The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love (Hardcover)
Summer '11 Reading Group List
“Kristin was very much a city girl until a writing assignment brought her to Mark's small plot of land, where he was growing food to
feed many families. It was love at first sight, at least for the farming. Falling for Mark didn't take too much time after that. The resulting CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)is a new model in which members can be completely supported by the produce, meat, eggs, and cheese they can pick up weekly, year round. This is a fascinating story of what love of the land and the desire to feed people can do for individuals and communities, and the potential impact that could have on a global scale.”
— Jackie Blem, Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, CO
"This book is the story of the two love affairs that interrupted the trajectory of my life: one with farming—that dirty, concupiscent art—and the other with a complicated and exasperating farmer."
Single, thirtysomething, working as a writer in New York City, Kristin Kimball was living life as an adventure. But she was beginning to feel a sense of longing for a family and for home. When she interviewed a dynamic young farmer, her world changed. Kristin knew nothing about growing vegetables, let alone raising pigs and cattle and driving horses. But on an impulse, smitten, if not yet in love, she shed her city self and moved to five hundred acres near Lake Champlain to start a new farm with him. The Dirty Life is the captivating chronicle of their first year on Essex Farm, from the cold North Country winter through the following harvest season—complete with their wedding in the loft of the barn.
Kimball and her husband had a plan: to grow everything needed to feed a community. It was an ambitious idea, a bit romantic, and it worked. Every Friday evening, all year round, a hundred people travel to Essex Farm to pick up their weekly share of the "whole diet"—beef, pork, chicken, milk, eggs, maple syrup, grains, flours, dried beans, herbs, fruits, and forty different vegetables—produced by the farm. The work is done by draft horses instead of tractors, and the fertility comes from compost. Kimball’s vivid descriptions of landscape, food, cooking—and marriage—are irresistible.
"As much as you transform the land by farming," she writes, "farming transforms you." In her old life, Kimball would stay out until four a.m., wear heels, and carry a handbag. Now she wakes up at four, wears Carhartts, and carries a pocket knife. At Essex Farm, she discovers the wrenching pleasures of physical work, learns that good food is at the center of a good life, falls deeply in love, and finally finds the engagement and commitment she craved in the form of a man, a small town, and a beautiful piece of land
About the Author
Kristin Kimball is a farmer and a writer living in northern New York. Prior to farming, Kimball worked as a freelance writer, writing teacher, and as an assistant to a literary agent in New York City. A graduate of Harvard University and the author of The Dirty Life and Good Husbandry, she and her husband Mark have run Essex Farm since 2003, where they live with their two daughters.
“The Dirty Life is a delightful, tumultuous, and tender story of the author's love affair with the man who becomes her husband and the farm they work together to restore. With wisdom and humor, Kristin Kimball describes how she abandoned her career in New York City, leaving behind everything she thought was important for a hard, distinctly unglamorous existence that turns out to be the most fulfilling thing she’s ever done.”
—JEANNETTE WALLS, author of Half Broke Horses and The Glass Castle
“The Dirty Life is a wonderfully told tale of one of the most interesting farms in the country. If you want to understand the heart and soul of the new/old movement towards local food, this is the book you need. It's the voice of what comes next in this land, of the generation unleashed by Wendell Berry to do something really grand.”
—Bill McKibben, author Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
"In her beguiling memoir, Kimball describes the complex truth about the simple life in prose that is observant and lyrical, yet tempered by a farmer’s lack of sentimentality."
"Kimball is a graceful, luminous writer with an eye for detail... How lucky we are to be able to step into that world with no sweat. I wished for a hundred pages more."
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
"As Kimball chronicles that first year in supple prose, the farm takes on vivid form, with the frustrations balancing the satisfactions and the dark complementing the light. Throughout the book, the author ably describes the various trials and tribulations involved... A hearty, chromatic account of a meaningful accomplishment in farming."
"Kimball writes in vivid but unsentimental language, equal parts dirt and poetry."
—Burlington Free Press