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Fields of Plenty: A Farmer's Journey in Search of Real Food and the People Who Grow It Hardcover – September 29, 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ableman chronicles his three-month journey across the U.S., during which he meets fellow farmers (he's also an author, photographer and executive director of an urban agricultural center in California) and strives to "reassure [himself] that abundance is enhanced, not sacrificed, by humane and sustainable practices." He brings along son Aaron; the two leave their family and farm in British Columbia to share wonder and wisdom with farmers nationwide. They stay at farms and learn their hosts' growing methods and family stories. Ableman's musings range from the changing seasons to the political challenges of small-scale farming. Recipes close each chapter; lucky Ableman sampled the dishes in the company of the people who grew the ingredients, from Anthony and Carol Boutard, who grow Charentais melons in Oregon, to Eli Zabar, who has a half-acre of greenhouses atop buildings on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Although this book may be a bit too dense for those not familiar with alternative agriculture, it is easy enough for anyone to read a few sections at a time, taking their pick of memoir, food writing, farming history and technique, and recipes. (Sept. 29)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"America has undeniably become a fast-food nation, with the bulk of our meals coming from cans, freezers or drive-thru windows. In the newest offering from Ableman, he promises that it doesn't have to be this way, delightfully chronicling his quest to experience productive, imaginative, organic American farms.

For three months, as his own harvest was coming to fruition on his farm in British Columbia, the author and his son set off in a VW van on a 12,000 mile journey to farms across the country. The result is an engaging hybrid of travelogue, cookbook and discourse on the new American agrarian movement. Ableman's findings are far more diverse than the bucolic cornfields that might come to mind when thinking about American agriculture. From the poblano chilies that rise out of the New Mexican desert to an urban oasis of tomato plants bordering on Chicago's Cabrini-Green housing project to greenhouses brimming with lettuces along the rocky coastlines of Maine, the farms that he visits paint a vibrant portrait of the American landscape. His prose is as ripe as the summer tomatoes he describes, and the recipes that accompany each chapter are a tempting combination of regional favorites and new flavors.

Above all else, Ableman presents an appealing and optimistic testament to the fact that fresh, organic eating is still very much alive in America." Kirkus Review


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; First Edition edition (September 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811842231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811842235
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 1.3 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,161,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This superbly written book, with its poetic descriptions and fascinating stories of the different farmers the author visited and interviewed throughout the country, had me dreaming about owning my own organic farm one day! Also, the wonderful recipes are definately a plus! What a wonderful read!

Writing this book from an organic farmer's point of view, Ableman gives one a sense of respect for the earth, the intricacies involved in its cultivation, the many different varieties of fruits and vegetables that exist and can be grown on small organic farms (as compared to conventional/commercial growers who use very few varieties), and the tender care involved by these family farmers.

One learns about the different herbal concoctions that some of these farmers use to feed their crops, comparable to the attention given when feeding a child. The nutrients in these soils are uncomparable to the conventional corporate farming, and organic farms do not use pesticides and chemical fertilizers. One can taste the difference in the organic produce. They are bursting with flavor.

One learns about sustainability and organic farming, about the many flavors, the exotic colors, and how the different animals cohabitate with the farmers, so that nothing is wasted. I particularly liked the descriptions of the sections on the

melons that emitted intoxicating musky smells, and blackberries that were so irresistible, the author went and gorged himself eating them in the patch. Yumm! We went and bought organic blackberries after reading that section!

One also learns that eating is an intimate relationship, and establishing a relationship with the local farmers in our communities is a wonderful way to learn where our food is coming from.
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Format: Hardcover
I love the text of this book, go ahead and buy it, I think it should be said that this book suffers from its format. The extra heavy pages and stiff hard binding are like those in a coffee table book and would be well deserved, if the publisher had included more photographs. As it stands, there is a scant one photo per farm profile, far too few in my opinion, especially having been visually tantilized by Ableman's beautiful descriptions. This leaves one mostly text, valuable and well written and worthy of your attention, in a book that is physically difficult to handle and read. I am hoping that publishers will read this review and remedy the problem in subsequent editions. Either add more "art" to justify the art quality of the book, or else make the book easier to curl-up with and read. I know folks who have put down the book, and not picked it up again, although they were enjoying it, and I believe that the book's physical attributes are to blame.
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Format: Hardcover
I had the privilege of spending Thanksgiving with the author and after a great meal we coaxed him into reading from his new book. He told a story about going back to his great grandfather's farm and general store in Delaware. A journey he made with his Father and son. He unfolds the story with vivid detail that draws you in and makes you care. He tells about the loss of our agricutural heritage and the impact that urbanization has had on our diet. This great book with wonderful illustrations. Read it and buy copies for your friends.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a gorgeous book! The pictures of the crops and the farmers are breathtaking, but better still are the descriptions of the many ways to approach farming while taking care of the land and being in control of how the crops are planted, grown and harvested. Only a fellow farmer could travel the country with appreciation and respect for his compatriots who fill the farmers markets with food.

"In the quiet and repetition of field work, the mind has a chance to expand, the imagination to loosen. It's in those moments when our hands are busy bunching or hoeing or pruning that the essence of our work reveals itself. It comes in small and subtle revelations, like discovering how a certain insect or wild plant has been contributing to the well-being of the farm, or finding one tomato or carrot among thousands with unique qualities worth propagating, or hearing music in the mundane and repetitious work of filling boxes or burlap bags."

My connections to this book are strong. I buy vegetables from Harmony Valley at the Madison Farmer's Market every summer. Better still, my husband and I have a CSA share in the amazing Future Fruit Farm from which we are savoring all but lost varieties of pears and apples every other week deep into the fall. Both farms are described in the "Classical and Jazz" section.

We also just returned home from the annual Prairie Festival at The Land Institute in Kansas where we too listened to the thoughts of Wes Jackson and Wendell Berry. We brought home a small bag of Kernza, a perennial wheat developed and grown at the Institute. Ableman shares his visit with Wendell and Wes, "Here, among colleagues I have admired for years, I'm reminded of the broader tribe I still belong to.".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With vision and humor the reader travels with the author from his beloved Salt Spring Island off the west coast of Canada through an amazing and very encouraging variety of farms. The adventures verge on the poetic (though the author refrains from actual poetry.) I found myself looking at grain mills to make my own flour and ordering heirloom beans for new adventures in eating. Anyone who is horticulturally inclined or a "foodie" can identify with the timely observations, conquests and defeats of the wide variety farmers encountered along the way. While problems and dangers for the future of small farmers are explained, it is not in a heavy handed depressing way. More often I found myself giggling because I had been doing something of the same things that make the farmers and their families quirky at times. The deeper peeks into individual lives is engaging, often moving. The recipes and their formatting are interesting and I fully intend to try a good number of them.

I can agree with one reviewer to the effect the book is physically heavy and unwieldy. And yes, certainly more of the very excellent photography would be wonderful, but then if I had my wish, the book would be twice as thick! Ah well! I highly reccommend this book for anyone who's interested in their food and it's quality and who like to be entertained to boot.
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