The American Farmer


Listen to the bibliography

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Did you know that one-fourth of the world's beef and nearly one-fifth of the world's grain, milk and eggs are produced in the United States? Or that two out of every three bushels of corn in the world originate in the United States? In 1999, one American farmer produced enough food to feed 129 people each day. Today, more than three million people farm or ranch in the United States. Here is a list of books compiled by Reader Advisor Suzy Higgins that pay homage to American farmer's, and their contributions to our way of life.

All Flesh Is Grass: The Pleasures and Promises of Pasture Farmingby Gene Logsdon.
Author of Low-Maintenance House (RC 28227) argues against the grain feeding of livestock and contends grass farming is the solution to economic, environmental, sustainability, and food safety concerns posed by commercial factory agriculture. Offers practical advice on pasturing various animals, selecting and rotating crops, fencing, watering, and more. RC 60423.

Battlefield: Farming a Civil War Battleground by Peter Svenson.
Soon after purchasing their forty acres of land in Cross Keys, Virginia, Svenson and his wife realized they were living on a Civil War battlefield that played an important part in Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley campaign. As Svenson recounts his house and barn-building tales, along with accounts of repairing tractors and baking his own bread, he interweaves stories about the battles that took place on his land. RC 37880.

Eighty Acres: Elegy for a Family Farm by Ronald Jager.
Eighty acres is a small farm, but the author’s memoirs of his experiences in this miniature world depict a life rich with contrasts. He details his view of rural America in the 1940s, recovering from the depression and now deep in wartime economy; honors his close-knit family; reflects on the never-ending chores; and takes a knowing look at the erosion of the small family farm. RC 33973.

Farm: A Year in the Life of an American Farmer by Richard Rhodes.
The author, who grew up on a farm, describes a year in the life of a Midwestern farm family. Rhodes brings to life the courage and creativity required to survive capricious weather and market prices. He also makes clear the rewards of farming, from the birthing of the calves, and the bounty of a good harvest, to the family’s feeling of being rooted in the soil. RC 31102.

The Farming Game by Bryan Jones.
A former high school teacher turned Nebraska farmer draws on his ten years of experience to write a lively, humorous, practical guide to success or, more often, to failure in small farming. With sketches of several working farmers, Jones illuminates just how frustrating and difficult it is to be a farmer in the United States today. RC 22776.

First Person Rural: Essays of a Sometime Farmer by Noel Perrin.
Twenty humorous essays from a former New Yorker who now owns and runs his own farm in Vermont. He writes of maple sugaring, trading, raising sheep, and some of the pit-falls of country life. Rural Essays series, book 1. RC 12524.

From a Limestone Ledge: Some Essays and Other Ruminations about Country Life in Texas by John Graves.
Essays by a Texas farmer and natural storyteller. Graves talks about cows, bees, and goats, dipping snuff and chewing tobacco, the joys of making and drinking wine, and the satisfaction of his self-reliant life. RC 18460.

A Garlic Testament: Seasons on a Small New Mexico Farm by Stanley G. Crawford.
Author of the prizewinning Mayordomo (RC 29277) continues his memoirs of life on a small New Mexico farm. Novelist Crawford has grown to love the cultivation of flowers, vegetables, and an acre and a half of garlic. Descriptions of the tasks involved in planting, nourishing, harvesting, and selling at farmers’ markets are mixed with the author’s philosophical musings. RC 37580.

Great Possessions: An Amish Farmer's Journal by David Kline.
Kline’s collection of essays, originally written for the Amish magazine "Family Life," are a celebration of nature. Kline lives on a 120-acre farm in Ohio, and, along with his family, tills the land and delights in the wonders of nature--especially the birds. These essays, arranged by season, record such events as a walk in the woods on a wintry day or a May morning, maple sugaring, and making sassafras tea. RC 32990, BR 8636.

Homecoming: The Story of African-American Farmers by Charlene Gilbert.
Discusses the historical significance of land and farming for African Americans. Chronologically traces ownership of land and operation of farms in the South from Reconstruction through the 1990s, when the U.S. Supreme Court granted farmers restitution for discriminatory banking practices. Examines black farmers’ determination, courage, labor, and economic hardships. RC 52550.

In Good Hands: The Keeping of a Family Farm by Charles Fish.
Account of six generations on a Vermont family farm by a "vagrant scion" who spent his boyhood summers there. Fish recounts the arduous and complex tasks of farm routine and tells of a close family dedicated to land, duty, and the virtuous life. He evokes an era when the family farm was central to the national experience. RC 42730.

The Last Farmer: An American Memoir by Howard Kohn.
A tribute to the author’s stubborn, German father, "The Last Farmer," and an account of the author’s struggle to integrate himself with the past. At seventy, the elder Kohn must decide what to do with the family farm. Should he sell drilling rights to the oil company, as some neighbors have decided to do, or sell the land outright? His difficult decision brings his family together. RC 30454.

Letters from the Country by Carol Bly.
From the farmland of Western Minnesota, the author writes about living in a culturally isolated community, where people have little connection with national life and small talk is the order of the day. In these essays on rural life, Bly tackles the establishment with good humor and with some ideas for change. RC 18644.

Mapping the Farm: The Chronicle of a Family by John Hildebrand.
Hildebrand married into the O’Neill family at a time when their two-hundred-forty-acre family farm in Minnesota was facing an uncertain future, although the O’Neills had owned the land since the 1880s. As Hildebrand describes a cycle of seasons on the farm with the milking, planting crops, castrating calves, and slaughtering hogs, he provides a history of the four generations who have lived on the land. RC 41987.

New England Year: A Journal of Vermont Farm Life by Muriel Follett.
This journal of the year 1938 is an intimate portrait of the rhythms of a rural farm year. Follett describes local events as well as some of the seasonal jobs on a farm--sausage making, logging, calving, planting, and harvesting. The weather and landscape are noted along with as are the joys and sorrows of family and friends as they help one another in time of need. RC 31790.

Old Farmer's Almanac Book of Everyday Advice by Judson D. Hale.
Since its first edition in 1792, The Old Farmer’s Almanac has been giving advice. Editor-in-chief Hale again provides advice for your home and for your life. Contains humorous hints on how to stop snoring, avoid dying, and get rich without doing any work. Other examples are how to make George Washington’s Christmas eggnog, what to eat for various holidays, and how to grow the tastiest tomatoes. RC 41560.

Old Farmer's Almanac Book of Weather Lore: The Fact and Fancy behind Weather Predictions, Superstitions, Old-Time Sayings, and Traditions by Edward F. Dolan.
"Clear moon, frost soon." "Kill a beetle and it will rain." "Lighting never strikes twice in the same place." These statements belong to a centuries-old body of weather lore that ranges from pure superstition to reasonable accuracy. Dolen investigates fact or fallacy behind weather phenomena. RC 31760.

On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm by Michael Ableman.
The author describes the twelve-acre farm called Fairview Gardens, where he has worked for seventeen years. Once a farm among many, Fairview (now surrounded by California suburbia) is a national model for successful urban agriculture and farmland preservation. RC 47334.

Once There Was a Farm: A Country Childhood Remembered by Virginia Bell Dabney.
In 1917 the author’s mother left her husband behind in Chicago and moved with her father and two daughters to a 160-acre farm without plumbing or electricity in central Virginia. Dabney recalls her sisters, parents, and neighbors; the farm animals; the fire that destroyed their house; her "self-baptism" in the swimming hole; and the purchase of a Model T. RC 32221.

Pleasant Valley by Louis Bromfield.
In this work, which is in part autobiographical reminiscence and in part exposition of his theories of farming and farm life, an American writer relates how, after many years spent abroad, he returned to his native Ohio. There he built a new home and new way of life founded on the old ways of the pioneer American farmer. RC 16369.

Second Person Rural: More Essays of a Sometime Farmer by Noel Perrin.
Essays by a New Yorker turned weekend farmer in Vermont. Perrin is fond of observing nature and sizing up non-Vermonters. He writes of splitting wood, rural immigration law, pig tales, and making cider. This sometime farmer is learning the difference between the city and the country-- especially the codes that dictate what to say and how to behave. Rural Essays series, book 2. Sequel to First Person Rural (RC 12524). Some strong language. RC 35529.

A Small Farm in Maine by Terry Silber.
Terry and Mark Silber are the original Yuppies who went back to the land. Involved in their design and photography careers in Boston, they purchase a farm in rural Maine in the early 1970s. At first a weekend and summer retreat, it eventually becomes their full-time home, with farming as their livelihood. RC 28679.

This Common Ground: Seasons on an Organic Farm by Scott Chaskey.
Poet and educator describes one year at a community-supported agriculture project on New York’s Long Island. Season by season, Chaskey describes the daily toils of planting, cultivating, and harvesting while reflecting on land stewardship, challenges facing small farms, and the connection between earth and the human family. RC 61755.