The Wisdom of the Radish
Welcome to Foggy River Farm, where an “aspiring farmer’s suburban girlfriend” trades her Stanford degrees for a pastoral dream and lives to tell the tale. In “The Wisdom of the Radish,” Lynda Hopkins shares “lessons learned on a small farm” through the eyes and hearts of a young couple digging into a growing life near Healdsburg, California.
Hopkins and her beloved co-proprietor, Emmett, are inspired role models in the “Greenhorn Movement” of today’s new wave of young farmers committed to local, sustainable agriculture – bucking the trend of the aging farmer (according to 2007 Census of Agriculture, the average age of American farmers is creeping up toward 60.)
“…Farming is an ancient choice but a fluid line, granting each new generation both heritage and a unique personal challenge,” Hopkins writes. This twenty-something couple started their venture “armed with good intentions” and hands-on experience from organizing educational food gardens, work-trade participation, and working on New Zealand farms in exchange for room and board through WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). They also relied on the Internet, a vital tool for 21st century farmers with “… a decidedly different approach to agricultural problem-solving.”
From a rough start – their first $300 worth of seedlings were over-watered to death – to farmers’ market success, the book follows the couple as they work to make a couple of acres carved from Emmett’s family’s Sonoma County vineyard into Foggy River Farm, a small, diversified, directly-marketed agricultural operation. The first fifty bucks earned at their “rickety, borrowed” card table at market comes from bravely selling bags of the only produce they had – buggy, hole-riddled salad greens. Their entire first season is peppered by problems: beetles, hungry native foxes and raccoons, “nuked” heirloom tomato starts, broken water pipe floods, a corn worm convention, unexpected frost, and a bounty of beans that just won’t quit. Through it all, their farm life (and love) grows, along with the flock of chickens, sheep, goats, alpacas, and a Border collie pup – natural extensions to their farm family. (There’s a special place in my heart for Hope, the chicken formerly known as Penguin, or the one that got away.)
“The Wisdom of the Radish” is a view of the local food system from the front lines, with tidbits of history and lore, fascinating facts and growing tips. It illuminates “the difference between food as sustenance and food as pleasure” with earthy good humor and refutes the “elitist” label sometimes stuck to people who shop farmers’ markets. In the end, there are radishes, and then there are “…fresh, local, heritage radishes, harvested while young and tender by young and tender (and slightly foolish) farmers.”
- Lynn Torrance Redlin
With family roots in the fertile Red River Valley of North Dakota, Lynn Torrance Redlin has been part of the Cooking Up a Story team for a number of years. An avid gardener and home cook, Redlin is also a voracious reader, and enjoys exploring new information and ideas about our food system.