Tag Archive for: Books

The Seed Underground

“The Seed Underground – A Revolution to Save Food” by Janisse Ray is an amazing book that belongs in everyone’s library and needs to be read at least once a year, whether you are a gardener, seed saver, foodie or not. I am not usually one to make such statements, as I realize that everyone’s literary preferences are diverse. This book is an exception, and does deserve this attention.

The Seed Underground was introduced to us by one of our book suppliers – Chelsea Green who is the publisher for Janisse. We were familiar with her writing from reading Orion magazine over a number of years, but had not heard of her newest book. On our rep’s recommendation, we ordered a copy with our regular gardening book order.

I fell in love with this book within the first couple of pages of the introduction. Her writing and words moved me so much that I wrote an article based on a short couple of paragraphs that she wrote in the introduction. She has a way of writing that brings out deeply held feelings and unspoken beliefs that have circulated deep underground, not really ever having been named or recognized in a physical way, only glimpsed as they moved past my mind’s eye, shadows behind other thoughts.

Reading this book, I immediately felt as though I knew the writer or that she knew me; the words spoke directly to me, seemingly written for my mind and way of thinking. What she said and the concepts she talked about just made sense on a gut-instinct level. She knows and writes about several of the same people I know, admire and have a tremendous respect for. One of them I am fortunate enough to call my mentor – John F. Swenson. Another we met on our travels to Slow Food Terra Madre – Holli Cederholm of Proud Peasant Farm. I hadn’t read quite that far in the book at that point, but read about her just after we returned. Others that she writes about I want to get to know and build relationships with.

This is a book about hope, love, patience, endurance, excitement, revolution and a newly rediscovered, sustainable way of living that is all embodied and contained in seed. Not just any seed, either. Those seeds of home gardeners, seed savers, small heirloom seed companies that work and strive to preserve heirlooms, those diverse multitude of seeds that have fed our ancestors for long years and have become cherished in so many ways; their stories, adaptability, flavors, productivity and history of keeping us alive for so long.

What is amazing is that Janisse wraps a story about such a sprawling subject as heirloom seeds, seed saving and the importance of both. She not only makes sense of it all, but makes it entertaining and educational at the same time; a testament to her writing and researching skills. The story comes to the reader in an intriguing way, not shying away from difficulties but not overplaying the importance to each of us in our daily life. A thoroughly enjoyable, enlightening and educational book that deserves more than just one read.

The Dirty Life

One of the things that I most enjoyed about The Dirty Life is that it is a story about a real woman in today’s world.  She begins as a savvy New York freelance writer, and winds up as a deeply devoted farm wife.  This journey is not something that she consciously chooses in the beginning, but becomes something that takes hold of her and pulls her in an entirely new direction.

She is completely unprepared for her first meeting with the farmer who becomes her husband, but soon realizes that there are deeply rooted forces in her life that cannot be ignored.  To her credit, she does not run away from a completely alien experience on her first meeting with Mark, her future husband.  She believes that she is happy with her New York life, but soon realizes that the simple farm life offers a deep soul satisfying choice that is completely unmatched in the superficial, upwardly mobile city.  This is not to say that the farm life is easier than trying to make a living in the city, as it is much more difficult physically and emotionally yet is in many ways more rewarding.

Kristin tells the story mainly from her point of view, yet offers insights into the conviction that drives her husband on the farm.  She tells her story in a real, unglossy way that shows both the beauty and the heartache of farm life.  The audacity of two young, somewhat inexperienced people in starting a farm that supplies all of the food for a small community of subscribers comes through clearly.  Food is a focal point of the book; from the fresh, vibrant produce of the farm to the upscale cafes in New York.

Part of the core of this book is about chasing a dream and the joys and frustrations experienced in the chase.  Another  is a young woman’s journey into a deep relationship that she had hoped for but never expected to have.  Yet another shows the daily challenges involved in growing our food.  Watching the success happen only after much hard work is refreshing to see in today’s age of expected instant gratification.

This is an inspirational yet cautionary tale for anyone thinking of taking up farming as a profession.  She clearly shows that success is very possible, but the work is hard, long and arduous.  Watching her travel the path to the dedication needed to make both her marriage and the farm work is part of what keeps this book open and approachable.

A very enjoyable read, and one that’s worth going back to several times.