Weekend Review: The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love
It would be easy to write-off Kristin Kimball and her memoir of New York writer turned farmer, The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love (2010), as just another city girl who fell for a country boy as she helps him achieve his dream of owning a farm. But, her story is so much more than that. In this book Kimball chronicles the year in her life in which she meets farmer Mark and with him starts a farm, pioneers a variation on the CSA model, and after their first season, get married. She talks honestly about the rawness of it all: the hard physical labor of farming, but also her emotional journey from yearning to capture a deeper meaning of "home" to making the commitment to work towards creating it.

At its heart, this story is a love letter addressed to a whole community. Kimball doesn't entertain sentimental notions about a bucolic rural life, but she values greatly the people who time and time again come to their aid when they need it most and the ways in which those people are connected to this specific place. She notes how her life experience differs greatly from theirs, but in a way that is free of judgment. She writes of them with respect and, sometimes, awe.

Their motivation for farming is the access to good clean food, for themselves and to share with their neighbors, and of this she writes with much love. To follow how both of them are able to throw together amazing, but simple, meals with the ingredients they produce was inspiring. It really was a joy to read of her journey from Manhattan vegetarian to farmer slaughtering pasture-raised pigs and making blood sausages.

This story of two people who proceed with the faith that as long as they do good, good things will come to them, is heartening. It's enough to make me believe that all of us with dreams of owning a little bit of land and knowing the satisfaction of honest labor can figure out a way to make it work.


  1. As always, great review!

    I've just started this book and already I feel more hopeful. My favorite line so far:

    "He had recently turned against the word should, and doing so had made him a happier person" (17).

  2. Good review. I very much enjoyed this book.

  3. I loved this book so much! It was about farming though not too much, it was about falling and staying in love, though not too much, it was about hard work and ingenuity and insights, it was about a journey that consisted of all the above. It's about life and how it's lived.