Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball

The Dirty Life is a story of what happens when a couple from different backgrounds falls in love, learns to compromise, and learns new life skills to survive.

Like the old sitcom Green Acres--minus the friendly pig, crazy neighbors and ball gowns--city slicker/freelance writer Kristin Kimball meets educated organic farmer Mark and magic happens. She gives up life in NYC and moves to the country. While tending their growing relationship they search for the ideal farm location to institute their ideas of providing a whole foods concept for farm shareholders. What I mean by “whole foods” in the "farm to table experience" is that they not only raise fruits and vegetables but they additionally harvest maple sugar, keep bees for honey, and raise animals that supply dairy and meats that are sold in farm shares. By utilizing back to basics farm practices, such as using draft horses to plow instead of tractors, milking by hand and relying on their neighbors for help and support, they scratch a living out of the ground for themselves.

It is at times a bittersweet account of their year-long journey, cycling from first sparks of love to the date of their wedding planned to follow their first harvest, constantly adapting as the seasons change. I really liked how this book realistically depicts the sun up to sundown and beyond toil that faces a farm family. The dedication the couple has to their convictions and each other while working to achieve their goal shines through. They steadfastly adhere to their principles as they face setbacks, loss, and ultimately successes. It clearly affirms that this life choice is not for the faint of heart.

The richness in their life comes from the spirit of community, purpose, and dedication. Their story reflects the timely interest many people are experiencing in to wanting to “know the farmer to know the food.” It is the one sure way to trust that the “organic” label attached to the food that you are eating truly means that it is responsibly grown and healthy. I was very intrigued by the implementation of grass roots farming practices. These practices not only keep the costs down while they help the farmer control expenses but they are ultimately beneficial to the environment.

Another title by the author:
Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness by Lisa M. Hamilton. It is a case study of three different types of farmers but they all share the same sensibilities of bringing farming back to the table.

Enjoyed this book? Try:

The Seasons on Henry's Farm: a Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable Farm
by Terra Brockman, Harvest: A Year in the Life of an Organic Farm by Nicola Smith and Shucked: Life on a New England Oyster Farm by Erin Byers Murray.

1 comment:

France said...

"The Dirty Life" is nourishment for the soul and the stomach. A wonderful internal and external journey that addresses our existential angst as a global society-- our detachment for our food sources and the complicated consequences thereafter... Beautiful, hilarious, and profound.