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.