British farmer Young shows how she has continued her family’s farming tradition, a moral, observant, and personal way of farming that predates the “organic” trend or even the use of the term.
“I hope that I am beginning here what began as an oral tradition,” writes the author in this celebration of her farm, Kite’s Nest, and her cows. Though the table of contents lists a number of chapters (a division Young resisted), there are actually two main parts to this short book. The first is a farming manifesto presenting the compelling argument that farm animals are more like individual people than most of us would ever suspect. They have their own personalities, levels of intelligence (that vary widely in some species), and common sense about what is best for them. They are naturally happy, until humans interfere. As the author notes, interfering with their happiness is not only immoral, it is bad farming: The milk and the meat taste worse, the animals are less healthy, and those who consume them will be as well. “Happy animals grow faster, stay healthier, cause fewer problems and provide more profit in the long run, when all factors, such as the effects on human health and the environment are taken into account,” she writes. The longer second part of the book is a fondly annotated genealogy of the animals on her farm. We learn of the names of the animals, their individual temperaments and friendships, the preferences they develop for some humans over others, and their willingness to forgive or not (as perceived by the author). This part could have been much longer, the author insists, even if it had focused solely on “Amelia…an unusually delightful calf, more trusting and understanding than we would have thought possible….I could write for a thousand pages, listing every detail of Amelia’s life, and I still would not have presented an even half-accurate picture of her.”
A pleasant book about the joys of close observation.