I just finished reading The Seasons on Henry’s Farm: A Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable Farm by Terra Brockman. First of all, it should be said that I often dream of life on a farm, so I love to read about farms. Now, in reality, I know that I am terribly pampered living the writer’s life, and most likely physically ill-suited to a farming lfie. I get worn out with the little bit of work needed to keep up my own yard and garden and chicken flock. I highly doubt I would survive on Henry’s Farm, where they grow 77 varieties of tomatoes alone and plant some 20,000 cloves of garlic in the fall. (The volume of produce grown leads me to question calling Henry’s Farm sustainable. It seems like that much work would have to kill a person, with or without chemical inputs!)
While this book lacked the love story element of The Dirty Life, it still managed to hold my interest. It functions as part farm journal, part history lesson, part philosophy text, and part environmental manifesto… with a whole lot of sweat thrown in for good measure. I was tired just reading this book. I suppose the part of growing produce I dream of the most is hauling it down to the farmer’s market and chatting it up with customers while I open their eyes to the delicious brilliance of heirloom vegetables. There wasn’t a lot of chatting in this book. There was, however, a whole lot of backbreaking labor involved.
Ms. Brockman does a beautiful job chronicling life on her brother’s farm. (Her sister’s, also, who grows fruits and herbs.) She also presents a way of life that is totally foreign to most Americans in 2011. Henry’s Farm truly is a family business. Everyone works. Cousins, sisters, mothers. The young and the old. Also, everyone is provided for by the farm’s bounty.
The sheer size of the book was at first overwhelming (and I love to read). I fully expected to get bogged down and bored by all the farm details, if only for the fact that I’ve read so much on this topic. She walks us through an entire year, week by week, and there wasn’t really a single paragraph where I felt tempted to skip ahead (which is rare for me). I wanted to savor every last bite. I wanted to learn about every last plant grown on the farm. I wanted to walk down the path at dusk back to the barn after a long day in the field. I wanted to taste the year’s first harvest of garlic with the rest of the crew. (For the record, there were things I didn’t want to partake in, like the frying of duck’s testicles or the butchering of a pig, both of which made me a little squeamish!)
I think this book is probably at the top of my farm-related memoirs list now. It is one I will want to pick up and read again, perhaps on a long winter evening by the fire.