Friday, April 11, 2008

Looking for Something Great to Read?

Harvest: A Year in the Life of an Organic Farm by Nicola Smith

While working on a library project, I discovered the book, Harvest: A Year in the Life of an Organic Farm, which featured the life of a couple managing their organic farm in Vermont. Having traveled to New England a few years ago and having taken somewhat of an interest in organic food, I thought I would enjoy reading about the Fat Rooster Farm in Royalton, Vermont. Not only did I enjoy the well-crafted narrative that Smith penned, I learned more about life in Vermont, life on a farm, and the organic food industry.

After an introduction about the inspiration for writing this book, Smith begins her story of Jennifer Megyesi and Kyle Jones, owners of the Fat Rooster Farm, with the search for an animal that has been killing their chickens and turkeys. Finally, after nights of waiting for the culprit to make itself known, Jennifer and Kyle trap the raccoon that has wreaked havoc on their farm. The story continues with their personal histories interwoven with the day to day activities of the farm. I learn of the hardships the couple faces early in the farm’s life when their son Brad suffers from an illness that nearly blinds him. I also realize the struggles Jennifer and Kyle have balancing their work on the farm with the jobs they perform off-site. Smith does not shy away from the graphic details either, especially when she relays what happens in the slaughterhouse or recounts a sheep’s labor. The author concludes with a reflection on Fat Rooster Farm’s history and the mark that Jennifer, Kyle, and Brad have made there.

Each detail, from the descriptions of the bartering system the couple has with their neighbors and associates to the remarks about the blustery winter weather, makes the story of Fat Rooster Farm and its owners more personal. Smith creates for me a sense that I am also waking up nearly every hour during lambing season or smelling the sweet maple syrup boiling in the sugaring house.

I appreciate Jennifer's and Kyle’s willingness to let their story be told and Nicola Smith for telling it. Their story endears me to the farmers in my family’s past too, my grandparents and great-grandparents. I recommend Harvest: A Year in the Life of an Organic Farm to anyone who has an interest in learning about another way of life, food and animal production, or organic farms.

Reviewed by Hilary Writt

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