The Accidental Farmers: An Urban Couple, a Rural Calling and a Dream of Farming in Harmony with Nature is Tim Young's tale of Nature's Harmony Farm, where he and his wife, Liz, raise pigs, cows, sheep, and scads of poultry. He chronicles the couple's journey from being suburban professionals with lives full of golf, concerts, and restaurants to homesteading livestock farmers who find endless entertainment in watching lambs frolic.
Young describes their journey with thoughtfulness, emotional honesty, and a sense of a good story. One might expect someone who gave up many trappings of success in order to live a life in tune with their principles to be preachy, but Young avoids this by presenting the couple's decisions and practices in all their complexity. As the couple seeks to farm "naturally," they come up against difficult decisions: do they provide farrowing huts for sows or allow them to build their own nests (or not, as the case may be), should they castrate male piglets being raised for meat to avoid boar taint, does the chicken flock need to be culled to avoid a vicious respiratory illness? At each juncture, Young takes the reader through their thought process – including disagreements between them – and the consequences of their tough decisions. The reader leaves with a new understanding of what goes into raising animals and keeping a farm running.
The couple has clearly come up against plenty of nay-sayers, and the narrative can take on a defensive, justifying tone at times, but Young comes up with some on-the-ground viewpoints that many theorists and policy-makers could take to heart: "Some people view our farming method as ultra modern, others view it as obsolete. I view it as sensible."
A deep commitment to the interconnected nature of the health of the soil, animals, people, and community, as well as the goal of creating a truly sustainable, zero-input farm defines the Youngs' decisions and the book. The smart explanations of how they came to farm the way they farm in The Accidental Farmers will appeal to anyone interested in making our food system healthier and more humane, not to mention all of those who quietly dream of a farming life.
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