The New Farm/ posted in: Book Review, Foodies Read, Reading The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution by Brent Preston
on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Random House Canada
Setting: Ontario Canada
The inspiring and sometimes hilarious story of a family that quit the rat race and left the city to live out their ideals on an organic farm, and ended up building a model for a new kind of agriculture. When Brent Preston, his wife, Gillian, and their two young children left Toronto ten years ago, they arrived on an empty plot of land with no machinery, no money and not much of a clue. Through a decade of grinding toil, they built a real organic farm, one that is profitable, sustainable, and their family's sole source of income. Along the way they earned the respect and loyalty of some of the best chefs in North America, and created a farm that is a leading light in the good food movement. Told with humour and heart in Preston's unflinchingly honest voice, The New Farm arrives at a time of unprecedented interest in food and farming, with readers keenly aware of the overwhelming environmental, social and moral costs of our industrial food system. The New Farm offers a vision for a hopeful future, a model of agriculture that brings people together around good food, promotes a healthier planet, and celebrates great food and good living."
A lot of the time when you read memoirs about people moving away from the city and starting a farm they stop the story after a few years. This book chronicles ten years of the ups and downs of a small organic farm.
What I found most interesting was the multiple times that they found that they needed to stray from small organic farm “orthodoxy” in order to have a viable and profitable business.
- They tried growing a large number of crops but realized that most people don’t want the exotic stuff so now they grow mostly greens and cucumbers.
- They abandoned farmers’ markets and CSAs to sell directly to restaurants
- They tried using wannabe farmers as interns for farm labor but they were such bad workers that they ended up hiring Mexican workers instead.
I was interested in the difference between the experience of Mexican migrant farm workers on this farm in Canada versus what I was familiar with in the United States. In Canada there are worker programs so they are in the country legally and have workers’ rights. The guidelines seem reasonable and we should have programs like that too.
I also liked that this book did not shy away from the cruelty involved in animal agriculture. I found the section about their pigs and chickens hard to read. They have moved away from raising pigs in part because they had issues with it too.
There is a truism in farming that you have to go big to survive. They discuss the conflicts that they have had about this. At what point do you stop trying to grow so you don’t destroy yourself or your marriage? They are very honest about the toll that the last ten years have had on their relationships.
I really enjoyed reading this book. I think that this is a good book for anyone interested in what it really takes to have a small farm.