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The Farm That Feeds Us

A year in the life of an organic farm

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June 1, 2020

By Nancy Castaldo; illustrated by Ginnie Hsu
Quarto Publishing, 2020
80 pages, hardbound, $18.95

How wonderful to read a book that begins, “Hurrah for farms that supply us with the food we eat!” While some farms grow crops and some farms raise animals, the farm in this book does both. Divided into sections by season, “The Farm That Feeds Us” features a modern organic farm that provides food all year long. And it does so in a fun way.

Want to know about chickens? Then it’s off to the coop where you’ll find out what chickens eat, how they lay eggs, and meet a handful of common types of hens. If you’re interested in farm machinery, check out the tractors and mowers, tillers and planters. In the orchards, readers are introduced to common fruits as well as beehives; on later pages you’ll meet diverse pollinators, from butterflies and moths to bumblebees and hoverflies.

Author Nancy Castaldo introduces crops by season: peas and greens in the spring, heirloom corn for summer, cool weather crops to plant in late summer, and a harvest basket filled with squash and pumpkins in the fall. Of course there are pests, and these organic farmers implement a number of natural controls, including crop rotation, row covers and companion planting. Animal husbandry is featured by season as well, with lambing in the spring, fall grazing for pigs (free range, of course) and chickens all year round – even in winter because, while most people think that’s when farmers rest, those farmers are busy cleaning the coop … or  repairing barns and machinery, splitting wood and pruning the orchard. One of my favorite spreads shows the family perusing seed catalogs, and I love that Castaldo highlights a few fun heirloom varieties, including ‘Fish’ peppers and ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes.

An important thread running through the book is the connection from farm to table. The farm family preserves chutneys, jams and sauces and bakes pies and bread (there’s a recipe if you want to try bread baking) for market. From pick-your-own to farmers’ markets to the larger food distribution system, farmers produce the food that keeps us healthy, writes Castaldo. In return, we can support the farm economy. She shows us a half dozen ways to support local farms, eat sustainably and protect our planet.

– Sue Smith-Heavenrich, Candor, N.Y.

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