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On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm Hardcover – May 1, 1998
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A dramatic pair of pictures opens this book: aerial shots of Fairview Gardens Farm, near Goleta, California, first in 1954, then in 1998. Once part of thousands of acres of farmland, Fairview Gardens is now entirely surrounded by tract homes, strip malls, and all the conveniences of modern suburban life. This 12.5-acre oasis exists only because Michael Ableman has steadfastly refused to let it be gobbled up by the relentless bulldozers. His story is funny, fierce, inspiring, and infuriating. His success, tempered by ample setbacks, will be of practical use to anybody seeking to preserve farmland from suburban sprawl. This powerful love story about a man and a place is especially moving because the land is not his: for most of the past 17 years, Ableman has been a tenant farmer at Fairview Gardens. Few people would put so much sweat and soul into borrowed land, yet to Ableman, ownership is irrelevant--it is the rich, beautiful land itself, and the sweet, slow food it produces for him, that matters. --Ann Lovejoy
From Publishers Weekly
A jolting four-page aerial photo spread shows the urban creep of Goleta, Calif., that encircled the 12-acre Fairview Gardens from 1954 to 1998. Ableman has managed the 103-year-old organic farm since 1981, a tenure that has been marked by the garden's growing anomalousness. His urban neighbors brought court action against the farm for its crowing roosters ("one of the last natural sounds left in this valley"), while rapacious developers maneuvered to turn rich topsoil into the 58 houses allowed by zoning laws. In the end, Ableman and his co-workers gained support not only with chutzpah and headlines (including Ableman's 1993 book, From the Good Earth), but also with vibrantly fresh food. Using strawberries as an example, Ableman points out that organic farming may be labor-intensive and expensive, "but it does not involve methyl bromide or a single one of the 65 pesticides registered for use on strawberries." Today, the farm employs 21 and feeds nearly 500 families with the aim of reconnecting people to the intimate act of growing their own food. The last step to saving the farm from becoming part of the 46 acres lost per hour to nonagricultural uses in the U.S. was to buy the agricultural island for $750,000 and place it with a local land trust. "Nature seduced me," confesses the devoted Ableman, through "the magic of emerging seeds and enchantment of early morning harvests." His homage to "earth's placenta" offers readers a wonderful harvest of anecdote, practical information and, most of all, deeply rooted detail of farm life and lofty goals. Photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.