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“Farming for us is the foundation of a meaningful and happy life. It’s the ultimate expression of independence and self-sufficiency, but it’s also a deeply political act, one that has the power to build community and inspire others to action.”
This quote from Brent Preston falls toward the end of his new book, The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution. For the most part, the story moves chronologically through his family’s journey from living in Toronto to uprooting and buying 100 acres several hours outside of the city and working to build a profitable organic farm. From the very first pages of the book, readers are made aware that The New Farm is not a sugar-coated tale of a young family successfully building a farm and a business with few woes. Instead, the book is incredibly honest, and at times difficult to read as you gain a better understanding of what building a farm really looks like.
As can be expected, this endeavor to create a profitable organic farm when you know very little about farming was anything but easy. Many mistakes were made, and at times there were many more valleys than there were peaks. But more than just starting a farm, they were growing organic vegetables when organic wasn’t a thing yet, surrounded by pesticide-happy conventional growers. Preston and his family helped shape the farm-to-table movement and worked endlessly to make organic produce and good food more accessible to everyone. Over the 10 years of farming that this book covers, Preston watched as his customer’s evolved from being wealthy weekend vacationers to everyday people who embraced the good food movement.
“If we want to make serious changes in the way our food is produced, if we want to do more than tinker at the edges, we need more farmers. A lot more.”
I’ve always loved the idea of moving outside the city, buying land, and working to not only grow my own food but to also be self-sufficient. This is most definitely what lead me to read this book. While I can’t say I have ever considered becoming a true farmer, someone who’s trying to make a living off of what they’re growing, the evident impact that The New Farm has had on their community is enormous and inspiring. Something that stood out to me as I read this book was how Brent and his wife Gillian, no matter how busy they were with the farm and their kids, were constantly pushing the boundaries of what was possible with their business.
At the end of each and every season, the Preston’s would sit down on a dreary day and access the farm’s progress over the last several months. Because they were running a business, the goal year-after-year was for growth, new business, and a larger profit, but sometimes bigger and more is not always better. Although much of this post is a bit of a spoiler, I’ll try to hold back from giving you all the details, but I will say that like in many things in life, taking a step back often makes clear what one’s priorities are and what makes them happiest. Making food accessible, combatting the environmental implications of conventional farming, and working to change the food system was always the underlying goal of The New Farm.
When it comes to books, I don’t necessarily have a favorite genre, but if I had to choose the literature that I tend to enjoy the most, I would definitely say nonfiction books that are told in the first person. In other words, I enjoy reading a book in which I feel as though I am standing in the writer’s shoes and experiencing things as they write about them. Preston does an excellent job of this; as a reader, I felt the gun recoil when he shot the groundhog, I felt the frustration of having to hold the hands of 20-something-year-old emotional interns, and I felt the pride when The New Farm finally became a profitable business.
The New Farm gives readers a look into the world of organic farming from the very beginning of the movement. I walked away from this book with a better understanding of not only the amount of incredibly hard work that goes into starting and running a small farm but also the impact one family can have on the food system.
To buy The New Farm go here