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The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer
     

The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer

5.0 1
by Jane Smiley
 
Before storms that can destroy his crops in an instant, the farmer stands implacable. To fluctuations in temperature that can deprive his children of their future, the farmer pays no heed. Every day the elements remind him that his future is secure only through constant effort. Like the creepers and crawlers he seeks to eradicate, the farmer toils away in the lush

Overview

Before storms that can destroy his crops in an instant, the farmer stands implacable. To fluctuations in temperature that can deprive his children of their future, the farmer pays no heed. Every day the elements remind him that his future is secure only through constant effort. Like the creepers and crawlers he seeks to eradicate, the farmer toils away in the lush anonymity of his grid of vines, his tradition one of impervious resolve.

Today that tradition of muscular, self-effacing labor is quietly disappearing, as the last of America's independent farmers slowly fade away. When they have gone, what will we have lost? In The Land Was Everything, Victor Davis Hanson, an embattled fifth-generation California grape farmer and passionate, eloquent writer, answers this question by offering a final snapshot of the yeoman, his work, and his wisdom.

Over two centuries ago, J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur wrote the bestselling Letters from an American Farmer. It was the first formal expression of what it meant to be American, a celebration of free, land-working men and women as the building blocks of enlightened democracy. Hanson, like Crevecoeur, begins with the premise that "farmers see things as others do not." He shows that there is worth in the farmer beyond the best price of raisins or apples per pound, beyond his ability to provide fruit out of season, hard, shiny, and round. Why is it, then, that the farmer is so at odds with global culture at the millennium? What makes the farmer so special?

To find the answer Hanson digs deeply within himself. The farmer's value is not to be found in pastoral stereotypes--myths that farmers are simple and farming serene. It is something more fundamental.

The independent farmer, in his lonely, do-or-die struggle, is tangible proof that there is still a place for heroism in America. In the farmer's unflinching, remorseless realities--rain and sun, hail and early frost--lie the best of humanity tested: stoicism, surprising intelligence, and the determination that comes from fighting battles, tractor against vine, that must be replicated a thousand or a hundred thousand times if a farmer is to have even a chance of success. There is, writes Hanson, an "awful knowledge gained from agriculture" and a "measure of brutality that even the most humane farmer cannot escape from or hide." It is this terrible knowledge, these hard-fought battles against man, self, and nature's unseen enemies, that Hanson celebrates.

Today the city, Crevecoeur's "confined theatre of cupidity," is triumphant. But those who have stuck to a difficult task will see that they have much in common with Hanson's dying farmer. That the land was everything once made America great and democracy strong. Will we still like what we are--and can we survive as we are--when the land is nothing?

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
When St. John de Crevecoeur wrote his Letters from an American Farmer 200 years ago, he described the emergence of a new type of citizen, the independent small farmer who embodied the ideal balance of wildness and culture, intellect and experience. According to Hanson, a fifth-generation grape farmer and classics professor, this type of individual has been the foundation of American democracy. However, as a result of the yeoman's displacement by corporate agribusiness and suburban sprawl, the moral fabric of America is unraveling, and "no intellectual has stepped forward to craft a higher culture for the people beyond materialism and consumerism." In this superbly quotable book, Hanson shows us a way of life that is irrevocably disappearing. Though the farmer must contend with an endless array of difficulties and obstacles, his resourceful and determined efforts to bring order to this chaos shape his unique character. The passing of this agrarian life has meant the passing of "ethical restraint on the economy." Like Wendell Berry, Hanson writes eloquently about the intrinsic worth of a lifestyle that values family and community, but unlike Berry he focuses more on the constant and multifarious problems and obstacles which the small farmer faces day to day. Written with passion and honesty, this informative work is highly recommended for academic and public libraries.--Ilse Heidmann, San Marcos, TX Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780684845012
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
04/20/2000
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.75(h) x 0.91(d)

What People are Saying About This

Kevin Starr
From the heat-soaked vineyards of the great Central Valley of California comes this cry of the heart, this elegy, this wry and courageous act of celebratory defiance.
—Dr. Kevin Starr, State Librarian of California and author

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The Land Was Everything 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an excellent treatise on the gulf between city and rural life and the at times opposing lives of the people in these two spheres. Mr Hanson a professor of classical studies in California is also a farmer and how he uses one life to illustrate the other is quite remarkable. A must read for anyone who likes both history and the countryside.