Conversations With the Land: A Book Review

Conversations with the Land

Jim VanDerPol is a farmer- writer who writes with clarity and skill about how agribusiness has changed not only our relationship with the land and our food, but how our sense of community and connection to one another has been displaced as well.

Corporate Owned Farms Are Not People

He comes from a Minnesota farming family, and has seen firsthand how corporate farming with its focus on profits has resulted in the destruction of communities and our sense of separation as individuals. How? Profit-driven farms are not concerned with what happens locally, for example, who will carry on the farming tradition in the future, or if schools are available for rural children.

Instead, they shift away from supporting the local economy to bringing in cheaper products for their operations from elsewhere. Therefore, local businesses suffer. Corporate farms don’t make decisions as individual family farmers would as stakeholders in the community – they make them based solely on increasing profits without concern for the impacts on people.

He cautions us that the ills that have befallen agriculture are not exclusively rural. When we accept that making money is valued above all else and we accept increasing dependence on corporations for our necessities, we lose control over our lives.

Taking the Family Farm Out of Farming

As a suburbanite, I appreciate being transported into the family farmer’s world in my quest to understand what is wrong our agricultural systems, how it got that way, and the path forward.  On this question VanDerPol offers his insights and suggestions (he has committed to staying small, and grazing his livestock), but takes full responsibility that they are his own opinions to be taken with a grain of salt.  He describes our current state:

“Agriculture is a human endeavor. We have forgotten this, or have allowed our fascination with our crackpot economy to drive it from our minds”.

Besides VanDerPol’s sober reflections on society’s ills, he offers charming tales in this collection of essays that paint a picture of a life lived at a slower pace in his rural community. He writes about his dog, the seasons, and the characters that have left an impression on him. His writing has been published in both Graze and Farming magazine, and the Progressive Populist.

Jim VanDerPol, Conversations with the Land, No Bull Press, 2012

With thanks to No Bull Press for providing me with a copy of the book to review.

Photo: Patricia Larenas, Urban Artichoke

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