So begins a unique documentary narrative, "Saving the Soil—The New American Farmer" by Jerry Mader (Tolt River Press). Unlike Michael Pollan’s search for a meal in "The Omnivore’s Dilemma," this book offers an intimate look into the lives of organic farmers who are a vital part of the current agricultural renaissance in America; specifically, in the Snoqualmie Valley of Western Washington.
This inspiring book is a welcome change from all the "food-crisis" books devoted to everything we’re doing wrong and the impending environmental collapse. Instead, we get an account of Pacific Northwest writer/photographer Jerry Mader’s quest to find the farmers who became, in the end, the people he proudly calls "My Farmers."
The result is a collection of life stories from people who choose to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week at mostly hand labor to grow fresh healthy food for their community. For most of them (seventeen in all), farming is not part of their history; most came to farming from other careers and most have master’s degrees in unrelated fields. Each tells a story of "self-discovery," a journey into the unknown with all the risks that accompany any radical departure from the norm — especially the one offered by corporate agri-business and the large- scale factory farm. Although diverse in background, these "new farmers" share a common vision; to revitalize the earth through sustainable food production and local economics, and, revive the sense of community once common in pre-urban America.
In addition, there are stories from eight workers on the farms plus nine interviews from citizens in the greater Seattle area who are connected to food production, distribution and environmental preservation.
"Saving the Soil" is a beautiful coffee table book (81/2" X 11") with 272 B & W fine art photographs and portraits by Jerry Mader. At 350 pages, it offers a rich kaleidoscopic view of an amazing and diverse group of people.
Available from Tolt River Press, September 6, 2011; $39.95.