Thursday, 9 September 2010

Animal Vegetable Miracle

This is a wonderfully inspiring book about Barbara Kingsolver's family attempt to eat locally for a year. They have a plot of land on which to grow vegetables and raise chickens and turkeys and they invest a lot of time into sourcing other locally raised food. Kingsolver's narrative is broken up by thoughts from her older daughter Camille who also shares wonderful sounding recipes (which can be found also on the website: http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/).

Kingsolver weaves musings about broader food issues into her narrative of their year. Which is more important organic or locally produced? Why is international agriculture so dependent on so few varieties of so few species and how can we revive heritage breeds?

We are given fascinating and scary facts about conventional agriculture, eg: In 1948 when pesticides were first introduced, farmers used roughly 50 million pounds of them and suffered about a 7% loss of all their food crops. In 2000 they used nearly a billion pounds of pesticide and lost 13% of their crops. Which seems like an excellent advert for organic agriculture to me!).

The most valuable aspect of this book though is the enthusiasm with which Kingsolver documents her family's year and her humour in sharing so many of the stories along the way, her younger daughter's unexpected entrepreneurial skills as she plans an egg business, the saga of the turkeys learning how to brood their eggs (because turkeys are bred artificially and designed to last only one year, the ability to breed has effectively been bred out of them).

After reading this book, you should find yourself looking more carefully at the labels on the food you buy, and searching for a spot where you can grow your own food even if your windowledges all face north and your neighbours have locked you out of the communal garden.

For Organic Fortnight

What Other Bloggers are Saying About Organic Fortnight:

Eating Organic Carrot Gnocchi on Allotment to Kitchen.

16 comments:

Angela Recada said...

Wonderful review of an important book! I'm reading it again right now, myself. I think it should be required reading for anyone who eats.

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Haven't read this one, but it sounds agreeable. LOL, most my food doesn't have labels.

FrecklesandDeb said...

Perhaps the greatest proof of buying locally is the taste of the food. We bought the most delicious tomatoes from the farmer's market last week. The ones in the store taste like water!

Deb

PS - Thanks for your kind thoughts on Freckles' recovery. She's really beginning to be her old self again.

Titus said...

I like the sound of this! Thanks Poet.
I'm really good with the fruit, but my vegetables leave a lot to be desired, quantity-wise I should add!
Luckily the in-laws, a skinny 1/2 a mile away, are far better at quantity and variety.

Naquillity said...

i think people are becoming a bit more conscious about their food. eating locally is dominating here. lots of people are choosing farmer's market's over grocery store these days. can't blame them. have a great day.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes I have read it too and find it quite inspiring. At present most of our fruit and veg are from our own organic plot of land - but come winter I intend to be a bit more careful what I buy.

Hannah Stephenson said...

You always have the best book recommendations---I'll have to check this out!

sandy, from gardenpath said...

I haven't read it yet, but plan to. Her books are always interesting, and green.

Megan Coyle said...

I haven't read anything like this before - but after your review, I'm incredibly curious :)

Rabbits' Guy said...

"Eat Your Yard" is a popular program here!

SzélsőFa said...

an interesting review that makes me want to spread the book in hungarian, too - but i first have to check whether it is already avaiable here or not :)
the debate between local and organic is a very important issue: some people, go for stupidities like eating organic veggies imported from the other side of the world. it makes no sense.

The human said...

Thanks again for drawing my attention to something great - I love Barbara Kingsolver's novels and hadn't heard about this book til now... just ordered!

Janice Thomson said...

Buying locally is also better health-wise since our bodies are innately used to our type of soil and brand of food. With so many genetically altered foods now in stores it makes much more sense to have one's own garden plot. The only disappointment I have is the fact that many seeds are also genetically altered with the result I can no longer collect seeds from my own plants to use the following year - a very good ploy on the part of huge seed companies ):

Deb G said...

I really liked this book a lot too. Actually, I like all of the non fiction I've read by Kingsolver.

Catherine said...

I've read the book and found it thoughtful and surprisingly undogmatic. But I do believe there are two sides to the story. Most vegetables need eight hours of sun to grow well. Most suburban/city gardens don't have much land that fits the bill, and not 3everyone has a large plot in rural Appalachia. I can only fit in enough space if I remove trees and their roots (advice being that vegetables don't grow well where tree roots suck the goodness from the soil) and that seems counter-productive to me.
I grew good capsicums last year, indoors in pots. I probably caused the environment more damage by driving to the garden centre to buy potting mix, plants etc than I would have if I had just bought fro the supermarket in the first place.
As for farmers markets, Kinsolver mentioned driving "only 45 minutes" for their organic dairy produce. As I read elsewhere, it makes no environmental sense to "get in your SUV and drive half an hour down the road to buy two lettuces and a pot of honey". I buy at the supermarket and am guided by price. If imported fruit and vegetables are air-freighted, they will be expensive - so no imported strawberries, or off-season Californian peaches and nectarines for me. Sea freight on the other hand is much more fuel efficient. Bananas and oranges are generally sea freighted and therefore affordable, and I don't feel guilty about buying them. We would have a very limited range of food choices if we stuck completely to local!

Crafty Green Poet said...

Catherine - you make some good points. I'm always struck that the definition of local in the USA covers a much larger surrounding area than it does in smaller countries (such as the UK and New Zealand).

And no we can't all grown our own!

The main things I got from the book though is that it is important to try to buy as much as possible locally. One day we will probably be forced into doing this anyway.