In the tradition of Michael Pollan, Joan Gussow, and Verlyn Klinkenborg's The Rural Life, This Common Ground is an inspirational evocation of a life lived close to the earth, written by the head farmer at one of the country's first community-supported farms. By reflecting on four seasons of activity at his beloved Quail Hill Farm in eastern Long Island, Scott Chaskey offers stirring insight into the connections between land and the human family. Whether writing about the voice of a small wren nesting in the lemon...
In the tradition of Michael Pollan, Joan Gussow, and Verlyn Klinkenborg's The Rural Life, This Common Ground is an inspirational evocation of a life lived close to the earth, written by the head farmer at one of the country's first community-supported farms. By reflecting on four seasons of activity at his beloved Quail Hill Farm in eastern Long Island, Scott Chaskey offers stirring insight into the connections between land and the human family. Whether writing about the voice of a small wren nesting in the lemon balm or a meadow of oats, millet, and peas rising to silver and green after a fresh rain, this poet-farmer's contagious sense of wonder brings us back to our bond with the soil.
Poet Chaskey, former head of the organic Quail Hill Farm on Long Island's South Fork, gives a sprightly account of "the education of a gardener become farmer, representing a committed community" as well as "the challenges faced by all small farms, enlivened by a wind from the sea." As this chronicle of a year at Quail Hill shows, Chaskey loves the way of life at the farm-a cousin to the more than 1,500 CSA (community supported agriculture) farms now in the U.S., dedicated to community and providing locally grown produce. The delight of his writing is his balancing of the poetry of farm life-as when he looks up "to catch the liquid flight of swallows" and "the music of wind as it weaves a thread through the brambles"-with touches of humor, such as his amazement that "our cabbages continue to grow to epic proportions." He also effectively summarizes the "critical juncture" at which the organic farming movement finds itself as a result of recent federal legislation governing organic foods. His book will be a joy to read for lovers of organic farming, and it also offers a strong argument to the general public that, with careful management of the soil, "everyone, the haves and the have-nots, [can] gain access to land and good food." B&w illus. Agent, Paul Bresnick. (Apr. 25) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Chaskey is not a typical farmer-he helps tend a community-supported agriculture farm in Long Island, NY, that is owned by a nonprofit land trust. Food is grown for members who share maintenance costs and harvest their own produce. Unlike the organic farming couple in Nicola Smith's Harvest, who struggle daily with too many chores, too little time, and too little money, Chaskey seems to have none of these problems. Instead, he has time to observe wildlife and weeds and to become rhapsodic about the delights of planting garlic and making compost. Snippets of quoted verse and prose abound, e.g., watching crows in the field elicits "melodic lines" from Shakespeare's King Lear. Those looking for a practical guide to organic farming will fail to find it in this hodgepodge of thoughts. An optional purchase.-Ilse Heidmann, Washington State Lib., Olympia Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The education of a farmer, and the vital role of the organic farm in his community, by Chaskey, steward of the cooperative Quail Hill Farm. In 1990, Chaskey started work in Amagansett, on the South Fork of Long Island, on a turf farm of long standing, though such places are now endangered as real-estate values for choice lots have skyrocketed. Fortunately, a few forward-thinking souls set aside parcels for growing vegetables, thus maintaining some of the original atmosphere of the area, and it's Chaskey's job to apply the knowledge he gained as a gardener in England during the 1970s and '80s to this new patch. He is equal to the task. His steady, direct voice details the everyday working of the farm, and he doesn't hesitate to admit the awe he feels before the earthly enterprise. This is a community-supported agricultural experiment, where a number of local citizens have agreed to share the risks with the farmer, and, impressively, the community takes on the floral, faunal, social, health and political concerns of the project-in a word, the stewardship of it. Chaskey describes the frank, practical tasks of growing food as a not-for-profit undertaking. He unfurls the cottage wisdom of garlic's providence, describes the fixing of farm implements ("there are certain tasks, at least in this lifetime, that I am happy to leave to others"), the satisfactions of a good tool, the procedures of cold-soil planting, creating the ideal compost, taking up battle with nut grass, the importance of equanimity when facing the vexations of tomatoes. There are moments when he gets overly pixyish-"last night our fields felt the first light touch of Jack Frost"-but it's impossible not to admire his unfazedmanner of talking to stars, earth, weather and sprouts. Nothing less than a vision, not original so much as eloquently expressed, of farming returned to its roots, and of the mighty pleasures it can give.
Scott Chaskey earned an M.A. in creative writing from Antioch College. For the last fourteen years, he has worked as a land steward and farmer for the Peconic Land Trust at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, New York. A pioneer of the community farming movement, he is the president of the Northeast Organic Farming Association and on the board for the Center for Whole Communities in Vermont.
On the web: http://www.peconiclandtrust.org, http://www.wholecommunities.org