ON GOOD LAND by Michael Ableman


The Autobiography of an Urban Farm
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Lyrical tale of the survival and triumph of a small farm amid the suburban sprawl of southern California, with writing as rich and satisfying as the taste of a ripe melon. Fairview Gardens exists amid tract housing, malls, and endless miles of freeway. Ableman (founder of the Center for Urban Agriculture; From the Good Earth, not reviewed) tells of how the farm made peace with this suburban world and how this world came to first tolerate and then embrace this oasis of connection to the land. It hasn—t been easy. Homeowners do not rest quietly with manure spreaders hard at work near their backyards; Ableman resents, albeit with grace, the imprecations of the modern world onto the land he manages. Yet, over time, the farm has become accepted as an eccentric neighbor, at first as a convenient place to buy good, healthy food and then as a repository of the dying knowledge of what is to be learned from working the land. Ableman’s writing on these lessons—perseverance, patience, humility, a feeling of empowerment when one eats what one grows—forms the heart of this work. It is writing of inspiring joy, without the overblown “cosmic” rhetoric that often mars such paeans to nature. Along the way he offers some valuable tips to farmers, on mulching, watering, weeding, fighting city hall. Today Fairview Gardens is a public place, not a bucolic back-to-nature vacation spot for the few. It stands not apart from the community but within it, no small reason for its survival in the face of hungry developers. It remains a thriving farm, but also a place where people, especially children, come to experience the land. Among a sprawl of books incessantly issued and hyped, this small, wise volume quietly calls us to read and be renewed. (50 color photos)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8118-1921-3
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Chronicle
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1998


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