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Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers' Markets,…
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Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers' Markets, Local Food, and Saving the…

by Forrest Pritchard

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To preface this review: I am from Berryville, VA and grew up in the area that Forrest Pritchard describes in this book. I've been to the farmers market every Saturday and I went to school with many children who were raised on farms and worked on farms in the area. But it wasn't my knowledge of the material or the area which made this book so wonderful. It was the beautiful descriptions and the incredible cast of characters which Pritchard seems to portray so easily. The foreword really says it all. You don't have to be a farmer, or know a farmer, or even visit farmer's markets to appreciate this book.
  SnowcatCradle | Feb 25, 2014 |
great memoir--subtitle captures the theme.
  mochap | Feb 13, 2014 |
The book is wonderful. It draws the reader into a coming-of-age tale, or maybe a conquering hero tale, or a straight up historical narrative about family farming in the USA. I am not the English major in the household. I read, I cook, I spend a lot of time bring local food into my home, and preparing it simply for the family. Gaining Ground reinforced the decisions that I make every week. But while I was reading it, I really just wanted to keep reading it, and hoped that dinner would prepare itself :)! The narrative sings, the writing is lyrical, and brings you into the story as it is lived by "Farmer Forrest" and his family. There is hardship and sadness but the story is victorious in the end, as I am sure that you all might have imagined simply by the cover!

Highly recommended! ( )
  lalbro | May 27, 2013 |
Really enjoyed this book. It's the story of how one man decided to save his seventh generation farm through a lot of labor, intelligence, and willingness to turn conventional wisdom on its ear. It's full of useful information which is presented in a dramatic theme and works. And one of the best things about this book is he doesn't preach. Many books in this genre are so driven to "dump manure" all over conventional farmers and consumers who frequent the grocery store rather than always buying organic, that they turn off the reader. Pritchard doesn't - he makes his case for a rational approach in a non-lecturing story. If you've ever been to a Farmers' Market, you will enjoy this "back stage" look on it works. And please note - he raises animals - grass-fed beef, lambs, pigs, chickens - so this is not a vegetarian credo. ( )
  NellieMc | May 26, 2013 |
Before I begin my review of Gaining Ground, allow to me to make a quick disclaimer: I am not an objective reader. In fact, I have worked for Forrest at farm markets every weekend for over a year now, in rain, snow, wind, thunder and tourist season. Before Smith Meadows came into my life I was largely vegetarian in order to avoid sponsoring the horror stories I read about the papers and books like Omnivore's Dilemma and Deep Economy. Then, through a boyfriend's friend's sister's best friend I found Smith Meadows, the perfect local farm with all the practices and principles an idealist could hope for.

Forrest Pritchard is Smith Meadows' farmer, its steward and practically a part of the soil he has worked so hard to nourish from the sad state it was in after years of overuse. As it turns out, lush pasture is easily achieved through a combination of patience and well planned herd rotation, switching between cattle, pigs, chickens and sheep, letting each fertilize and refresh the soil in turn. "Easily," of course, is a relative term when one is reading about it all from a comfy chair with a nice cup of tea.

In truth, it took not only years of hard work but decades of failure for the Pritchard family farm to turn around and produce a profit (as well as valuable land, animals and a sterling example of good farming practices). Gaining Ground recounts the journey Forrest took his entire family on when he realized that farming might be more of a calling for him than teaching (though writing is clearly still in his repertoire). As a bit of a book connoisseur, I did note that the book itself has a good looking, glossy cover, the text is printed clearly on nice feeling paper and the photos are incredibly helpful in placing the reader right there on the farm.

Gaining Ground has a good flow that kept me impatient to turn the page for the next adventure or roadblock, even though I knew exactly how it turned out. Forrest's anecdotes are sometimes touching, often hilarious, and range from rampant hogs to very confused market customers to a couple of completely baffling exchanges with a butcher. Pedro the goat, for instance, accompanied by Travis the humming farmhand, has a highly amusing adventure with some marigolds, in true goat-style.

As somewhat of an insider, I also know that there is a lot left out of this 317 page book. There were more adventures with goats, some ducks, more about Nancy's pasta business, a food truck and many more humorous stories from market and the farm. One hopes there will be a second book in the works... I, for one, would have enjoyed the inclusion of Forrest's other writing, perhaps the poetry he mentions sending off to literary magazines early on. The book stands at the right length and breadth to be a reasonable and fun read (One of Publishers Weekly's top 10 summer reads in nonfiction), though the prose could have dug a little deeper into the emotional underpinnings here and there.

The other members of the family receive occasional mentions, but the elder Mr. Pritchard has a fair share of the spotlight as he does his best to support his harebrained son through the snafus and disappointments of starting his free-range, grass-fed meat business. Mr. Pritchard's declining health provides a backdrop that Forrest puts to use in framing the problems with the commercial food industry and how we think about food in terms of cost, taste and enjoyment. On the whole, Gaining Ground is a good story, not an essay on farming practices, and it is this difference that will help readers to understand on a personal level what it means to buy local and why they too should work to save the family farm.

I did have one customer at market ask if Gaining Ground was a collection of recipes from Smith Meadows Kitchen, and when I passed this along to Forrest he said, "Sure, it's a recipe book. There's a real important recipe in there, they'll just have to read all the way to the end."

Find more reviews by moi at renascencegirl.blogspot.com. ( )
1 vote ekl1773 | May 16, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0762787252, Paperback)

One fateful day in 1996, after discovering that five freight cars' worth of glittering corn have reaped a tiny profit of $18.16, young Forrest Pritchard vows to save his family's farm. What ensues--through hilarious encounters with all manner of livestock and colorful local characters--is a crash course in sustainable agriculture. Pritchard's biggest ally is his renegade father, who initially questions his son's career choice and rejects organic foods for sugary mainstream fare. But just when the farm starts to turn heads at local farmers' markets, his father's health takes a turn for the worse. With poetry and humor, this inspiring memoir tugs on the heartstrings and feeds the soul long after the last page is turned.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:16 -0400)

Upon discovering that months of backbreaking work and five freight cars' worth of glittering corn have reaped his family's farm a profit of $18.16, young Forrest Pritchard, fresh out of college, resolves to take matters into his own hands. What ensues--through a series of hilarious encounters with all manner of livestock and colorful local characters--is a crash course in sustainable agriculture. Pritchard's biggest ally is his renegade father, who initially questions his son's career choice and rejects organic foods for sugary mainstream fare. But just when the farm starts to turn heads at local markets, his father's health takes a turn for the worse. - p. 2 of cover.… (more)

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