Weekend Review: The Seasons on Henry's Farm by Terra Brockman
Like many farmers, I'm sure, my grandmother made daily notations on her calendar about the weather, events on the farm, and any visitors that she may have received. The Seasons on Henry's Farm: A Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable Farm(2009) by Terra Brockman is a little bit like that. There are 52 chapters, one per week, each focused on a particular crop of the Brockman family's diversified farm in central Illinois. Very practical information, such as exactly how a crop is planted or harvested in a sustainable manner, is discussed, but there is also room for beautiful musings on a host of topics. As an example, she draws a very eloquent parallel between roses and farming methods. The industrial agricultural complex didn't exist until just over 50 years ago, just as there was no such thing as a red rose until they were hybridized in 1950. Yet both of these things have come to define the standard of their respective categories in our cultural minds, showing just how limited our hindsight is. She writes about the history of her little piece of earth as well as the history of farming in America in general, weaving in fascinating facts about crops and tradition, and sharing recipes that celebrate each food in its season.
As in most farm memoirs that I've read one thing is made perfectly clear: this is hard work. We see in detail exactly how many man-hours are necessary to run a sustainable farm, but we also explore why this is a more desirable method than the quick-fix of enormous mono-cropped farms. It takes the Brockmans many hands working from sunup to sundown (and often beyond) every single day to bring food to market, but there is so much to love about this life. They work out-of-doors in the fresh air and sunshine, rather than in an office cubicle; all generations of the family are working together, creating strong family bonds with grandparents teaching children and grandchildren, instead of each going their separate ways; and they do honest work of which they can be proud.
For anyone who is interested in the how-to of organic farming, this is a must-read and for anyone curious about the agrarian life it is incredibly interesting and well-written.