Book offers insight into life on the farm

I only have three pictures from my time working at Essex Farm in New York. I absolutely loved working on that farm, but I never took any pictures because I wanted to enjoy myself and because I was sure that I would never forget the experience. Now I have an ace in the hole: there is a new book about the farm during the time that I worked there.

It has been almost 10 years since I worked at Essex Farm, and I was excited to hear from a farmer friend that Kristin Kimball, one of the owner/operators of Essex Farm, had written another book called “Good Husbandry.”

Before I worked there, she had written a good book about starting their farm “The Dirty Life,” but I didn’t realize how deeply I would connect with this second book.

I was there for some of the time that she writes about, which means that I remember some of the events that take place in the story. More importantly, she writes about some of my friends who worked on the farm. I’ve never had the pleasure of reading a hardcover book about farmers that I know.

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What really impacted me, though, was realizing that she was offering me her inside perspective of their farm. The story she tells is about year 7 on their farm, and here at Nightfall we are just going into year 7. I will be the first to tell you that our farm is very different then Essex Farm, but I couldn’t help but draw some connections.

Obviously you can’t write a book about farming without talking about the weather. The amount of rain that she writes about sure resonated with me after this last season. She also mentions sweeping off the frozen pond to go skating, and that’s something Liz and I have done a few winters here — though not this one.

Kristin spends some pages talking about the financial realities of running a farm business. She explains the choices they made to invest in the farm rather than in their house (areas in disrepair, a second floor only accessible via an unheated staircase, etc.), and then also the turning point that caused modest renovations to become prioritized. We just happen to be working on our house right now, and so that decision making process rang true for me.

Most importantly, Kristin writes openly and often about all of the human relationships that work together to sustain a farm. As someone who farms with his spouse, I appreciated all of her stories about how she and Mark, her husband, work together to navigate the stress of farm life. I loved the instances of community support that she shared, because I know how helpful a community can be to a farm. And, as I mentioned earlier, it was fun to picture my friends as she shared stories about work and conversation on the farm.

Even without a personal connection to this book, I recommend it to anyone interested in farming, in food or in community. The picture that Kristin paints so well is a complete picture of a farm: the land, the food, the people, the struggles and the joy. “Good Husbandry” offers excellent insight into a full life on a full farm.

Nate and Liz Brownlee operate Nightfall Farm in Crothersville. Send comments to [email protected]