The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love
By Kristin Kimball
This memoir describes the radical transformation of a New York City single, female professional writer into the partner/wife of an organic farmer. The author brings the experience of a seasoned travel writer: immune to culture shock, but perhaps not as well-prepared for the challenges of her new life in farming in rural upstate New York.
A follower of Weston A. Price dietary principles would find the discussion around food refreshing. Although starting the new farm left the couple financially stressed and materially deprived, they enjoyed genuine wealth when it came to eating real farm-fresh food. Kimball’s accounts of cooking and eating with lots of butter, lard, organ meats and eggs are presented without question as positive and wholesome.
As a couple, Kimball and her husband set out to establish a highly diversified farm that would provide a whole diet for their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members. Once they got their first Jersey cow, they had an abundance of real milk, butter and cheese. This soon led to the need for pigs to make good use of the excess whey and skim milk. Chickens, beef cattle, and draft horses were added to the barnyard to make for a well-stocked farm. An old sugar bush on the property was utilized to produce maple syrup. Most of the farm was kept in pasture or forage crops to feed the livestock. In the spring five acres were tilled to grow a wide selection of organic vegetables for the CSA.
This would not be the usual type of CSA that only offered vegetables. The whole-diet approach meant that a farm share would, also, naturally, include milk, meat and eggs from its livestock operation.
For those who are interested in establishing a profitable farm, the experiences Kimball describes provides insights into how to be creative and resourceful in acquiring farm animals and used equipment. She also highlights what they did to launch their CSA, and some effective marketing techniques. An important point stressed throughout the book was how critical their connection to the local farming community was to their initial survival, as well as their continued success.
My favorite passage from this book will resonate with other real milk lovers:
“If you do not own a cow or know someone who owns a cow, I must caution you never to try raw milk straight from the teat of a Jersey cow, because it would be cruel to taste it once and not have access to it again. Only a few people in America remember this type of milk now, elderly people, mostly, who grew up with a cow.”
An increasing number of college students, with no prior farm experience, are taking an interest in farming as a career. Besides finding The Dirty Life a pleasurable agrarian read, wanna-be farmers may find this book a valuable introduction to the farming lifestyle.
The incredible abundance of work required to establish a successful working farm can be overwhelming, and this book leaves no illusions as to the challenge. At the same time, the author also acknowledges a special kind of satisfaction that follows the toil and fatigue. Although this is not a how-to book, I did not detect any technical inaccuracies in the descriptions of farming methods.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2011.