Every. Single. Farmer.
Every one of us needs to read these beautiful letters, intended to inspire young food producers but equally important to all of us who work the land. This eloquent compilation of essays from seasoned farmers and other agriculture enthusiasts reads like a love letter to the land and to the life we all have chosen, and it serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of our mission for our families, our communities, and our planet.
Farming is a profession that, while incomparably fulfilling, can often feel isolating. This collection reminds us that we are all but alone. The letters echo what most of us already know: that life as a farmer is impossible to master—as the challenges evolve seasonally, or daily—but farmers are determined to persevere. Against all odds, we must always try. The authors remind us that we will fail miserably and often, but such has been the fate of farmers since the genesis of civilized society, and we are in good company.
Each writer speaks with wisdom, gratitude, and occasionally, the weariness of a life hard-fought. Interspersed among the letters are brief, important histories of some of the painful truths of farming and agricultural economics—both in America and across the world. Each essay offers a different perspective, but all are unified with a common purpose of helping to prepare the next generation.
As farmers and small business owners, we are in a difficult season of life right now; the word “unprecedented” is ubiquitous. Both our industry at large and our planet itself are in peril, and our collective, calloused hands are some of those taking on the vital work of saving them. The words in these pages are at once an ode to our foremothers and fathers, and a plea to all of us: dig in, do the seemingly impossible and back-breaking work, and wherever possible, learn from those who came before. Resourcefulness and tenacity are always key elements of this life we have chosen.
There is incredible reassurance among these pages—from Barbara Damrosch’s specific, actionable advice to Ben Burkett’s poetic prose and Barbara Kingsolver’s compassionate words—and their intimate voices will lull you to sleep (far more effectively than midnight scrolling, I promise) and strengthen your resolve to awaken in the morning ready begin all over again and to meet the challenges of whatever the new day may bring.
There are countless gems throughout this book (my now-inkless highlighter attests to this); to kindle your spirit, I will leave you with a few words excerpted from these pages:
“Dear young farmer: If there’s one job in the world that offers the chance to save humanity on the planet, it’s yours. No pressure… But maybe you know that already. You want to be part of the solution. You want to be living a purposeful life. You want your joy to be authentic, bubbling up from the satisfaction of a job well done.” Nancy Vail and Jered Lawson
“The most important lesson that farming imparts to the wayward human psyche is the constant need for humility. It does so by reminding us that we are really not ever in control and that we will likely be wrong about the complexities of nature and the economy more often than we will be right… I may be extrapolating a little too much from the scant data I can hold in my head and my heart, but I would argue that the Creator has chosen farmers, foresters, and habitat restorationists to be the glue that keeps the world from falling to pieces.” Gary Paul Nabhan
“Together, we traveled to India, Bangladesh, Poland, Kenya, France, Brazil, and beyond… In remote villages and bustling city halls, on farm fields and in thriving economic cooperatives, what we saw was clear: farmers were the miracle. At the center of the community-based solutions we were documenting were farmers… In community after community, we saw the vital link between healthy people, healthy economies, and healthy farms – an epiphany that really shouldn’t have been much of one.” Anna Lappé
“To be a successful farmer, one must have a true heart and loving spirit. Sometimes things will not go as you have planned. One must prepare for the unexpected at all times. Good times and bad times, good years and bad years. But most of all, farmers are always optimistic; they always believe that the next year will be a better year.” Ben Burkett