Good Day! I am currently reading and enjoying Gaining Ground by Forrest Pritchard. Thus, I wanted to share my initial impressions of the work, and encourage others to explore this entertaining title as well. Gaining Ground is the account of a young farmer in the Shenandoah Valley, and his quest to save the family farm in a sustainable and responsible manner.
I am a huge fan of fun coincidences, so imagine my surprise when I learned, shortly after adding this book to my Amazon cart, that Gaining Ground is a community book in my area this year (One Book, One Community). This means that there will be book discussions, workshops, and other activities scheduled throughout the year that relate to the book. How fun! I hope to catch some of them. (Incidentally, the same thing happened when I read Orphan Train). Second, the day the book was delivered, I had just returned from the Shenandoah Valley, where the book is set. I hadn’t known the setting until I started reading, so I was tickled pink to be reading about locations I had just seen hours earlier.
The book follows Forrest, a recent college graduate, on his adventures and misadventures as he attempts to make a go as a proper farmer and resuscitate his family’s dying farm, despite numerous setbacks. One of the great strengths of the book is Pritchard’s ability to weave a story, as his characters leap from the page. Perhaps it is because I have encountered “characters” (truly, there’s no other way to describe them) like the people he meets on his quest, but I could readily imagine his interactions with everyone he describes, from the surly and disingenuous butcher, to the earnest, but air-headed market-patron.
One of the central themes of Pritchard’s journey is maintaining high standards for the food he is producing on his farm: From organic, pastured, grass-fed beef to free-ranging chickens, he honors the animal, the farm, the consumer, and himself.
I won’t summarize the plot, but I would encourage everyone to give this book a place on your reading list. If you have ever pondered the food you eat, and wondered where it originated, and who raised it, you have shared in a thought-process that is of central importance in Gaining Ground. Does one choose anonymous, faceless, pesticide-treated food that has been factory-farmed, trucked back and forth across the country, and stripped of any semblance of its original form; or, does one seek out responsibly-raised, organic, sustainable food grown by local farmers who take great pride and care in their work? (Pritchard’s work also raises questions I have long pondered: Why do so many people buy meat and produce on shrink-wrapped styrofoam trays at the chain grocery when farmer’s markets abound? Why is the chain grocery always so busy? Do people care or think about the food they purchase and put in their bodies? Et al.)
Gaining Ground is a pleasing read filled with laugh-out-loud moments, thought-provoking inquiries, and touching stories. If it does nothing else, the book will expose the reader to the dedicated hard work that goes into being a farmer. I fancy myself a “micro-farmer,” and can attest to the trials of producing one’s own food on the personal scale, let alone trying to run an entire large farm that sells responsibly-raised food to others. Though my own “farming” trials are ridiculously and infinitesimally trivial compared to those recounted by Pritchard, I found myself nodding and saying out loud, “Yes … exactly!”
So, check out Gaining Ground, and enjoy a book that is a fast-paced and entertaining read, celebrating a more deliberate way of life and one farmer’s stalwart commitment to bringing his family’s farm back from the brink.
What’s on your reading list right now? Have you read Gaining Ground?