Hey folks, there’s a new farming/organic living book out that is generating a lot of buzz. Written by Forrest Pritchard (and with a foreword by Joel Salatin) Gaining Ground is the true story of how a young man chose to take on the task of literally saving the family farm by turning it into an ethical and profitable way to make a living.
It’s a great story filled with ups and downs, humor and life lessons. In short, it’s the kind of book that makes you feel good after reading it. That’s the kind of story that I love most to read.
You can tell me about an adventure and I might read your book, but tell me how that adventure changed you and what you learned as a result and chances are, your book will make it to my reading list. Gaining Ground falls in the latter category, it simply was a pleasure to read and from which to learn. I have tremendous respect for Forrest, not only for his accomplishments and how he was able to share them, but quite frankly, anyone who sends a picture of himself kissing a chicken is first rate in my book.
I was able to ask Forrest some questions about his farming experiences.
What’s the one lesson you want people to get from your farming experience?
That at long last, sustainable farming has finally arrived. More and more customers truly care about where their food comes from, and farmers are responding… adopting organic, humane and transparent growing practices. It’s a win-win for customers and farmers alike.
Chickens, let’s talk chickens. You’re very in tune with the creatures on your farm. What roles do your chickens play? Have they taught you anything about living in a flock?
Ha, well… birds of a feather flock together, I suppose. My chickens have taught me so much over the years (and I’ve been raising chickens since I was eight years old). Because they are so vulnerable, needing protection from predators and weather, chickens constantly make me check my ego at the door. With over 1,000 hens running around on pasture at any given moment, we have to be pretty careful about what we’re doing! But chickens are indispensable contributors to a diversified livestock farm. Given the ability to be themselves, they are superior foragers, excellent grazers, and remarkably efficient and building soil fertility through their scratching and manure. And did I mention the amazing fresh eggs? The biggest thing that chickens have taught me is that farms must have balance. Chickens excel at bringing balance to a well managed grass farm.
I’ve got this chicken video I made on the method we use for Free Range Chickens, Smith Meadows Style that explains how we work with our chickens.
What qualities has the farm imparted onto you?
Farming has taught me that I can only count on two things: entropy and renewal. Expressed a different way, things on a farm are either growing, or they are falling apart. Really, those are the only two options!
In our society, we are brought up to believe that things are supposed to last forever. But working on a farm quickly strips away these falsehoods. Barns and fences must be repaired, while newborn chicks and lambs must be tended to. The old oak tree might fall in a thunderstorm, while a new walnut springs to life in a neglected corner of the pasture. Farming teaches us about the circle of life, in a way that tempers the lesson with sweetness and practicality. That’s hard to find these days!
Should everyone strive to be a “farmer”? Is it a calling or a way of life?
Tough question. To be a farmer, one must believe in something greater than oneself… and this is a rarer characteristic than most people would care to admit. Farming demands sacrifices: of time, finances, and physical energy. It’s hard to appreciate the sublime exhaustion of working an eighteen hour day until you’ve surrendered yourself to a greater goal, a greater passion. True farmers live in harmony with the soil, becoming stewards and champions of the environment. Only then does the impossible work of farming begin to make sense. It’s not for everyone. But everyone is certainly welcome to give it a try… we need more great farmers!
When did you decide that your farming experience was a life lesson worthy of sharing?
My farmers market customers made this any easy decision. Month after month, year after year, customers show up at markets to support us. They believe in what we do, voting for us with their food dollars. The experience is so validating. When you’ve been asked a thousand questions about your farming practices, and felt the genuine appreciation of people when their questions are answered, then you begin to ask yourself: should I share these questions and answers with a broader audience? So far, the response has been a resounding YES! The positive story of sustainable farming is one that needs to be shared.
Please check out Forrest’s book Gaining Ground, it’s a wonderful story of a young man who is trying to make a difference by doing the right thing.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.