Tag Archives: book review

What’s the Farmer Reading? Wise Acres


Wise Acres, by Michael Kluckner

You would think that given a few minutes for purely recreational reading I might pick up a satisfying work of historical fiction or a glorious coffee table book full of photos of horses in exotic locales, or something… But no, I reached straight for Wise Acres, by Michael Kluckner, a memoir about a middle aged couple who sell their place in the city and buy a tiny farm not that far from Vancouver.

Like any good memoirist, Kluckner (who is also an artist) can write about the most mundane of subjects and make them interesting and, even better, often funny. The creatures on his farm (sheep, geese, hens, ducks, cats, etc.) are wonderful characters, each with a personality, a history, and a particular relationship with the author. These are not numbers and quotas and pounds of meat on the hoof but sources of companionship and entertainment as much as sustenance.

Of course, this means Kluckner is constantly struggling to find a way to balance his sentimental side with the practical and it is perhaps this aspect of the book and Kluckner’s story that I found most compelling. Certainly, I struggle with having too soft a heart for someone who raises animals for meat and at various points as I read I found myself nodding and sighing, thinking how much easier my life would be if I lived in the city and was a vegetarian.

Kluckner spends the most time talking about his sheep operation, which was simultaneously instructive, reassuring, and a tad horrifying to someone like me who is quite new to shepherding.

Woodblock prints by Kluckner illustrate each chapter (for those interested in Kluckner’s art, visit his website for more images). A thoroughly enjoyable read, Wise Acres will appeal to city folk thinking of moving out to the country and country folk wondering whether it might be time to cash in the sheep and return (or move on) to a more urban existence.

Day 26 – What’s the Farmer Reading? Turn Here Sweet Corn

Book Review:

Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works by Atina Diffley

I love reading farm memoirs, so I fully expected to enjoy this one based on the description and reviews on Audible (I listen to audio books when I’m doing stuff like mucking the horse paddocks, making crispy pork dog treats, or washing eggs…). What I didn’t expect was how completely absorbed I’d become in this story, which is about a whole lot more than a couple of organic farmers. Atina is one of those people I’d love to meet – feisty, determined, hard-working, and absolutely passionate about organic farming and local, sustainable food.

Turn Here Sweet Corn is an excellent introduction to the big picture ideas underlying organic agriculture (soil building, working with the land, developing whole, healthy ecological systems to produce top quality organic vegetables). It is also a love story, a family story, and a tale of loss and heartbreak. What came out of left field was the page-turning legal thriller that had me practically cheering out loud for the farm team as I shovelled manure!

Apparently, there is also an older documentary film by the same title – though it isn’t available through Netflix in Canada… nor does my library have a copy… I will keep searching, but if you happen to find somewhere it’s available to view online, please leave a note in the comments.

Meanwhile, here’s an interview with Atina relating to organic farming principles. Also of note is her comment relating to seed security and how worrisome it is that companies like Monsanto have been buying up seed varieties, in some cases pulling those cultivars off the market and making it impossible for farmers to grow them any more. She also discusses where farm subsidies should go, how building organic matter in soil relates to aquifers, and what we all can do to make sure we don’t lose our local, organic farmers.

And here’s a short video trailer relating specifically to her book:

Can’t get enough of Atina Diffley and her message? (Which, apparently, I can’t – I seem to be turning into a bit of a groupie…) Here is Atina’s Blog 

Happy reading/listening/viewing!

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days agriculture blog-a-thon or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmer to find out!