Summary and book reviews of This Blessed Earth by Ted Genoways

This Blessed Earth

A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm

by Ted Genoways

This Blessed Earth by Ted Genoways X
This Blessed Earth by Ted Genoways
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  • Published:
    Sep 2017, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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Book Summary

Is there still a place for the farm in today's America?

The family farm lies at the heart of our national identity, yet its future is in peril. Rick Hammond grew up on a small ranch, and for forty years he has raised cattle and crops on his wife's fifth-generation homestead in York County, Nebraska, in hopes of passing it on to their four children. But as the handoff nears, their small family farm - and their entire way of life - are under siege.

Rising corporate ownership of land and livestock is forcing small farmers to get bigger and bigger, assuming more debt and more risk. At the same time, after nearly a decade of record-high corn and soybean prices, the bottom has dropped out of the markets, making it ever harder for small farmers to shoulder their loans. All the while, the Hammonds are confronted by encroaching pipelines, groundwater depletion, climate change, and shifting trade policies. Far from an isolated refuge beyond the reach of global events, the family farm is increasingly at the crossroads of emerging technologies and international detente.

Following the Hammonds from harvest to harvest, Ted Genoways explores this rapidly changing landscape of small, traditional farming operations, mapping as it unfolds day to day. This Blessed Earth is both a concise exploration of the history of the American small farm and a vivid, nuanced portrait of one family's fight to preserve their legacy and the life they love.

Prologue
READYING THE BIN
September 2014

The last yellow hues of evening were fading to blue. A bright circle of sun blazing through an uncapped vent in the roof had climbed the corrugated side of the grain bin and smoldered out like an ember. Now the only remaining light, there in the dark interior, was the flame of Kyle Galloway's cutting torch—first a flickering orange tongue, then as he adjusted the hissing valve, a bright cerulean cone of fire. Sparks showered and bounced across the concrete slab as he cut another steel plank down to size.

Still in his twenties, Kyle was broad-chested, with dark, buzz-cut hair and a gentle round face and glasses that gave him a kindly, almost child-like air. But he moved through his work with quiet authority, inching across the width of the plank until the unwanted end clanked on the concrete. Kyle paused a beat to let the fresh cut cool, then he laid the plank into place, the next piece in a floor now nearly half done, and stomped it ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Ted Genoways, a Nebraskan with family roots in farming, is a poet and journalist whose previous works include The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food (2014). For this new book he followed Rick Hammond's family and farm workers over one critical year, October 2014 to October 2015. He vividly conveys the rhythms of farming and reflects on the historical shifts that have brought this way of life to a point of crisis. At times I wondered if the book's niche subject and specific family history could limit its readership. An interest in farming and food production is probably necessary to truly appreciate it. If you enjoy books by Wendell Berry and Michael Pollan, for instance, or have read and liked what could be considered the U.K. counterpart of this book, Land of Plenty by Charlie Pye-Smith, you will appreciate This Blessed Earth.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Full Review Members Only (653 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Genoways memorably captures the difficult lives nonindustrial farmers lead in order to feed the world.

Booklist

Compelling....This Blessed Earth is a cogent, well-reported examination of the forces putting the family farm at risk.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Unique...It is an unvarnished portrait striking for both its depth and humanity.

Author Blurb Willie Nelson, founder and president of Farm Aid
This Blessed Earth is a sort of universal story of family farmers and all they're up against in their efforts to take care of the land and make a living from it. It's also a crash course in the history that brought us to this place of corporate power, shrinking resources, and a changing climate...This book is an invitation to all who care about family farmers - which after all is all of us, since we all eat!

Author Blurb Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland and Pig Tales
It's not fair to claim that you are concerned about the country's food system unless you truly understand the millions of unsung conventional family farmers who produce our corn, soybeans, and beef. Genoways portrays just such a family in a book that is factual, rich in history, and filled with characters you will come to know as friends. He writes with an investigative journalist's mind and a poet's soul.

Author Blurb Jane Brox, author of Clearing Land
Ted Genoways brings a lifetime of knowledge to the complex story of modern agriculture. His depth of understanding is evident on every page...Genoways masterfully illustrates the costs and demands of such a life, and beautifully renders the endurance and dignity of those who have chosen it.

Author Blurb Ruth Reichl, New York Times best-selling author of My Kitchen Year
Everyone who eats in America should read this lyrical and often heartbreaking book about life on a modern American farm. It will change the way you look at what is on your plate.

Author Blurb Tom Colicchio, chef and co-founder of Food Policy Action
Farming, family, and food all come together in this beautifully written story of what it takes to work this blessed earth.

Author Blurb Michael Ruhlman, author of Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America
In an impressive and compelling work of literary journalism, Ted Genoways dives deep into the heart of an American farm family, illuminating critical issues troubling our complex food production system. But he also describes in intimate detail the very human struggles of the work - between husband and wife, parent and child, father-in-law and son-in-law - in one family committed to growing our food and passing the work on to the next generation.

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Beyond the Book

The Keystone XL Pipeline

Keystone pipeline near Swanton, Nebraska The Keystone Pipeline is a 36-inch-diameter oil pipeline between Alberta, Canada and Texas. It transports 550,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada to refineries and distribution centers in the United States every day. It was constructed in three phases, with the first – stretching to southern Nebraska and then across to two refineries in Illinois – completed in 2010. Extensions to Oklahoma and onwards to Texas were finished in 2011 and 2014, respectively. The pipeline now crosses eight states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Keystone Pipeline Route Keystone was in the news in 2016 and 2017 because of the controversial XL (for "export limited") expansion. This supplementary pipeline, running ...

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