Growing the Good Life

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Craig McCord

Craig McCord › Craig possesses 23 guitars and cannot play any of them. He likes fresh grilled sardines with a ...


I love to read stories like this one. In her New York Times article, "The Land That Keeps Giving," Anne Raver writes about Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman, two people who farm on a rocky peninsula on the coast of Maine.

Ms. Raver writes how Mr. Coleman began farming on sixty acres of land he bought for $33 dollars an acre in 1968. He bought the land from Helen and Scott Nearing. The author describes the Nearings as:

. . . socialists and free thinkers who built their first house out of stone with their own hands and started growing their food at the foot of Stratton Mountain in southern Vermont during the Depression, (the Nearings) inspired young Mr. Coleman and other back the-landers with their 1954 book, Living the Good Life.

Mr. Coleman worked to clear the land with his own hands, built a cabin for his first wife and his two daughters and began to build soil health with seaweed he pulled from the rocks along the water. He continued to make his soil a priority by adding manure and hay. Along the way, Mr. Coleman met Ms. Damrosch and the two have been together ever since.

Suffice to say, these folks are very interested in growing things. She, specializing in gardening and he, in intense organic farming. Both writers say that soil health and paying close attention to the specific needs of each plant is the difference between success and failure.

It’s quite clear they know what they’re talking about because on their farm they’re growing 35-40 different crops, using absolutely no pesticides.

Mr. Coleman explains,”That’s because pests attack sick plants. They’re like the wolves eating the sick caribou. They can’t catch the healthy ones. When you grow plants correctly, insects can’t maintain a population on them.”

To back up that statement, their Four Seasons Farm grossed $120,000 last year from crops grown on 1.5 acres of land.

“So anybody who tells you organic farming can’t feed the world hasn’t been paying attention,” Mr. Coleman said.

Along with providing proof that organic farming can be profitable, the writings (and examples) of Ms. Damrosch and Mr. Coleman have served as catalysts for some of the people in the forefront of good farming practices and healthy eating.

In the article Dan Barber, an owner and executive chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., said:

"Eliot (Colemen) is the reason I’m cooking. I read his books when I was graduating from college and trying to figure out what to do."

Mr. Barber’s plan was to turn his grandparents’ dairy farm in the Berkshires into an organic vegetable farm. The brevity of the growing season in that part of Massachusetts proved to be a problem when profit was figured into the equation.

Barber absorbed Mr. Coleman’s books.

"Somebody figured out how to do it not only profitably, but deliciously,” Mr. Barber said. “I’ve followed that path because Eliot made it possible, and exciting, to farm in the four seasons."

The bridge between seasons are movable greenhouses or hoop houses, used to propagate and grow winter crops like onions, leeks, carrots, spinach and greens that love the cold. Then, when the temperature rises, everything can be wheeled outside.

This is a well-written, inspiring article. There are so many great people and stories about the production of good healthy food. Anne Raver’s article is one of the best I’ve read lately.

Click here to read the article in full.

Have you ever read anything written by Barbara Damrosch or Eliot Coleman?