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The Accidental Farmers: An urban couple, a rural calling and a dream of farming in harmony with nature Paperback – April 24, 2012
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About the Author
Tim Young is a farmer, best-selling author and award winning artisanal cheese maker in Georgia. While flying high over corporate America, Tim Young received a call he couldn't ignore. He shredded his business cards and said goodbye to the conveniences of urban life, to become a farmer and homesteader. Today, Tim is an award-winning cheese maker and author. He lives in Georgia with the most beautiful and caring woman in the world, and a little dog named Alfie that speaks to him in condescending, broken-English.
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Someone with a little more insight or humility and a desire to learn might have started on a smaller scale, or perhaps interned with a fellow farmer to gain a bit of experience before diving in to the tune of hundreds of animals. But the author seems to learn primarily by reading on the internet, experimenting, or calling a local friend to bail him out when he gets in over his head. As a result his animals die around him in record numbers, through either his own neglect (day old chicks dying of cold from a brooder that isn't properly heated), or over-optimism (domestic pigs expected to birth and raise their young in the wild, where they die by the dozens).
I think the parts that were the most disturbing were those that espoused his philosophy of "natural farming" -- in particular the idea that animals who fall ill are not given medical attention because the ones that survive will be stronger, and therefore breed more resilient offspring. I fully understand the issues regarding overuse of antibiotics in agriculture. What I do not understand is why someone would not give an antibiotic to a *sick* animal, at the cost of eventually hundreds of birds who became ill and died. The author talks at one point about how he and his wife decide against in vitro methods of becoming pregnant due to their newfound beliefs in relying only on natural methods. I wonder if they would also shun antibiotics if one of them became terribly ill.
His wife Liz calls him out at one point, asking pointedly why they could not become homesteaders instead of farmers, taking on only what they needed -- and presumably could better care for -- themselves. He dismissively answers by suggesting that they are doing it for the animals, and their customers. When he later tries to reconcile the significant loss of animal life with his given answer (they have lost hundreds of animals by this point), he ends up again with the notion of "natural farming", believing that he can somehow single-handedly undo decades, even hundreds of years of selective breeding. He seems to believe that domestic animals can become wild if given the right location, and short-term "natural selection" is allowed to occur.
Overall, I found the self-important tone of this book to be off-putting, and the agricultural philosophies & methods disturbing. I am not a farmer, and I do not have an ax to grind regarding one particular method or another. But I do own some small livestock, and cannot imagine anyone who professes to love animals to make the choices the author does. And the comparison of the loss of dozens of piglets to an 80% crop failure of peaches or walnuts was uncomfortable at best. I wish I had not read this one. If you want an honest, charming & funny behind-the-scenes look at a rural couple's transition to organic farming, I can HIGHLY recommend "The Dirty Life" by Kristin Kimball. I'll read it a third time before finishing this book.