Chelsea Green Publishing

Letter to a Young Farmer

Pages:232 pages
Size: 5.5 x 8.5 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Hardcover: 9781603587259
Pub. Date February 09, 2017

Letter to a Young Farmer

How to Live Richly without Wealth on the New Garden Farm

By Gene Logsdon
Foreword by Wendell Berry

Categories:
Farm & Garden

Availability: In Stock

Hardcover

Available Date:
February 09, 2017

$22.50 $16.87

For more than four decades, the self-described “contrary farmer” and writer Gene Logsdon has commented on the state of American agriculture. In Letter to a Young Farmer, his final book of essays, Logsdon addresses the next generation—young people who are moving back to the land to enjoy a better way of life as small-scale “garden farmers.” It’s a lifestyle that isn’t defined by accumulating wealth or by the “get big or get out” agribusiness mindset. Instead, it’s one that recognizes the beauty of nature, cherishes the land, respects our fellow creatures, and values rural traditions. It’s one that also looks forward and embraces “right technologies,” including new and innovative ways of working smarter, not harder, and avoiding premature burnout.

Completed only a few weeks before the author’s death, Letter to a Young Farmer is a remarkable testament to the life and wisdom of one of the greatest rural philosophers and writers of our time. Gene’s earthy wit and sometimes irreverent humor combines with his valuable perspectives on many wide-ranging subjects—everything from how to show a ram who’s boss to enjoying the almost churchlike calmness of a well-built livestock barn.

Reading this book is like sitting down on the porch with a neighbor who has learned the ways of farming through years of long observation and practice. Someone, in short, who has “seen it all” and has much to say, and much to teach us, if we only take the time to listen and learn. And Gene Logsdon was the best kind of teacher: equal parts storyteller, idealist, and rabble-rouser. His vision of a nation filled with garden farmers, based in cities, towns, and countrysides, will resonate with many people, both young and old, who long to create a more sustainable, meaningful life for themselves and a better world for all of us.

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

Kirkus Reviews-

“An elegant, modern georgic in prose by ‘contrary farmer’ Logsdon (Gene Everlasting, 2013, etc.). Of a piece with the works of Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, and other modern back-to-the-landers, Logsdon’s last book (he died in May 2016) comprises a set of essays addressed to an imagined young person contemplating a life in the fields. ‘There’s no such thing as the American farmer,’ counsels the author at the outset. Instead, there are beet farmers, dairy farmers, flower farmers, marijuana farmers, and even ‘moonshine farmers,’ which makes it difficult to categorize all the different kinds of farmers and to subsume them into any meaningful political organization. The point is that because there is so much diversity in farming, anyone with intelligence, gumption, and stick-to-itiveness shouldn’t be dissuaded from having a go at it. Of course, there are plenty of reasons not to farm, and Logsdon isn’t shy of enumerating the challenges, from the fiscal and physical ones to matters that embrace even the heart: one of his essays concerns how to find a suitable helpmeet out in the sticks, where, as a former seminarian, he discovered ‘there were girls peeking out from behind every crossroads stop sign in the county.’ Times change, but the struggle continues, one aspect of it the corporatization of farming. Oddly, there Logsdon finds an ally in the chain restaurateur Bob Evans, who encouraged those who would listen to invest in biological over mechanical solutions, saying, ‘tractors don’t have babies.’ Logsdon is encouraging without being Pollyannaish, homespun while also sometimes arch: ‘On the occasions when I have had to travel in city traffic, the thought always occurs to me that people who must commute into cities to work spend about as much time just waiting for traffic lights to change as it takes me to write a book.’ From raising cattle to organizing markets, there’s much value here for every aspiring farmer, whose work requires brains along with brawn.”

Foreword Reviews-

"This engaging, conversational book dispenses life advice for farmers and others who seek to live close to the earth. Letter to a Young Farmer is an accumulation of wisdom with a large dollop of humor and a conversational tone that will endear it to almost every audience. The book recalls a conversation with a parent or older family member in that many of its common-sense directives are informed by experience, from the purchasing of land to the management of aggressive rams. But not all the advice here is specific to farmers or 'garden farmers'; general life advice can be extrapolated from discussions of love, finance, and other common-sense aspects of life. Categorizing Letter is tricky at times, perhaps appropriately so, stating that 'contrary farmers,' as the author self-identifies, tend to defy stereotyping. It is philosophical, but it also dispenses concrete advice. Likewise, though it does present useful information, much of this is apocryphal, cast in a slyly humorous way, and even opinionated. For example, the author agrees that climate change is a problem, but he also describes people concerned over the issue as paranoid 'hand-wringers.’ Letter is best read as an inspirational piece. It seems likely to lure many a gardening neophyte to the farm life, though it takes care to stress the difficulty of this path too. Above all, it preaches consistency, locality, and the long view, occasionally contrasting this philosophy with the frantic pace of mainstream modern life. In the book’s worldview, small farming is the key to solving the most serious of our environmental, mental, and physical problems as well as the existential emptiness of consumerism. Yet at the same time, it does not advocate complete abandonment of capitalist modality. Parts of the book recall Buddhist principles of moderation. With its unique point of view, Letter to a Young Farmer is a must-read piece of environmental, agricultural, and social philosophy.”

Booklist-

If Logsdon (1932-2016) had his way, the term contrary farmer would have been every bit as familiar as country farmer. A learned proponent of ‘stay in and stay small' garden farming, Logsdon’s outspoken outlook was completely in opposition to the practices and philosophies of corporate agribusiness. Instead of encouraging farmers to 'go big or get out' by adding more property, more machinery, and more debt, Logsdon championed the idea of working on a more personal scale that allows farmers to appreciate nature and honor tradition while still accepting technology and innovation. In this posthumously published book of essays, Logsdon extols the virtues of finding a good mate, praises the pluck and professionalism of women farmers, and enthuses about the health benefits of a day in the barn. Along with other hard-earned advice about hauling livestock, pasturing chickens, and controlling weeds, Logsdon’s lifetime of farming wisdom is firmly lodged in common sense. Sagacious and sly, practical and poetic, Logsdon’s voice may have been contrarian but it was never condescending.”

“In the midst of our epidemic fear of the future and its so-far predicted emergencies and catastrophes, here is Gene patiently, quietly, with the right touch of merriment, talking about the small, really possible ways of solving our one great problem: how to live on the Earth without destroying it.”—Wendell Berry, from the foreword

Publishers Weekly-

Late Ohioan farmer Logsdon (Gene Everlasting: A Contrary Farmer’s Thoughts on Living Forever) sends a meaningful (though poorly titled) message to up-and-coming homestead farmers. Written during the late stages of an illness that would take the author’s life in 2016, the book stands as his final assertion and rallying cry against the misguided notion, so prevalent at one time, that farmers needed to 'get big or get out.' The book isn’t written in the intimate style of a personal missive as the title suggests; it’s more of an essay collection squarely addressing topics such as small-scale economics, pasture farming, raising sheep, and the 'modern plowgirl,' with practical-minded advice throughout. This work serves as a guiding light and lodestar for farmers facing the modern challenges of any farming operation, large or small.” 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gene Logsdon

Over the course of his long life and career as a writer, farmer, and journalist, Gene Logsdon published more than two dozen books, both practical and philosophical, on all aspects of rural life and affairs. His nonfiction works include Gene Everlasting, A Sanctuary of Trees, and Living at Nature’s Pace. He wrote a popular blog, The Contrary Farmer, as well as an award-winning column for the Carey, Ohio, Progressor Times. Gene was also a contributor to Farming Magazine and The Draft Horse Journal. He lived and farmed in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, where he died in 2016, a few weeks after finishing his final book, Letter to a Young Farmer.

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A Sanctuary of Trees

A Sanctuary of Trees

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As author Gene Logsdon puts it, "We are all tree huggers." But not just for sentimental or even environmental reasons. Humans have always depended on trees for our food, shelter, livelihood, and safety. In many ways, despite the Grimm's fairy-tale version of the dark, menacing forest, most people still hold a deep cultural love of woodland settings, and feel right at home in the woods.

In this latest book, A Sanctuary of Trees, Logsdon offers a loving tribute to the woods, tracing the roots of his own home groves in Ohio back to the Native Americans and revealing his own history and experiences living in many locations, each of which was different, yet inextricably linked with trees and the natural world. Whether as an adolescent studying at a seminary or as a journalist living just outside Philadelphia's city limits, Gene has always lived and worked close to the woods, and his curiosity and keen sense of observation have taught him valuable lessons about a wide variety of trees: their distinct characteristics and the multiple benefits and uses they have.

In addition to imparting many fascinating practical details of woods wisdom, A Sanctuary of Trees is infused with a philosophy and descriptive lyricism that is born from the author's passionate and lifelong relationship with nature: There is a point at which the tree shudders before it begins its descent. Then slowly it tips, picks up speed, often with a kind of wailing death cry from rending wood fibers, and hits the ground with a whump that literally shakes the earth underfoot. The air, in the aftermath, seems to shimmy and shiver, as if saturated with static electricity. Then follows an eerie silence, the absolute end to a very long life.

Fitting squarely into the long and proud tradition of American nature writing, A Sanctuary of Trees also reflects Gene Logsdon's unique personality and perspective, which have marked him over the course of his two dozen previous books as the authentic voice of rural life and traditions.

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Good Spirits

Good Spirits

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Here we go. Gene "The Contrary Farmer" Logsdon has taken on some controversial subjects in his time, but this time he has bitten off ("sipped on" doesn't sound right) a topic bound to raise strong feelings on both sides of society's moral boundary lines. His subject is alcohol and its traditional role on the family homestead. Not surprisingly, Gene speaks the bare-naked truth, and finds a lot more good than bad to say about booze.

Alcohol has historically played a significant role in agricultural life. In colonial times it was the most "liquid" alternative to hard currency as a means of exchange. Alcohol was the most reliable, safest, and most convenient way to store the grain harvest, and was an integral commodity on nearly every farmstead. Because it was so valued--does this surprise us?--the government muscled in, looking for its own piece of the action. George Washington was the first of many politicians to regulate alcohol as a means to generate revenues and gain political control.

Good Spirits is a rare and brave revisionist view of history. Logsdon is a master at exposing the absurdity of the commonplace. Does it really make sense that the government can make it illegal for us to combine common substances (grain, water, and yeast) on our own property? Can it be true that every war effort in the nation's history has been fueled literally and figuratively by alcohol and the tax revenues it produces? Why must the farmer fund the government that oppresses him?

In between good-natured tirades, Logsdon makes sure the reader learns some valuable lessons. He tells us how to make beer; he teaches the rudiments of distilling; he interviews Booker Noe (patron of America's First Family of bourbon) to tell us how to sip and tell; and he adds lively tales from alcohol's quasi-legitimate past. This is vintage Contrary Farmer: 100-proof, single-barrel select. Good Spirits is outrageous, entertaining, enlightening, and an eye-poppingly interesting, natural and holistic look at the role of alcohol. You will savor this book like a snifter of Calvados, the double-distilled apple brandy of Normandy that evaporates on the tongue like a heavenly ambrosia. Heady stuff, but delicious when consumed in moderation.

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Small-Scale Grain Raising

Small-Scale Grain Raising

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First published in 1977, this book—from one of America’s most famous and prolific agricultural writers—became an almost instant classic among homestead gardeners and small farmers. Now fully updated and available once more, Small-Scale Grain Raising offers a entirely new generation of readers the best introduction to a wide range of both common and lesser-known specialty grains and related field crops, from corn, wheat, and rye to buckwheat, millet, rice, spelt, flax, and even beans and sunflowers.

More and more Americans are seeking out locally grown foods, yet one of the real stumbling blocks to their efforts has been finding local sources for grains, which are grown mainly on large, distant corporate farms. At the same time, commodity prices for grains—and the products made from them—have skyrocketed due to rising energy costs and increased demand. In this book, Gene Logsdon proves that anyone who has access to a large garden or small farm can (and should) think outside the agribusiness box and learn to grow healthy whole grains or beans—the base of our culinary food pyramid—alongside their fruits and vegetables.

Starting from the simple but revolutionary concept of the garden “pancake patch,” Logsdon opens up our eyes to a whole world of plants that we wrongly assume only the agricultural “big boys” can grow. He succinctly covers all the basics, from planting and dealing with pests, weeds, and diseases to harvesting, processing, storing, and using whole grains. There are even a few recipes sprinkled throughout, along with more than a little wit and wisdom.

Never has there been a better time, or a more receptive audience, for this book. Localvores, serious home gardeners, CSA farmers, and whole-foods advocates—in fact, all people who value fresh, high-quality foods—will find a field full of information and ideas in this once and future classic.

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The Contrary Farmer

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Gene Logsdon has become something of a rabble-rouser in progressive farm circles, stirring up debates and controversies with his popular New Farm Magazine column, The Contrary Farmer. One of Logsdon's principle contrarieties is the opinion that--popular images of the vanishing American farmer, notwithstanding--greater numbers of people in the U.S. will soon be growing and raising a greater share of their own food than at any time since the last century. Instead of vanishing, more and more farmers will be cottage farming, part-time.

This detailed and personal account of how Logsdon's family uses the art and science of agriculture to achieve a reasonably happy and ecologically sane way of life in an example for all who seek a sustainable lifestyle. In The Contrary Farmer, Logsdon offers the tried-and-true, practical advice of a manual for the cottage farmer, as well as the subtler delights of a meditation in praise of work and pleasure. The Contrary Farmer will give its readers tools and tenets, but also hilarious commentaries and beautiful evocations of the Ohio countryside that Logsdon knows as his place in the universe.

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Never has there been a better time, or a more receptive audience, for this book. Localvores, serious home gardeners, CSA farmers, and whole-foods advocates—in fact, all people who value fresh, high-quality foods—will find a field full of information and ideas in this once and future classic.

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