil microbes, and carbon sequestration for the planet’s overall health. I know they’ll continue to experience problems with pests, predators, weather, and climate change but it looks like they’ll be able to handle whatever comes their way.
When the hail starts to fall, Atina Diffley doesn’t compare it to golf balls. She’s a farmer. It’s “as big as a B-size potato.” As her bombarded land turns white, she and her husband Martin huddle under a blanket and reminisce: the one-hundred-mile-per-hour winds; the eleven-inch rainfall (“that broccoli turned out gorgeous”); the hail disaster of 1977. The romance of farming washed away a long time ago, but the love? Never. In telling her story of working the land, coaxing good food from the fertile soil, Atina Diffley reminds us of an ultimate truth: we live in relationships—with the earth, plants and animals, families and communities.
A memoir of making these essential relationships work in the face of challenges as natural as weather and as unnatural as corporate politics, Turn Here, Sweet Corn is a firsthand history of getting in at the “ground level” of organic farming. One of the first certified organic produce farms in the Midwest, the Diffleys’ Gardens of Eagan helped to usher in a new kind of green revolution in the heart of America’s farmland, supplying their roadside stand and a growing number of local food co-ops. This is a story of a world transformed—and reclaimed—one square acre at a time.
And yet, after surviving punishing storms and the devastating loss of fifth-generation Diffley family land to suburban development, the Diffleys faced the ultimate challenge: the threat of eminent domain for a crude oil pipeline proposed by one of the largest privately owned companies in the world, notorious polluters Koch Industries. As Atina Diffley tells her David-versus-Goliath tale, she gives readers everything from expert instruction in organic farming to an entrepreneur’s manual on how to grow a business to a legal thriller about battling corporate arrogance to a love story about a single mother falling for a good, big-hearted man. (description from publisher)