Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating, and Drinking Wine in California

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“Sooner or later, nearly everyone who cares about wine and food comes to Sonoma”—so begins this lively excursion to a spectacular region that has become known internationally as a locavore's paradise. Part memoir, part vivid reportage, Field Days chronicles the renaissance in farming organically and eating locally that is unfolding in Northern California. Jonah Raskin tells of the year he spent on Oak Hill Farm—working the fields, selling produce at farmers' markets, and following it to restaurants. He also goes behind the scenes at Whole Foods.
In this luminous account of his experiences, Raskin introduces a dynamic cast of characters—farmers, chefs, winemakers, farm workers, and environmentalists. They include such luminaries as Warren Weber at Star Route Farm, the oldest certified organic farm in Marin County; Bob Cannard, who has supplied Chez Panisse with vegetables for decades; Sharon Grossi, the owner of the largest organic farm in Sonoma; and Craig Stoll, the founder and executive chef at Delfina in San Francisco. Raskin also offers portraits of renowned historical figures, including Luther Burbank, Jack London, and M.F.K. Fisher. Field Days is a heartfelt celebration of the farm-to-table movement and its cultural reverberations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Lyrical. . . A finely textured account of how the origins of eating and drinking reveal the nuances of modern community."--Kirkus Reviews

"Each of Raskin's subjects has some unique history, but they are united in their love for what they perceive as a fulfilling rural lifestyle."--Booklist

"Filled with stories of people's lives, heritage and motivations for working the land . . . . Each one's story is illuminating."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Provides vicarious and delicious adventurous ."--Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Crafts an intimate appreciation of Northern California's traditional farming heritage and contemporary organic renaissance."--National Geographic Traveler

Publishers Weekly

In this rambling memoir from "America's heartland of organic produce," literary scholar Raskin (For the Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman) recalls a pleasant year visiting farm friends in Sonoma, Calif. Following the chronology of one season, he goes to farms, markets and restaurants, profiling Mexican workers, talking with small-farm advocates and even harvests vegetables himself. The breezy, romantic prose is peppered with literary references, and, at times, awkward academic language. His descriptions of meals seem limited to "sumptuous," "delicious" and "excellent"; similarly, the analysis tends to be cursory. After listening to one industrious produce seller's story, Raskin evokes a simple "Wow!" The closest his research comes to a serious investigation is a description of employees at the Sonoma Whole Foods Market, a company he openly dislikes. The story's overarching countercultural bent intensifies the aging academic's apparent longing for the revolutionary roots of organic foods. The redemptive aspect of this memoir lies in its intensely local specificity-Northern California's marijuana-growing culture and a feeling of youthfulness-although the sprawling narrative imparts more of a gauzy, poetic impression than any cohesive ideas about food or farming. 22 b&w photos. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A lyrical memoir of the relationship among farming, eating and sustaining community in Sonoma County, Calif. Raskin (Communication Studies/Sonoma State Univ.; The Radical Jack London: Writings on War and Revolution, 2008, etc.) begins this chronicle of a year's exploration into the origins of the local- and slow-food movements in Northern California with the observation that in this region "the feeling of paradise lingers." While acknowledging the environmental damage that has been wrought on the landscape that most of the world thinks of as wine country, the author credits the area's small farmers, agriculturalists and vintners with fostering a unique sense of community in what remains, despite its proximity to San Francisco, a predominantly rural area. Raskin's firsthand approach allowed him to get to know some of the farm's owners and field laborers. Along the way, he writes about well-known local figures such as Alice Waters and the late M.F.K. Fisher, about pioneers of the organic-farming movement in California, about small community meetings and about the many individuals who make up the area's farm-to-table network. Though he traveled to New York and London to compare notes, and he references current books on food production in the United States, what distinguishes Raskin's account is the intensely local approach. Rather than exploring the economics and ethics of farming at a national level, the author provides a finely textured account of how the origins of eating and drinking reveal the nuances of modern community in rural Sonoma County. A fresh contribution to the public debate on the economics of consumption and the health of American communities.
“Each of Raskin’s subjects has some unique history, but they are united in their love for what they perceive as a fulfilling rural lifestyle.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Filled with stories of people's lives, heritage and motivations for working the land . . . . Each one's story is illuminating.”
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Provides vicarious and delicious adventurous .”
Serious Eats
“Raskin's tone is so endearing, humble, and respectful that his adventures come across as relatable and realistic.”
Athol Daily News
“While set in California, [Raskin’s] book cites a national trend. . . .
National Geographic Traveler
“Crafts an intimate appreciation of Northern California's traditional farming heritage and contemporary organic renaissance.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520268036
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2010
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.96 (w) x 11.30 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonah Raskin is Professor of Communication Studies at Sonoma State University and the author of The Radical Jack London: Writings on War and Revolution, American Scream: Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" and the Making of the Beat Generation, and For the Hell of It: The Life and Times of Abbie Hoffman, all available from University of California Press.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Introduction: The Renaissance in Farming 1

1 First Forays 13
2 Oak Hill History 58
3 Departures and Returns 79
4 Farmwork, Farmworkers 100
5 Winnowing with Wayne 125
6 Blood and Money, Wine and Water 136
7 Rudolf Steiner and Sons 162
8 Follow the Vegetables 177
9 Oldies and Goodies 202
10 A Place for Things to Happen 228
11 Days of the Dead 248

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