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Book Review (The Contrary Farmer by Gene Logsdon)

I live in rural New York State. Just down the road in the small town of Bainbridge is a farmers market called Frog Pond Farms. I remember when Frog Pond was simply a few tables full of summer squash and other seasonal items located in the owners driveway. Over the years with hard work and great service it has grown into a local attraction not only for those of us who live in the area but also those who travel in from out of state. It has live farm animals, livestock for sale, starter plants, seeds, produce, honey and farm fresh eggs just to name a few of the items.

It also has a giant corn "sandbox" that my children love to play in when time allows. Recently I took a rare trip that only involved my four year old daughter. After checking out the rabbits and buying some fruit she asked to play in the corn. As she settled in to play I took a glance at the bulletin board located not far away. A book by Gene Logsdon called The Contrary Farmer (Chelsea Green Publishing Company P.O. Box 428 White River Junction, Vermont 05001) sat nearby. I picked it up and began to thumb through it. The first page I turned to immediately caught my eye. It was a poem by the brilliant Wendell Berry called The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer.

I read the poem and with great difficulty put the book down. I could not help but wonder what sort of book would have the audacity to start out with such a scathingly beautiful poem. It was a rather humid day and sweat was beading on my brow. I asked my daughter if she was ready to go and she said that she was not. Truthfully I was not that disappointed and picked the book back up. The introduction is a piece called The Ramparts People and it is a moving narrative of Mr. Logsdon and a discussion with his father as a young boy of twelve years old. He comments that he was nearly 42 years old before he followed his youthful inner voice and moved back to the land that he loved. As a 41 year old man who has only recently made the move to follow his own bliss and work toward an urban micro-farm it struck a chord. I set the book down and my daughter and I went straight to the public library to get a copy of this 238 page gem.

Mr. Logsdon speaks my language. The catch is I never knew anyone else knew the words to the song. At least not on the level he does. I have heard people humming the tune but not with the directness of Mr. Logsdon. His chapter on "Pastoral Economics" is worth reading the book in and of itself. It is a brilliant commentary on the real value of work and money and it's deformed reflection in the world marketplace.

He writes with a passion rarely found today. If his farming skills are anywhere near his writing skills his crops must look like Eden. Don't just take my word for it though explore his work on your own.

Now, I am careful when I read another persons opinion. My uncle has a saying that if two people fully agree then only one of them is thinking but it is difficult to find much wrong with Mr. Logsdons approach to farming. Though some techniques may upset the stringent organic farmer I do believe his overall motivations are pure. He genuinely cares about his animals, land and the future of farming.

Those of you who have read my blog before know that I have a very small property. At best I am a micro-farmer at worst a gardener without personal boundaries. I was able to read the lore of a cottage farmer and find inspiration even in methods that do not directly relate to me. Such as the grazing technique of the small farmer.

I would highly recommend this modern masterpiece. For years Frog Pond Farms has been feeding my family now I can safely say they are also providing nourishment for my soul by exposing me to literature I otherwise may not have come across.    

Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his post. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad found here 


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