The BUZZ: An Indie Next Notable Book for 2010, Amazon Best Books of 2010, Top 10 Books: Home & Garden. The real-life chronicle of Essex Farm, a Community Supported Agriculture venture in New York state.
The GIST: In her early thirties, Kristin Kimball inhabited a glamorous life in Manhattan as a free-lance writer. The Harvard grad dated cerebral men and socialized with ambitious professionals. When she interviewed Matt, a passionate organic farmer, something clicked. They connected despite their differences. Kimball longed for a home and hearth, and Matt’s life and noble aspirations appealed to her. With zero skills or knowledge, she set off to learn all she could about old-method farming with Matt. His virtuous character and loving nature won her over, and provided a stable foundation for their ambitious endeavor: to start a CSA farm that would provide a full diet for its members- beef, poultry, eggs, grains, fruits and vegetables, milk and cheeses, maple syrup and butter. This story details their early plans, through their first year and its endless challenges. Farm life is hard, and Kimball includes all its gory details: slaughtering, blisters, scrapple. They used draught horses instead of tractors, and no pesticides, hormones or prophylactic antibiotics, seeking sustainability. On a quieter level, this is a delightful love story between two unlikely partners, devoted to each other and the land they steward.
The WRITING: Entertaining and clever. Kimball isn’t some New Yorker who left the big city for the country and decided to write about it. She’s an accomplished, talented writer. Her explorations of the emotional trepidations and transitions she went through are as clear and compelling as her tales of adjusting to hard physical labor. Sprinkled throughout the book are descriptions of mouth-watering dishes prepared by Matt, who is not only a smart, kind-hearted, rugged specimen, but also a skilled cook. He nourishes her with meals better than any she enjoyed in New York’s finest eateries. They are simpler, of course, but she finds immense satisfaction and beauty in this doctrine of the farm. Kimball avoids the how-to tone of many memoirs like this one, in which someone recounts a year of difficult transition to a simpler-but-harder life in a new landscape. Kimball’s honesty and vulnerability keep it real and captivating. It’s not always a pretty story, but Kimball’s telling of it made me happy, certain in the rewards of honorable intentions and hard work.
BUY or BORROW? Borrow, but also check out Kimball’s blog at kristinkimball.com, where you can find updates of life at Essex Farm. I’m looking forward to the sequel coming out soon, documenting their 10th year providing food for over two hundred members.
“I was in love with the work, too, despite its over abundance. The world had always seemed disturbingly chaotic to me, my choices too bewildering. I was fundamentally happier, I found my focus on the ground. For the first time, I could clearly see the connection between my actions and the consequences. I knew why I was doing what I was doing and I believed in it. I felt the gap between who I thought I was and how I behaved begin to close, growing slowly closer to authentic.”