Jane Brox crosses time in her latest collection of essays Clearing Land: Legacies of the American Farm to present a very personal view of New England history and what it has meant to her family. She tells how the collective fields of the early colonies were turned into small farms that supported families and why many of the descendants have sold out to either corporate agriculture or real estate developers in the past fifty years. Some other families have clung to the land by turning their farms into tourist destinations and their farm stands into stores selling fruits and vegetables from Chile and California.
“It’s nice to talk to someone who knows.” I think this simple statement by one of the farm women that Brox visits captures why she writes and why we should read her books. Though the author has done extensive research into the history of the region and quotes Thoreau, Jefferson, and Frost, the strength of her book is her telling about her family and of her own experiences. She knows why the farm is failing. She does not know yet what she will do.
Brox, Jane. Clearing Land: Legacies of the American Farm. New York: North Point Press, 2004. ISBN 0865476497