Letters to a Young Farmer is for everyone who appreciates good food grown with respect for the earth, people, animals, and community. Three dozen esteemed writers, farmers, chefs, activists, and visionaries address the highs and lows of farming life—as well as larger questions of how our food is produced and consumed—in vivid and personal detail. Barbara Kingsolver speaks to the tribe of farmers—some born to it, many self-selected—with love, admiration, and regret. Dan Barber traces the rediscovery of lost grains and foodways. Michael Pollan bridges the chasm between agriculture and nature. Bill McKibben connects the early human quest for beer to the modern challenge of farming in a rapidly changing climate. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree probes the politics of being a young farmer today. Farmer Mas Masumoto passes on family secrets to his daughter—and not-soon-forgotten stories to us all. Other contributors include Temple Grandin, Verlyn Klinkenborg, Wendell Berry, Rick Bayless, and Marion Nestle.
Letters to a Young Farmer is both a compelling history and a vital road map—a reckoning of how we eat and farm; how the two can come together to build a more sustainable future; and why now, more than ever before, we need farmers.
About the Author
Martha Hodgkins is communications director at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. A former editor of Nature Conservancy magazine, she is the editor of In Response to Place: Photographs from The Nature Conservancy's Last Great Places and The Field Guide to The Nature Conservancy.
Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is on a mission to create a healthy and sustainable food system that benefits us all. A nonprofit organization, Stone Barns Center works to develop a culture of eating based on what farms need to grow to build healthy soil and a resilient ecosystem. In its quest to transform the way America eats and farms, the organization trains farmers, educates food citizens, develops agroecological farming practices, and convenes change makers. Stone Barns Center, 25 miles north of New York City, is home to the celebrated Blue Hill at Stone Barns, under the direction of chef and co-owner Dan Barber, a multiple James Beard award–winner.
"In Letters to a Young Farmer, three dozen farmers, chefs, writers, professors, immigrants, gardeners, scientists, activists, Native Americans, and even a Congresswoman, share their stories and lessons. No dry litany, these are passionate voices deeply connected to the earth. With an eye to the future, the letter writers' hands are full of soil, necks brown from working in the elements or foreheads lined from incessant negotiations about farm issues. There's no other compilation with such a breadth of knowledge, deep traditions, and forward thinkers involved in raising the food we eat..Alice Waters, Chez Panisse founder, cookbook author, and food activist...writes that, 'Taste will truly wake people up and bring them back to their senses and back to the land.' Letters to a Young Farmer is full of that awakening and we need it more than ever." - Edible San Diego
"Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is committed to "farming for the future," a concept that is explored in Letters to a Young Farmer, a collection of 36 essays written by pillars of the food and farming community including Wendell Berry, Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Pollan. The inspiring anthology focuses on land stewardship, climate change and advice to fledgling farmers everywhere." - Edible Aspen
“What a wonderful gift this book is to all aspiring farmers—full of sage wisdom, passionate encouragement, and practical advice from some of the greatest food and farming heroes of our time. Their words will inspire and remind you why farming is indeed the most important work to be done.” —Naomi Starkman, founder and editor-in-chief, Civil Eats
"Longtime advocates of sustainable agriculture join with new voices for a comradely take on the challenging future of farming.. warnings are balanced by plausible strategies for reforming our food system, practical advice, and optimism regarding farming's future in this noble, difficult field." - Kirkus Reviews
"This collection of letters from three dozen of the most respected figures in agriculture today-farmers, chefs, writers, philosophers, and activists including Joel Salatin, Temple Grandin, Wendell Berry, Karen Washington, and many others-draws on their collective wisdom to answer a single question: "What would you say to young people just starting out to farm?" The answers are equal parts educational and informative and offer wise reflections on how to grow healthy food in ways that treat land, animals, and people with respect." - Civil Eats
"This book is a good read and has a feel-good message. It provides a nice overview of the many of the themes of the local, small, diversified farming movement.The essays are generally short, easy to read, and thought provoking. I recommend the book to its intended audience and to anyone who wants an overview of the many writers in the food movement have to say." - Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development
"Farmers growing food for their communities, grown with sustainable practices and sold at farm stands and nearby farmers markets - this is a trend we all must support for the health of the land and ourselves. This book is a wonderful tribute to those who have volunteered to take hold of the future and nurture it." - Edible Communities
"The book is a call to arms not only for young and would-be farmers, but also for anyone who cares about the food system in general. Although the public's awareness of the issues confronting farmers certainly won't be raised overnight, Letters to a Young Farmer is an important step forward. As [Barbara] Kingsolver writes in one of the first letters, 'We need farmers every single day of our lives, beginning to end, no exceptions. We forgot about that for awhile, and the price was immense. Slowly, we're coming back to our senses. Be patient with us. We need you." -marthastewart.com
"[Letters to a Young Farmer].draws on the collective wisdom of three dozen of the most respected figures in agriculture today-farmers, chefs, writers, philosophers, and activists-to answer a single question: "What would would you say to young people just starting out to farm?' The answers range from personal stories to practical advice, including wise reflections on how to grow healthy footman ways that treat land, animals, and people with respect." -CivilEats
“This will make you want to become a farmer.” —Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything
"The message in [Letters to a Young Farmer] is that farming is hard, important, and needs to be taken seriously and thoughtfully (though with appropriate humor). Farmers, young and old, are speaking up for themselves, and everyone who eats can learn something from them..The essays form a cohesive vision of contemporary farming, including real solutions for problems such as climate change and jobs in rural areas." - Library Journal
"[Letters to a Young Farmer] is.shot through with cautionary tales about the folly of large-scale corporate farming, misguided government programs, the graying of the American farmer, and the precipitous decline in their numbers. But the warnings are balanced by plausible strategies for reforming our food system, practical advice, and optimism regarding farming's future in this noble, difficult field." - Kirkus Reviews
"Those writing at the intersection of nature and literature lend their thoughts to Letters to a Young Farmer, an impassioned essay collection for anyone interested in a closer relationship with the environment. Kentucky farmer and poet Wendell Berry and his daughter, the activist Mary Berry, write letters, as does the Kentucky-raised novelist Barbara Kingsolver, who champions dirty coveralls, Southern accents, and women in the field." - Garden and Gun
"The 38 letters and essays in this inspiring book are a must-read for new and aspiring farmers. It is also important that consumers and those who make use of high-quality food in their restaurants and other food-related businesses read these letters. Non-farming readers will better understand the challenges faced by new farmers and appreciate that most farmers who produce high-quality food with sustainable farming practices are underpaid and sometimes undervalued for their wonderful produce and their sustainable stewardship of farmland." - Canadian Organic Farmer
"Leaders of the food world, such as farmer Joel Salatin, animal-science professor Temple Grandin, and chef Dan Barber, share wisdom for farmers - and eaters. A reminder to support those who are brave enough to nourish us." - Eating Well Magazine
“The chance to make a difference in quality of life for all depends on the soil and those who care for and nurture the earth. New young farmers are on the front lines in the struggle for survival, the future of our children and theirs.” —Neil Young, Farm Aid
“An extraordinary harvest of wisdom from a ragtag crew of farmers, cooks, and agitators—and a must read, not just for young farmers, but for anyone with an interest in a robust food supply in our era of climate chaos.” —Tom Philpott, food and agriculture correspondent, Mother Jones
“Young people face a steep and uncertain climb on their journey to farm. Letters to a Young Farmer is fuel for the moments when they might turn back. With love, respect, and a hearty embrace, the book’s authors show a new generation of farmers that their work is at the very foundation of life on Earth.” —Lindsey Lusher Shute, executive director and cofounder, National Young Farmers Coalition