From Publishers Weekly
In this rambling memoir from America's heartland of organic produce, literary scholar Raskin (For the Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman
) recalls a pleasant year visiting farm friends in Sonoma, Calif. Following the chronology of one season, he goes to farms, markets and restaurants, profiling Mexican workers, talking with small-farm advocates and even harvests vegetables himself. The breezy, romantic prose is peppered with literary references, and, at times, awkward academic language. His descriptions of meals seem limited to sumptuous, delicious and excellent; similarly, the analysis tends to be cursory. After listening to one industrious produce seller's story, Raskin evokes a simple Wow! The closest his research comes to a serious investigation is a description of employees at the Sonoma Whole Foods Market, a company he openly dislikes. The story's overarching countercultural bent intensifies the aging academic's apparent longing for the revolutionary roots of organic foods. The redemptive aspect of this memoir lies in its intensely local specificity—Northern California's marijuana-growing culture and a feeling of youthfulness—although the sprawling narrative imparts more of a gauzy, poetic impression than any cohesive ideas about food or farming. 22 b&w photos. (May)
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College professor Raskin spent a year working at Oak Hill Farm in California’s Sonoma County, documenting what makes the place a success in an era that values local, organic, sustainable agriculture. Founded by dedicated conservationists, Oak Hill Farm and the people who labor in its fields typify contemporary attitudes toward food production. He talked to farm workers from all over Sonoma, even to a couple of dedicated, knowledgeable Mexican laborers who lack legal status. Each of Raskin’s subjects has some unique history, but they are united in their love for what they perceive as a fulfilling rural lifestyle. Idealizing the role of agriculture, they formed close bonds with the land, their animals, and with those who buy their produce. As Raskin notes, with tongue in cheek, every farmer in the area claims to be a supplier for Alice Waters’ celebrated Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. --Mark Knoblauch