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The Contrary Farmer (Real Goods Independent Living Book) Paperback – May 1, 1995

47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Gene Logsdon offers an alternative to the decline of the family farm by explaining how to successfully engage in what he calls "cottage farming" part-time for enjoyment as well as profit. This book gives readers the tools and information they need to grow their own food in a sustainable and Earth-friendly fashion, but it also tells some great, hilarious stories and includes some truly beautiful and evocative writing. This is not a dry, "how-to" book; it's a really great read even if you haven't a clue about (or any interest in) farming.

From Publishers Weekly

"Cutting down a large tree should be an act charged with ritual." Why? Farming columnist Logsdon ( Organic Orcharding ) points to the tree's "wonderful accomplishment" and to its "feat of survival" as models for ourselves. Then he goes on to discuss ways of felling trees that have come to the end of their lives and can therefore spare their wood for fuel. This collection of essays recommends cottage farming--the small-scale, part-time growing that aims to reduce food expenses and increase pleasure in living--in a tone that combines even-handed pragmatism, idealism ("Measure the value of products in human terms," he urges) and impatient realism ("Let those who put their faith in fancy threads laugh at your jeans"). The author rejects "institutionalized claptrap" for the greater benefits of rural independence and freedom, and outlines ways we can pursue these. "Flee the evils that centralized power always generates," he advises, calling himself an investor in "the tools that make sweat more productive." Logsdon raises a sanely unruly voice in a society where life too often only seems civilized. His correctives are not easily applied, but their promise and appeal (like his own) are powerful.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Real Goods Independent Living Book
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (May 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0930031741
  • ISBN-13: 978-0930031749
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gene Logsdon farms in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. He is one of the clearest and most original voices of rural America. He has published more that a dozen books; his Chelsea Green books include Living at Nature's Pace, The Contrary Farmer's Invitation to Gardening, Good Spirits, and The Contrary Farmer.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

103 of 107 people found the following review helpful By markspark on June 21, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This wonderful book is almost written as though the author is talking to a new young neighbor farmer, sharing his wise, hard learned experiences and reasons behind his cottage farm techiques. As a city boy myself (although nearly 50 now), I read this book with the excitement of a much younger man hanging onto every word from the authors mouth. I purchased this book along with nearly a dozen others on small farms, homesteading, chickens and such. This book is my favorite of all of them. The other books are just that, books, but The Contrary Farmer was like having grampa talking to you personally, giving direction, perspective and guidance in plain talk that instills his love for the cottage farm. Although this book taught me much about livestock, crops and machinery, the book left me with much more. I regret that the book has an end.
I am planning to buy 10 acres for a cottage farm as I sort out how I will spend the rest of my life. I have no answers yet, but I will leave The Contrary Farmer on the lamp table instead of placing it in the bookshelf with the other 'books'.
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59 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 18, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a highly enjoyable book about how to make a profit on a small farm. The author's contention is that few people will ever get rich any more farming, but a family that's willing to work hard should be able to earn the money they need on a farm with considerably less than 100 acres. Logsdon stresses that if you calculate a dollar value for your labor, you'll find that your hourly wage is rather low, but on the other hand, if you enjoy what you're doing, then perhaps it isn't really valid to calculate the hourly wage anyhow. There's no arguing that farm labor is hard work, but how many city people pay large sums of money for gym memberships in order to get the exercise that they miss while sitting at their desks? Hoeing a garden provides great exercise at no cost, as well as an income when the produce is sold. However, on a huge factory farm, weeds must be controlled with herbicides or expensive gas-driven machinery, which brings down the profitability of the enterprise as well as damaging the environment. Logsdon's golden rule is never to finance farming by borrowing. He points out that "rates of money growth (interest) seldom match rates of biological growth," so borrowing money to buy farm or equipment or land is almost always the start of a losing proposition.
After the first few chapters about what he terms "pastoral economics", Logsdon devotes separate chapters to each of the parts of his small farm ecosystem, the garden, the animals, water, meadows, trees, corn, mechanics, and pastures. Although he eschews wide-spread use of pesticides, he's not an organic purist, which may rub certified organic farmers the wrong way. He's very keen on maintaining animals like some sheep and chickens, a few pigs, and a cow or two.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Linda Hudson on February 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
I found this book at an interesting time. My husband and I had just finished the PBS series, "The Farmer's Wife", which was the story of small family farmers trying to make it in an Agribusiness World. It was particularily interesting that the farming couple were so strapped for cash that they couldn't work their own farms, but had to take off-farms jobs such as factory work and house cleaning. They didn't even have a chance to plant and harvest a home vegetable garden for their own needs! The sense I got from watching this show was that someting was Terribly Wrong! In his book, The Contrary Farmer, Gene Logsdon tells his readers just what is wrong with the situation farmers and farms find themselves in today...horrendously expensive equipment, monoculture and an endless cycle of huge bank loans and crop failures, which lead to more loans. This book was also a refreshing look at small self-sufficient farming and I found myself inspired to be satisfied with our small operation and to always WANT to keep it small!
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful By W. Wellesley on October 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
I am interested in starting up a small farm, and Logsdon's book offers a lot of old-friend advice on how to keep a farm without going broke or biting off more than you can chew. He draws from almost thirty years of experience to tell the reader the best way to raise livestock, maintain pasture and cultivated land, dig a pond, fell trees, and well, you get the idea. It makes me want to put into practice what I read as soon as possible. I look at the land in a whole different way thanks to this book. For those of you into the Bible, this book offers great instructions on being a steward of the land. If you take care of your trees and animals, they'll take care of you.

This book does leave me with a lot of questions, which is good and frustrating at the same time. Since Gene Logsdon grew up on a farm and has spent all his life writing for farmers, he might take for granted the knowledge he has that some of us new to agriculture might not. I still don't know what a combine is, or what a manure spreader looks like, or what keeps the layers warm in the henhouse over the winter. Logsdon mentions in the chapter about forestry that illustrations would best explain the safety precautions that he details with words. That makes me think that maybe there are no illustrations in the book because of restrictions set by the printer or editor.

I would also like to know what assets to look for when buying a farm, or how to go about buying one in the first place. Logsdon also lets on little about what his wife contributes to their 32-acre homestead. He refers to his work only in the first person singular, though obviously it takes at least two people to do the work.
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