Chelsea Green Publishing

An Unlikely Vineyard

Pages:384 pages
Book Art:Color photos throughout
Size: 7 x 10 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Hardcover: 9781603584579
Pub. Date October 29, 2014
Paperback: 9781603586795
Pub. Date April 27, 2016

An Unlikely Vineyard

The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir

By Deirdre Heekin
Foreword by Alice Feiring

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
October 29, 2014


Availability: Available for Pre Order


Available Date:
April 20, 2016


Named one of the Best Wine Books of 2014 by The New York Times, An Unlikely Vineyard tells the evolutionary story of Deirdre Heekin’s farm from overgrown fields to a fertile, productive, and beautiful landscape that melds with its natural environment.

Is it possible to capture landscape in a bottle? To express its terroir, its essence of place—geology, geography, climate, and soil—as well as the skill of the winegrower?

That’s what Heekin and her chef/husband, Caleb Barber, set out to accomplish on their tiny, eight-acre hillside farm and vineyard in Vermont.

But An Unlikely Vineyard involves much more. It also presents, through the example of their farming journey and winegrowing endeavors, an impressive amount of information on how to think about almost every aspect of gardening: from composting to trellising; from cider and perry making to growing old garden roses, keeping bees, and raising livestock; from pruning (or not) to dealing naturally with pests and diseases. As Eric Asimov, chief wine critic for The New York Times, writes, “I love this book, which conveys beautifully why the best wine is, at heart, an agricultural expression.”

Challenged by cold winters, wet summers, and other factors, Deirdre and Caleb set about to grow not only a vineyard, but an orchard of heirloom apples, pears, and plums, as well as gardens filled with vegetables, herbs, roses, and wildflowers destined for their own table and for the kitchen of their small restaurant. They wanted to create, or rediscover, a sense of place, and to grow food naturally using the philosophy and techniques gleaned from organic gardening, permaculture, and biodynamic farming.

Accompanied throughout by lush photos, this gentle narrative will appeal to anyone who loves food, farms, and living well.


"I won’t mince words about “An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir” (Chelsea Green, $35), Deirdre Heekin’s chronicle of establishing a farm and vineyard in Vermont. I love this book, which conveys beautifully why the best wine is, at heart, an agricultural expression. While living in Italy, Ms. Heekin and her husband, Caleb Barber, fell in love with Italian food and wine culture. On returning to Vermont they established an osteria, then developed their small farm to provide vegetables, fruits, flowers and wine for the restaurant. Her husband cooks; Ms. Heekin is the sommelier and farmer. In her farming she takes a holistic approach, regarding wine as produce. She is naturally drawn to biodynamic agriculture, which views a farm as a self-sustaining unit in which the various elements all harmonize and reinforce one another. This method of farming requires meticulous powers of observation and attention to detail. It also imbues Ms. Heekin’s writing with a tactile, almost earthy quality and a well-grounded sense of wonder. The book is not solely about grape-growing. Ms. Heekin places wine in the context of a diverse farm, an alternative to the agricultural and critical view of wine as a monoculture. In the end, she writes, what’s most important is 'the shared experience around the table that is defined by the culture of food, wine, friendship, ideas and heart.' If you can find her soulful wine, produced in tiny quantities and labeled La Garagista, it resonates with every sentiment in the book.”--Eric Asimov, Chief Wine Critic, The New York Times

Midwest Book Review-

“An exceptionally well written and engaging account that is beautifully illustrated throughout with full color photography. An inherently fascinating and entertaining, An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir, is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections."

“In An Unlikely Vineyard, Deirdre Heekin spins a wonderfully practical account of realizing her vision of a living farm with a table at its center. Her tale balances rural romance with the real concerns of sinking hands into dirt, of partnering with nature to bring beauty and life to her 'unlikely vineyard' in the hills of Vermont. Filled with tips and inspiration for the existing gardener, it will have armchair green thumbs ready to run off and buy a tractor."--Christy Frank, owner, Frankly Wines, New York City

“A writer should write what she knows; lucky for us, Deirdre Heekin knows a lot about a lot of different things. Her latest book is about a rather unlikely subject—planting a vineyard in Vermont (!)—but being an enormously skilled writer, it is a powerful lens through which she tells a much broader story, encompassing such diverse subjects as biodynamics, the history of roses, and, most importantly, her search for a sense of place. An Unlikely Vineyard is highly recommended for anyone interested in the very intimate side of growing a garden, whatever form it might take.”--Randall Grahm, founder and winemaker, Bonny Doon Vineyard, and author, Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology 

"Not only does Deirdre Heekin take us on her own, personal path to this ‘unlikely vineyard,’ but she also offers us—as a vigneronne—the chance to understand something more universal: that authentic wine, with soul, can be crafted if one observes and takes care of one’s terroir and vines. By choosing a most demanding yet most rewarding way of farming—the biodynamic way in Vermont—she is an inspiration both for farmers and for every wine lover who seeks in the taste of a grape a place, a landscape, a climate, a history."--Pascaline Lepeltier, master sommelier, Rouge Tomate, New York City

“Deirdre Heekin’s new book is a rural romance that’s part memoir, part how-to, part coming-of-age story. As carefully thought out and set down as the neat rows of La Crescent, Blaufrankisch, and Riesling vines that populate the unlikely vineyard of the title, it’s sure to be welcomed by a new generation of farmer-philosophers who will find not just inspiration but direction in its pages.”--Stephen Meuse, America’s Test Kitchen Radio 

"An Unlikely Vineyard is a rare blend of scholarship, storytelling, and poetry. Deirdre Heekin’s enthralling tale of sinking roots into her land will inspire and enable anyone who ever dreamed of growing food, making wine, or bringing beauty out of the soil around them. This meditation on the cultivation of place is an elegant rallying cry in a world that too often settles for placelessness."--Rowan Jacobsen, author, American Terroir and Apples of Uncommon Character

“Deirdre Heekin has written a colossal book here—something of a monument in its field. The author tells, in her earnest way, the entire story of establishing a biodynamic farm and orchard and garden and vineyard, under improbable circumstances. An Unlikely Vineyard speaks to a determination and passion fueled by Deirdre’s wonderful, stubborn love. The sheer level of detail may intimidate some casual readers, yet those who do read it will surely concur that it's going to become one of the Great Books of the movement.”--Terry Theise, author, Reading between the Wines


  • Winner - The Best Wine Books of 2014 - Eric Asimov, Chief Wine Critic, The New York Times - 2014


Deirdre Heekin

Deirdre Heekin is the author of An Unlikely Vineyard. She is the proprietor and wine director of Osteria Pane e Salute, an acclaimed restaurant and wine bar in Woodstock, Vermont. Heekin and her husband and head chef, Caleb Barber, are the authors of In Late Winter We Ate Pears (Chelsea Green, 2009), and she is also the author of Libation: A Bitter Alchemy (Chelsea Green, 2009) and Pane e Salute (Invisible Cities Press, 2002). Heekin and her husband live on a small farm in Vermont, where they grow both the vegetables for their restaurant and natural wines and ciders for their la garagista label.


Holiday Cocktail Camp

A public reading by Deirdre Heekin, author of Libation, A Bitter Alchemy

Caleb Barber and Deirdre Heekin Discuss Slow Food Heirloom Recipes from Italy

Deirdre Heekin discusses her path to writing Libation

Caleb Barber and Deirdre Heekin Discuss Slow Food Heirloom Recipes from Italy - Full Version


Integrated Forest Gardening

Integrated Forest Gardening

By Wayne Weiseman and Daniel Halsey and Bryce Ruddock

Permaculture is a movement that is coming into its own, and the concept of creating plant guilds in permaculture is at the forefront of every farmer’s and gardener’s practice. One of the essential practices of permaculture is to develop perennial agricultural systems that thrive over several decades without expensive and harmful inputs: perennial plant guilds, food forests, agroforestry, and mixed animal and woody species polycultures.

The massive degradation of conventional agriculture and the environmental havoc it creates has never been as all pervasive in terms of scale, so it has become a global necessity to further the understanding of a comprehensive design and planning system such as permaculture that works with nature, not against it. The guild concept often used is one of a “functional relationship” between plants–beneficial groupings of plants that share functions in order to bring health and stability to a plant regime and create an abundant yield for our utilization. In other words, it is the integration of species that creates a balanced, healthy, and thriving ecosystem. But it goes beyond integration. A guild is a metaphor for all walks of life, most importantly a group of people working together to craft works of balance, beauty, and utility.

This book is the first, and most comprehensive, guide about plant guilds ever written, and covers in detail both what guilds are and how to design and construct them, complete with extensive color photography and design illustrations. Included is information on:

•    What we can observe about natural plant guilds in the wild and the importance of observation;
•    Detailed research on the structure of plant guilds, and a portrait of an oak tree (a guild unto itself);
•    Animal interactions with plant guilds;
•    Steps to guild design, construction, and dynamics: from assessment to design to implementation;
•    Fifteen detailed plant guilds, five each from the three authors based on their unique perspectives;
•    Guild project management: budgets, implementation, management, and maintenance.

Readers of any scale will benefit from this book, from permaculture designers and professional growers, to backyard growers new to the concept of permaculture. Books on permaculture cover this topic, but never in enough depth to be replicable in a serious way. Finally, it’s here!

Available in: Paperback

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Integrated Forest Gardening

Wayne Weiseman, Daniel Halsey, Bryce Ruddock

Paperback $45.00

The Hop Grower's Handbook

The Hop Grower's Handbook

By Laura Ten Eyck and Dietrich Gehring

With information on siting, planting, tending, harvesting, processing, and brewing

It’s hard to think about beer these days without thinking about hops. 

The runaway craft beer market’s convergence with the ever-expanding local foods movement is helping to spur a local-hops renaissance. The demand from craft brewers for local ingredients to make beer—such as hops and barley—is robust and growing. That’s good news for farmers looking to diversify, but the catch is that hops have not been grown commercially in the eastern United States for nearly a century. 

Today, farmers from Maine to North Carolina are working hard to respond to the craft brewers’ desperate call for locally grown hops. But questions arise: How best to create hop yards—virtual forests of 18-foot poles that can be expensive to build? How to select hop varieties, and plant and tend the bines, which often take up to three years to reach full production? How to best pick, process, and price them for market? And, how best to manage the fungal diseases and insects that wiped out the eastern hop industry one hundred years ago, and which are thriving in the hotter and more humid states thanks to climate change? Answers to these questions can be found in The Hop Grower’s Handbook—the only book on the market about raising hops sustainably, on a small scale, for the commercial craft beer market in the Northeast.  

Written by hop farmers and craft brewery owners Laura Ten Eyck and Dietrich Gehring, The Hop Grower’s Handbook is a beautifully photographed and illustrated book that weaves the story of their Helderberg Hop Farm with the colorful history of New York and New England hop farming, relays horticultural information about the unusual hop plant and the mysterious resins it produces that give beer a distinctively bitter flavor, and includes an overview of the numerous native, heirloom, and modern varieties of hops and their purposes. The authors also provide an easy-to-understand explanation of the beer-brewing process—critical for hop growers to understand in order be able to provide the high-quality product brewers want to buy—along with recipes from a few of their favorite home and micro-brewers.

The book also provides readers with detailed information on: 
•    Selecting, preparing, and designing a hop yard site, including irrigation;
•    Tending to the hops, with details on best practices to manage weeds, insects, and diseases; and,
•    Harvesting, drying, analyzing, processing, and pricing hops for market.

The overwhelming majority of books and resources devoted to hop production currently available are geared toward the Pacific Northwest’s large-scale commercial growers, who use synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and fertilizers and deal with regionally specific climate, soils, weeds, and insect populations. Ten Eyck and Gehring, however, focus on farming hops sustainably. While they relay their experience about growing in a new Northeastern climate subject to the higher temperatures and volatile cycles of drought and deluge brought about by global warming, this book will be an essential resource for home-scale and small-scale commercial hops growers in all regions.

Available in: Paperback

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The Hop Grower's Handbook

Laura Ten Eyck, Dietrich Gehring

Paperback $34.95

The Nourishing Homestead

The Nourishing Homestead

By Ben Hewitt and Penny Hewitt

A practiculture way to grow nutrient-dense food, produce healthy fats, and live the good life

The Nourishing Homestead tells the story of how we can create truly satisfying, permanent, nourished relationships to the land, nature, and one another.

The Hewitts offer practical ways to grow nutrient-dense food on a small plot of land, and think about your farm, homestead, or home as an ecosystem. Much of what the Hewitts have come to understand and embrace about their lives of deep nourishment is informed by their particular piece of land and local community in northern Vermont, but what they have gleaned is readily transferable to any place—whether you live on 4 acres, 40 acres, or in a 400-square-foot studio apartment.

Ben and Penny (and their two sons) maintain copious gardens, dozens of fruit and nut trees and other perennial plantings, as well as a pick-your-own blueberry patch. In addition to these cultivated food crops, they also forage for wild edibles, process their own meat, make their own butter, and ferment, dry, and can their own vegetables. Their focus is to produce nutrient-dense foods from vibrant, mineralized soils for themselves and their immediate community. They are also committed to sharing the traditional skills that support their family, helping them be self-sufficient and thrive in these uncertain times.

Much of what the Hewitts are attempting on their homestead is to close the gaps that economic separation has created in our health, spirit, and skills. Ben uses the term “practiculture” to describe his family’s work with the land—a term that encompasses the many practical life skills and philosophies they embody to create a thriving homestead, including raw-milk production, soil remediation, wildcrafting, Weston A. Price principles, bionutrient-dense farming, permaculture, agroforestry, traditional Vermont hill farming, and more. The Nourishing Homestead also includes information on deep nutrition, the importance of good fats, and integrating children into the work of a homestead.

The Hewitts’ story is reminiscent of The Good Life, by Helen and Scott Nearing, and is sure to inspire a new generation of homesteaders, or anyone seeking a simpler way of life and a deeper connection to the world.

Available in: Paperback

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The Nourishing Homestead

Ben Hewitt, Penny Hewitt

Paperback $29.95

The Art and Science of Grazing

The Art and Science of Grazing

By Sarah Flack

Grazing management might seem simple: just put livestock in a pasture and let them eat their fill. However, as Sarah Flack explains in The Art and Science of Grazing, the pasture/livestock relationship is incredibly complex. If a farmer doesn’t pay close attention to how the animals are grazing, the resulting poorly managed grazing system can be harmful to the health of the livestock, pasture plants, and soils. Well-managed pastures can instead create healthier animals, a diverse and resilient pasture ecosystem, and other benefits. Flack delves deeply below the surface of “let the cows eat grass,” demonstrating that grazing management is a sophisticated science that requires mastery of plant and animal physiology, animal behavior, and ecology. She also shows readers that applying grazing management science on a working farm is an art form that calls on grass farmers to be careful observers, excellent planners and record-keepers, skillful interpreters of their observations, and creative troubleshooters. 

The Art and Science of Grazing will allow farmers to gain a solid understanding of the key principles of grazing management so they can both design and manage successful grazing systems. The book’s unique approach presents information first from the perspective of pasture plants, and then from the livestock perspective—helping farmers understand both plant and animal needs before setting up a grazing system.

This book is an essential guide for ruminant farmers who want to be able to create grazing systems that meet the needs of their livestock, pasture plants, soils, and the larger ecosystem. The book discusses all the practical details that are critical for sustained success: how to set up a new system or improve existing systems; acreage calculations; paddock layout; fence and drinking water access; lanes and other grazing infrastructure; managing livestock movement and flow; soil fertility; seeding and reseeding pastures; and more. The author includes descriptions of real grazing systems working well on dairy, beef, goat, and sheep farms in different regions of North America. The book covers pasture requirements specific to organic farming, but will be of use to both organic and non-organic farms. 

Available in: Paperback

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The Art and Science of Grazing

Sarah Flack, Hubert Karreman

Paperback $39.95