This Blessed Earth: A Year In The Life Of An American Farm, by Ted Genoways
It is easy to see how this book could have been a lot better. The main issues with this book relate to the author as well as to the subject matter of the book. For one, the author is not a very good one, and that is especially true given the author’s modest knowledge about farming as well as the author’s mistaken worldview. For another, the subject matter of this book is not sympathetic, not least because this reader at least views the hypocritical nature of the negativity of the subject and the self-serving and self-pitying nature of their complaints about the obvious and expected repercussions of their leftist political grandstanding as being worthy of the pity and sympathy of the reader. I have no sympathy for the farmers for being outcasts because of their leftist political grandstanding. They got what they deserved, indeed are likely being treated better than they deserve. The author’s attempts to gain the pity of the reader only demonstrate the morally objectionable nature of the contemporary left in that it cannot separate natural consequences from evil and malicious hearts, and their own obvious folly from insight and wisdom.
This book is a bit more than 200 pages long and it is divided into four parts along with four interludes that cover the course of a farm during a somewhat dramatic year when the author happens to have been writing about what was going on. The book begins with a prologue that deals with readying the bin and dealing with how it is that a contemporary farm of the kind explored by this book makes (not very much) money. After that the first part of the book discusses the ins and outs of soybean farming, after which there is an interlude about working with cows. This is followed by the second part of the book on the homeplace, looking at the history of the farm and its operation, followed by a look at the branding of cattle (where the author defends the subjects despite the horror that some would feel for branding). After that comes a look at seeds of change relating to the practices of contemporary agribusiness, followed by an interlude about the poker run. Finally, the fourth part of the book looks at irrigation and the problems of farming in the Great Plains, after which there is a look at the tri-state, and some “welcome news” in the epilogue, as well as acknowledgements and a select bibliography.
It is by no means easy to be a farmer. It is lamentable, if not necessarily surprising, that a great many people who engage in farming are not going to be fully aware of the implications of what they are doing. The authors come off as being the worst sort of hypocrites, engaged in corporate farming where they do business with shady companies like Monsanto while uttering pious leftist statements and trying to promote themselves as holier than thou. Indeed, one can argue that the subjects (and the author, as their spokesman) would have been better served to have adopted the exact opposite approach to the subject of their farm than they did, being far less arrogant about their supposed virtue and far more understanding about the lack of positivity about their behavior. A major issue with this book and many others like it is that the author assumes that he is writing towards people who agree with him and thus assumes that the reader is going to cheer on the ill-advised decisions of the farmers at the heart of this story, when that is not the case here. It is worthwhile, if difficult to understand, that we not only write books for those who agree with us, but for those who do not.