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Arlo Crawford on how A Farm Dies Once a Year

The Booksmith (1644 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA) Map it Free
Small_decc7681d2a9f812a716e22943090922 Melissa Mytinger

The rhythms of a farm are familiar to Arlo Crawford: rise, eat, bend, pick, sort, sweat, sleep. Raised on New Morning Farm, seventy-five acres in south-central Pennsylvania where his parents have grown organic produce since the 1970s, Crawford chronicles his homecoming and one full season on the farm, from the smallest triumphs and inevitable setbacks to celebrated harvests and sold-out markets, in A FARM DIES ONCE A YEAR: A Memoir.

Crawford’s intimate, gorgeously observed memoir is the story of a man reconnecting with his past and a behind-the-scenes look at the realities of organic farming. The strategy, back-breaking work, and emotional investment required to nurture a crop from seed to harvest is staggering, enough to banish any idyllic preconceived notions about farm life. New Morning Farm grows nearly 100 varieties of fruits and vegetables, from corn and okra to strawberries and spinach. Tomatoes, the largest crop, can bring in up to $100,000. Nearly every weekend, Jim Crawford and a team of full-time farm apprentices drive 120 miles to sell produce at Washington, DC farmers markets. They also make regular deliveries to specialty grocery stores, food co-ops, and restaurants, even to the French Embassy in DC.

In 2009, the farm lost their entire tomato crop to blight and the apprentices had to burn down each tomato plant with a propane torch. Because farms of New Morning’s size can’t afford crop insurance and they receive no government subsidies, they lost what could have been $100,000 in sales. Fortunately, they were carried through by a robust raspberry harvest.

Crawford delves into not only the crops and the losses, but also the 1990 murder of Bert DeLeeuw, a family friend and well-known activist, who was shot point-blank in his field by his neighbor George Robb. What began as an argument between neighboring farmers about unruly dogs became an intensely personal attack. DeLeeuw came to Pennsylvania to farm after years of organizing political campaigns and fighting for justice. Robb accused DeLeeuw of having no respect for the locals. Crawford writes, “Robb had nothing to believe in, and he was jealous of the man who did.”

Beautifully written and refreshingly honest, A FARM DIES ONCE A YEAR is a meditation on family, farming, and of taking a risk to find purpose and satisfaction, even on an unconventional path.

Arlo Crawford grew up on New Morning Farm, his family's organic vegetable farm in rural Pennsylvania. He has written for The New York Times Magazine and Gastronomica and has worked as an assistant in book publishing, at an art museum, and as a vegetable seller. He lives in San Francisco.

In the 1970s, well before the explosion of the farm-to-table and slow food movements, Jim Crawford left law school and decided to give farming a try. With little capital and next to no experience, Jim and his wife established New Morning Farm, which has grown into a well-respected and profitable business. Popular with many top DC chefs and restaurateurs, New Morning Farm now sells its produce at farmers markets in Washington, DC. In 2008, Jim’s dedication was recognized with the honor of overseeing the creation of the White House kitchen garden. www.newmorningfarm.net

Arlo Crawford on how A Farm Dies Once a Year

The Booksmith (1644 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA) Map it Free
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