I know, I know.
*Catlike conscience uncurls, blinks, and begins pawing at the computer*
“John, didn’t you plan on blogging regularly and leading a magical, post-graduation literary life?”
Well, yeah, but–
“Didn’t you at least mentally, if not actually in a post, promise to write more?”
Sure, it’s just that–
“Where have you been since July? And did you bring me a treat?”
First of all, shush and let me talk.
Secondly, I know, and I apologize for being neglectful. No, I don’t have a treat, but I do have a book review.
“Well, I suppose that will do.”
What is it?
Ronald Jager‘s The Fate of Family Farming, focuses on the status of the American family farm by looking at its past, present, and future. The book is divided into three sections, beginning with a discussion and breakdown of four distinctly important historical moments drawn from nearly 400 years of farming in America. It is also within this section that he presents an overview of three defining agrarian voices: Louis Bromfield, Victor Davis Hanson, and Wendell Berry. From there, he discusses the present state of family farming with interviews and visits to four modern family farms. He concludes the book with a sections outlining the future of farming, focusing on industry, biotechnology, and “the soul of agriculture.”
What I liked
The book itself works in a beautiful way as an introduction of sorts to the discussion of agrarianism and small scale agriculture. By opening with a focused overview of key historical moments in Ag, the rest of the book is put into a context that constantly reminds the reader that our nation began as an agrarian one.
Jager also does a fantastic job providing a jumping off point for readers who are looking for more agrarian writing. Besides the chapter focusing on the three agrarian voices he points to, the book itself introduces the reader to the writings of Liberty Hyde Bailey and Gene Logsdon (one of my personal favorites) among others. In this way, he does a great job of giving the reader an excellent “beginner” book to agrarianism.
But the best part about The Fate of Family Farming is that despite being a beginner book of sorts, Jager manages to still show how agrarianism is more than just being eco and sustainably minded about agriculture, it is a philosophy as well. Towards the end of the book when he focuses on industrial ag and biotechnology, he comments on the ironies of technology and farming, showing that in many ways it isn’t really any one person’s fault, but rather the result of many rational decisions that have cumulatively created a negative effect on farming.
What I didn’t like
Really, the only things not to like are the things that make it so accessible as an introductory text. Yes, at times the narrative voice can be a little too casual and the ideas a little simple, but in the end, these qualities help make a broad topic easier to understand. Further, because the author provides so many other writers and sources, the reader is almost encouraged by Jager to seek out “meatier” texts when done.
Even if you only have a passing interest in agriculture or where your food is coming from, this is a book that will not only alleviate some of your curiosity, but open a door to other, deeper texts.