I recently read Gaining Ground, an excellent memoir about a small family farm and their foray into the world of sustainable agriculture. It’s a compelling story of farmers’ markets, local food, the struggles of small farms, and the benefits and joy of natural farming.
It is also of particular interest for those of us who live in Virginia, as the author, Forrest Pritchard, and his farm, Smith Meadows, are local to our neck of the woods. They’re in Shenandoah Valley, and they make the trek over the Blue Ridge mountains to sell their food at farmers’ markets in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, and DC.
In addition to being a farmer, Pritchard is a gifted writer, and has a great sense of humor and self-deprecating humility. He willingly shares his mistakes as well as his triumphs, which makes his story all the more readable and relatable. Other folks agree:
“Disenchanted with a looming desk job and eager to save his family’s multigenerational Shenandoah Valley farm, Pritchard celebrated his mid-1990s college graduation by rolling up his sleeves and brainstorming to find ways of keeping his parents’ 400-plus acres of land from being portioned off to agribusinesses. This engaging first-person account is filled with gentle humor and colorful anecdotes about the false starts and pitfalls Pritchard faced before finally settling on raising grass-fed cattle and sheep. Anyone who has been bit by the farming bug will find lessons aplenty here, while urban readers will enjoy a vicarious slice of farm life.” — Carl Hays, Booklist
“I’ve dedicated my business life to supporting organic farmers—but honestly, I didn’t have the full story until now. This isn’t a hippie manifesto about going back to the land to raise some chickens. Gaining Ground is the beautiful and nourishing story of an accomplished self-taught farmer making it work. It’s about passion and dedication. It’s about ecology, economy, family. And the truth of organic farming is so much more challenging and fantastic than I could have imagined. You can visit the farm and see for yourself, but start by reading this book. I have great and deep respect for Pritchard’s stewardship, and a new love of the American farm.” — Nell Newman, Newman’s Own Organics
Sprout gives this read two green thumbs up!