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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
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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)
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"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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"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.".
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.
who work them. Every visit helps me learn about how food is produced, or in this
case, lovingly grown by people with a spiritual attachment to their land.
The photos are lovely, and I can't resist books with recipes.
This is a book worth having and sharing with teens hooked on fast food
burgers and pizza.