The heart of our country
American Farmer: The Heart of Our Country is one of the few books I've encountered that couples truly outstanding, huge, pictures with essential reading. Photographer Paul Mobley traveled around our fine land for a couple of years, spending time with the farmers that grow our food and raise the meat we eat. Here they are, in their own words, sometimes describing the farming lifestyle, sometimes the actual work they do, and often how their family works together to have success at farming.
I was interested in the book when I saw the cover in a magazine. I ordered a copy when I saw the author on Martha Stewart with a few of the featured farmers. I was thinking I'd enjoy flipping through the pictures. But once I got started I became committed to reading all the essays (though I eventually gave up on reading every ranching essay.)
I couldn't put my finger on why this was such a compelling book to me until I read his afterword. In many cases, Paul stayed with the family for a day or two or three: eating with them, walking the land, and just visiting. He believes (and I believe he is right) that those conversations and time spent together improved the pictures. Now that I've been made aware (thanks Ms. Tabori!) of the efforts of Katrina Fried, author of the text, I'd say perhaps these trips also allowed her to capture a more personal style of essay from the farmers.
I've edited this review since its posting, at the site editor's request, to reflect that I now know what I didn't while reading: Katrina Fried interviewed, transcribed, and edited the conversations with the farmers so well it just sounds like they are talking directly to you.
Its really a wonderful book, and I suspect readers in Madison, who are already so committed to supporting local farming, will find it enthralling.