The summer he was thirty-one, Arlo Crawford returned home for the summer harvest at New Morning Farm—seventy-five acres tucked in a hollow in south-central Pennsylvania where his parents had been growing organic vegetables for almost forty years.
Like many summers before, Arlo returned to the family farm's familiar rhythms—rise, eat, bend, pick, sort, sweat, sleep. But this time he was also there to change his direction, like his father years ago. In the 1970s, well before the explosion of the farm-to-table and slow food movement, Arlo's father, Jim, left behind law school and Vietnam, and decided to give farming a try. Arlo's return also prompts a reexamination of a past tragedy: the murder of a neighboring farmer twenty years before. A chronicle of one full season on a farm, with all its small triumphs and inevitable setbacks, A Farm Dies Once a Year is a meditation on work—the true nature of it, and on taking pride in it—and a son's reckoning with a father's legacy. Above all, it is a striking portrait of how one man builds, sows, and harvests his way into a new understanding of the risks necessary to a life well-lived. (Synopsis provided by Amazon)
When I was contacted about receiving a review copy of this book I wasn't familiar with it but after reading the description, I was immediately interested. Being raised on our family's little farm with our large garden, chickens and various barnyard animals with corn and wheat fields all around us instilled in me deep appreciation for the life of a farmer. So, its easy to understand why I would want to read Arlo Crawford's book.
I found Arlo's story and his memories of growing up on New Morning Farm interesting and even though in the beginning I felt he didn't appreciate the hard work his parents and the hired workers did, I did change my mind about that. His parents were so dedicated to the work they did, especially his dad, Jim. Though believe Arlo didn't reach his full appreciation and understanding until this trip back to the farm.
This is an uncomplicated book about a simple way of life though a very hard and rewarding way of life. Along with stories of farm life is a memory Arlo shares about his father's friend and fellow farmer, Bert, being murdered on his own farm by a man known around town as being a mean drunk. That story, being told throughout the book, brings it to a different level and sets an emotional tone.
This book would be enjoyed by anyone who likes gardening, working with vegetables and fruits, and those who have a fondness for farmer's markets. Summertime is the best time to read this book since we are in the height of the growing season. A FARM DIES ONCE A YEAR reminds us how important our farmers, their land and the items they produce are so important to our economy and our culture. Its a book that will leave you smiling when you finish it.
Author: Arlo Crawford
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co
Published: April 2014
Length: 272 pp