The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love

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From a “graceful, luminous writer with an eye for detail” (Minneapolis Star Tribune), this riveting memoir explores a year on a sustainable farm.

When Kristin Kimball left New York City to interview a dynamic young farmer named Mark, her world changed. On an impulse, she shed her city self and started a new farm with him on five hundred acres near Lake Champlain. The Dirty Life is the captivating chronicle of the couple’s first year on Essex Farm, from the cold North Country winter through their harvest-season wedding in the loft of the barn.

Kristin and Mark’s plan to grow everything needed to feed a community was an ambitious idea, and a bit romantic. It worked. Every Friday evening, all year round, over a hundred people travel to Essex Farm to pick up their weekly share of the “whole diet”—beef, pork, chicken, milk, eggs, maple syrup, grains, flours, dried beans, herbs, fruits, and forty different vegetables—produced by the farm. In The Dirty Life, Kristin discovers the wrenching pleasures of physical work, learns that good food is at the center of a good life, falls deeply in love, and finally finds the engagement and commitment she craved in the form of a man, a small town, and a beautiful piece of land.
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About the author

Kristin Kimball is a farmer and a writer living in northern New York. Prior to farming, Kimball worked as a freelance writer, writing teacher, and as an assistant to a literary agent in New York City. A graduate of Harvard University and the author of The Dirty Life and Good Husbandry, she and her husband Mark have run Essex Farm since 2003, where they live with their two daughters.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Oct 12, 2010
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9781439187142
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / General
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
Social Science / Agriculture & Food
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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ADVANCE PRAISE
“A must-read story told with honesty, humor, and humility by a passionate farmer who reminds us what our food system can and should be about.”—Daniel Boulud
 
“Preston uses brilliant storytelling and brutal honesty to describe what it takes to create both a viable organic farm and a more meaningful life for himself and his family. The New Farm is the kind of book that will inspire people to make positive change.”—Arianna Huffington
 
“Both a book about the food system and a tell-all of his journey. . . . The ups, and mostly downs, he describes might have been a trial but they do make for a good read.”—The Globe and Mail
 
After years of working at the ends of the earth in human rights and development, Brent Preston and his wife were die-hard city dwellers. But when their second child arrived, the shine came off urban living. In 2003 they bought a hundred acres and a rundown farmhouse and set out to build a real farm, one that would sustain their family, nourish their community, heal their environment, and turn a profit. The New Farm is Preston’s memoir of a decade of grinding toil and perseverance. Farming is a complex and precarious business, and they made plenty of mistakes along the way. But as they learned how to grow food, and to succeed at the business of farming, they also found that a small, sustainable, organic farm could be an engine for change, a path to a more just and sustainable food system. Today, The New Farm supplies top restaurants, supports community food banks, hosts events with leading chefs, and grows extraordinary produce. Told with humor and heart, The New Farm is a joy, a passionate book by an important new voice.
With a foreword by Warren Buffett, 40 Chances is an “inspiring manifesto…both an informative guidebook and a catalyst for igniting real changes” (Booklist) in the struggle against world hunger.

If someone granted you $3 billion to accomplish something great in the world, what would you do? In 2006, legendary investor Warren Buffett posed this challenge to his son Howard G. Buffett. Howard set out to help the most vulnerable people on earth—nearly a billion individuals who lack basic food security. And Howard gave himself a deadline: forty years to put the resources to work on this challenge.

40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World captures Howard’s journey. Beginning with his love for farming, we join him around the world as he seeks out new approaches to ease the suffering of so many. Each of the forty stories here provides a compelling look at the lessons Howard learned, ranging from his own backyard to some of the most difficult and dangerous places on Earth. But this message goes beyond the pages of this book, it’s also a mindset: a way of thinking that speaks to every person wanting to make a difference. It’s about reasons to hope and actions we can take. 40 Chances “recounts Howard’s personal and professional experiences in surprisingly candid and colorful fashion…successfully blending personal stories with a tough look at the struggle to fight domestic food scarcity and world hunger…A satisfying read” (Publishers Weekly) that provides inspiration to transform each of our limited chances into opportunities to change the world.
Should you buy organic food? Is it just a status symbol, or is it really better for us? Is it really better for the environment? What about organic produce grown thousands of miles from our kitchens, or on massive corporately owned farms? Is “local” or “small-scale” better, even if it’s not organic? A lot of consumers who would like to do the right thing for their health and the environment are asking such questions.

Sapna Thottathil calls on us to rethink the politics of organic food by focusing on what it means for the people who grow and sell it—what it means for their health, the health of their environment, and also their economic and political well-being. Taking readers to the state of Kerala in southern India, she shows us a place where the so-called “Green Revolution” program of hybrid seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and rising pesticide use had failed to reduce hunger while it caused a cascade of economic, medical, and environmental problems. Farmers burdened with huge debts from buying the new seeds and chemicals were committing suicide in troubling numbers. Farm laborers suffered from pesticide poisoning and rising rates of birth defects. A sharp fall in biodiversity worried environmental activists, and everyone was anxious about declining yields of key export crops like black pepper and coffee.

In their debates about how to solve these problems, farmers, environmentalists, and policymakers drew on Kerala’s history of and continuing commitment to grassroots democracy. In 2010, they took the unprecedented step of enacting a policy that requires all Kerala growers to farm organically by 2020. How this policy came to be and its immediate economic, political, and physical effects on the state’s residents offer lessons for everyone interested in agriculture, the environment, and what to eat for dinner. Kerala’s example shows that when done right, this kind of agriculture can be good for everyone in our global food system.
Every year from April to October, the Sánchez family traveled—crowded in the back of trucks, camping in converted barns, tending and harvesting crops across the breadth of the United States. Although hoeing sugar beets with a short hoe was their specialty, they also picked oranges in California, apples in Washington, cucumbers in Michigan, onions and potatoes in Wisconsin, and tomatoes in Iowa. Winters they returned home to the Winter Garden region of South Texas. In 1951, Saúl Sánchez began to contribute to his family’s survival by helping to weed onions in Wind Lake, Wisconsin. He was eight years old.

Rows of Memory tells his story and the story of his family and other migrant farm laborers like them, people who endured dangerous, dirty conditions and low pay, surviving because they took care of each other. Facing racism both on the road and at home, they lived a largely segregated life only occasionally breached by friendly employers.

Despite starting school late and leaving early every year and having to learn English on the fly, young Saúl succeeded academically. At the same time that Mexican Americans in South Texas upended the Anglo-dominated social order by voting their own leaders into local government, he upended his family’s order by deciding to go to college. Like many migrant children, he knew that his decision to pursue an education meant he would no longer be able to help feed and clothe the rest of his family. Nevertheless, with his parents’ support, he went to college, graduating in 1967 and, after a final display of his skill with a short hoe for his new friends, abandoned migrant labor for teaching.

In looking back at his youth, Sánchez invites us to appreciate the largely unrecognized and poorly rewarded strength and skill of the laborers who harvest the fruits and vegetables we eat. A first-person portrait of life on the bottom rung of the food system, this coming-of-age tale illuminates both the history of Latinos in the United States and the human consequences of industrial agriculture.
From the celebrated author of the beloved bestseller The Dirty Life, a “beguiling memoir about the simple life” (Elle), Kristin Kimball describes the delicious highs and sometimes excruciating lows of life on Essex Farm—a 500-acre farm that produces a full diet for a community of 250 people.

The Dirty Life chronicled Kimball’s move from New York City to 500 acres near Lake Champlain where she started a new farm with her partner, Mark. In Good Husbandry, she reveals what happened over the next five years at Essex Farm.

Farming has many ups and downs, and the middle years were hard for the Kimballs. Mark got injured, the weather turned against them, and the farm faced financial pressures. Meanwhile, they had two small children to care for. How does one traverse the terrain of a maturing marriage and the transition from being a couple to being a family? How will the farm survive? What does a family need in order to be happy?

Kristin had chosen Mark and farm life after having a good look around the world, with a fair understanding of what her choices meant. She knew she had traded the possibility of a steady paycheck, of wide open weekends and spontaneous vacations, for a life and work that was challenging but beautiful and fulfilling. So with grit and grace and a good sense of humor, she chose to dig in deeper.

Featuring some of the same local characters and cherished animals first introduced in The Dirty Life, (Jet the farm dog, Delia the dairy cow, and those hardworking draft horses), plus a colorful cast of aspiring first-generation farmers who work at Essex Farm to acquire the skills they need to start sustainable farms of their own, Good Husbandry is about animals and plants, farmers and food, friends and neighbors, love and marriage, births and deaths, growth and abundance.
Urban and rural collide in this wry, inspiring memoir of a woman who turned a vacant lot in downtown Oakland into a thriving farm

Novella Carpenter loves cities-the culture, the crowds, the energy. At the same time, she can't shake the fact that she is the daughter of two back-to-the-land hippies who taught her to love nature and eat vegetables. Ambivalent about repeating her parents' disastrous mistakes, yet drawn to the idea of backyard self-sufficiency, Carpenter decided that it might be possible to have it both ways: a homegrown vegetable plot as well as museums, bars, concerts, and a twenty-four-hour convenience mart mere minutes away. Especially when she moved to a ramshackle house in inner city Oakland and discovered a weed-choked, garbage-strewn abandoned lot next door. She closed her eyes and pictured heirloom tomatoes, a beehive, and a chicken coop.

What started out as a few egg-laying chickens led to turkeys, geese, and ducks. Soon, some rabbits joined the fun, then two three-hundred-pound pigs. And no, these charming and eccentric animals weren't pets; she was a farmer, not a zookeeper. Novella was raising these animals for dinner. Novella Carpenter's corner of downtown Oakland is populated by unforgettable characters. Lana (anal spelled backward, she reminds us) runs a speakeasy across the street and refuses to hurt even a fly, let alone condone raising turkeys for Thanksgiving. Bobby, the homeless man who collects cars and car parts just outside the farm, is an invaluable neighborhood concierge. The turkeys, Harold and Maude, tend to escape on a daily basis to cavort with the prostitutes hanging around just off the highway nearby. Every day on this strange and beautiful farm, urban meets rural in the most surprising ways.

For anyone who has ever grown herbs on their windowsill, tomatoes on their fire escape, or obsessed over the offerings at the local farmers' market, Carpenter's story will capture your heart. And if you've ever considered leaving it all behind to become a farmer outside the city limits, or looked at the abandoned lot next door with a gleam in your eye, consider this both a cautionary tale and a full-throated call to action. Farm City is an unforgettably charming memoir, full of hilarious moments, fascinating farmers' tips, and a great deal of heart. It is also a moving meditation on urban life versus the natural world and what we have given up to live the way we do.
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