I had time this weekend to curl up in a hammock this weekend re-read one of my favorite books. While my kids were splashing around in a small pool I dived into the world of Joan Dye Gussow once again by reading the book This Organic Life Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader.
The book opens with a quote by Wendell Berry, who wrote The Gift of Good Land. Might it not be that eating and farming are inseparable concepts that belong together on the farm, not two distinct economic activities as we have now made them in the United States?
This quote tells you right away that you will be learning a lot about how eating and farming should go together and why eating locally is important. This thought is driven home by Gussow’s opening line, “I arrived at adulthood without a hint that vegetable production might become central to my life.” The book stays true to this theme and I can understand why Barbara Kingsolver, the author of Prodigal Summer and The Poisonwood Bible has said that This Organic Life is “The most important book I have read in a long while.” Gussow makes a wonderfully compelling argument for why we should grow our own food or at the very least eat the food grown by others within our local communities for reasons both moral and economic. The book is very educational. But yet it also reads like a novel or a memoir and you end up marking certain pages for later reference or jotting down quick notes with little tidbits of knowledge or recipes.
Basically the book follows the life of Mrs. Gussow as she buys two suburban properties throughout the span of her life and gardening takes a central role in her lifestyle. She gardens organically from the beginning because as she so simply states, she intended to eat the food she grew so of course she wasn’t going to use chemicals. The book outlines her gardening successes and failures, her struggle with pests and other vermin, and her dedication to making meals that utilized the foods she was growing. The cover of the book shows her squatting in her garden, smiling and tanned, with a large selection of veggies from her garden including beets, carrots, tomatoes, and kale.
This book is a wonderful read. Not only is it interesting and enjoyable to read as a story, it is also a very insightful book as well that teaches a lot about sustainability and ecologically responsible living. I can see why Kingsolver said that it was a very important book.