In the first issue of Edible Seattle, I stated a goal: I want farmers to be as famous as rock stars. Not only are such devoted experts worthy of our public appreciation, they are almost always remarkable (and highly entertaining) individuals. Once in a while, a book comes along whose author feels the same way (think of Joel Salatin in The Omnivore’s Dilemma). Deeply Rooted, by Lisa M. Hamilton, is such a book.
Three farmers: Harry Leon (Texas), Virgil (New Mexico), and David (North Dakota) have put tremendous effort into farming in ways sometimes called old-fashioned, but, at least around Puget Sound, are more commonly called sustainable. Each farmer has a unique story, and each is informative, sad, practical, thought-provoking and funny in turns. While each stands for something (farmers do like to hold firm opinions), what’s more important is how clearly they’re able to speak for themselves.
There are sad contrasts with the reality of massive-scale corporate feedlots; Hamilton has a genius for making the land come alive whether she’s in the midst of a beautiful North Dakota winter or driving around nightmarish miles of overcrowded dairy cows. She’s a writer who can capture, quite starkly, the way farmers have of looking at life from the perspective of the soil. Not food miles, not government regulations, but the ground itself. If that’s healthy, all else seems possible.