Friday, February 25, 2011

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball

Kristin Kimball was a career journalist living in New York when she met Mark (last name never revealed). She had been sent to rural Pennsylvania to interview him about CSA (community supported agriculture) farming, a system by which consumers pay a single fee for a year's share of produce from a farm. In her fashionable clothes, she was not prepared to slaughter a pig, rake weeds, and cook for the farm hands for Mark, but that was how she got her interview and won Mark's heart. He won hers with food, confidently improvising delicious dishes with just-picked vegetables and just-butchered meats. According to her memoir, The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love, she fell in love quickly and soon abandoned her urban lifestyle to become Mark's partner in turning a neglected property in upstate New York into a diversied organic farm selling "whole diet" shares.

There have been back-to-the-land memoirs before, but I do not remember any that double as love stories. (Truck by Michael Perry has love and gardening.) Kimball tells about the couple's first year on the farm, a tense period during which all the fields had to be plowed, planted, and harvested, all the herds established, all the buildings repaired, and the wedding planned. From late winter to mid-autumn, they work around the clock, often assisted by curious neighbors who almost all thought the farm would fail. The wedding ceremony was never really planned, but three hundred guests were invited anyway. Kimball expected disaster, but how Mark saves the day is a great lesson in community. The barn was fixed, the vows exchanged, and everyone ate fresh farm produce.

This may sound like I gave away the story, but the joy of The Dirty Life is in the telling. Kimball lets readers know there's a happy ending at the start. Should it ever be turned into a movie, Mark will be the fun-to-play character - energetic, charismatic, and radically out of step with twenty-first century culture. Don't wait for a film, however. Read the book.

Kimball, Kristin. The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love. Scribner, 2010. ISBN 9781416551607.


Katie said...

This sounds like it would be a great companion to Ree Drummond's aka The Pioneer Woman's "Black Heels to Tractor Wheels" for the love story and moving from a city lifestyle to one on a farm/ranch.

Portugal said...

I greatly enjoyed this book. Kristin Kimball and her husband have my deepest admiration. The life they've chosen can be tough, but their convictions, their love for the land and each other, come through loud and clear. Loved the writing. Hoping she writes another one in a few years to show how much they've progressed and how they've inspired others.

ricklibrarian said...

Great idea about the sequel.