When Forrest Prichard resolved to save the Shenandoah Valley farm that had been in his family for generations he went about it all the wrong way. At first. When Forrest’s grandfather, the farmer in the family, had passed away the farm had been handed down to his mother. She and his father both had 9 to 5 jobs in the city so the job of running the farm was handed over to hired managers some of whom were better than others. When he graduated from college taking over the family farm from the latest inept manager was a clear choice to Forrest, but his degrees in Literature and Geology, and even his youthful experience in hay baling and chicken tending didn’t prepare him for the life of a farmer. He didn’t even have parental support. On hearing the news that Forrest was going to become a full time farmer, his father responded “Farming? Are you kidding me? You don’t even know how to grow a turnip!”
Undaunted, or at least undeterred, Forrest embarked on what was to be a long and uphill battle to save the family farm from going the way of so many of their neighbors – into bankruptcy or sold for development. Even with his parents plowing their salaries into farm maintenance, there wasn’t enough money for all the farm expenses and upkeep. So Forrest began what was to be a series of money making endeavors, including selling firewood by the pickup load, straw by the bale and chickens one by one.
From the beginning Forrest shunned the use of fertilizers, antibiotics and pesticides. His chickens and cows, and later pigs, were grass-fed and pasture raised. No crowded feedlots, instead rotational grazing provided rich nourishment for both the animals and the soil. Despite the skepticism from neighboring farmers, Forrest was set on organic farming and selling his product locally. This is where he got it right.
Gaining Ground; A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm is Forrest Prichard’s account of his personal struggle to become a successful organic farmer supplying grass fed beef to customers at local farmers’ markets. It is variously funny and compelling and heartwarming. It’s also a discussion of the local food movement within the larger context of farming and agribusiness in America. It will make you look at the food in your supermarket with a fresh perspective and very likely propel you to the nearest farmers’ market to shop for your next meal.
There is a link to this very enjoyable and informative book to the right of this post.