Chris Ramirez/New York Times
Chris Ramirez/New York Times

Keith Stewart is a writer despite himself. Even with the massive responsibilities and demands of his organic farm with it’s hundred or so varieties of produce, he has written regularly and wonderfully about the inside of farming and living a rural life, from numerous magazine articles to It’s a Long Road to a Tomato: Tales of an Organic Farmer Who Quit the Big City for the (Not So) Simple Life.

A couple of years ago, Keith embarked on summing-up the essentials he’d learned over decades of farming, having started from-scratch as an escapee from the city. It was a massive undertaking on top of the ever-changing, improvisational, exhausting, gratifying realities of farming. Storey’s Guide to Growing Organic Vegetables & Herbs for Market is the 500+ page result, a curiously compelling read for anyone with farm fantasies (realistic or not).

Reading Keith’s book, I find myself an avid armchair farmer, as much from happily learning about Seed Germination and Potable Water Tests as by the more general life principles scattered throughout the book (the hallmark of all of Keith’s writing),  like Surprise, Excesses of Youth, Competing Forces and Looking After Number One. The honest, methodical thinking behind Twenty Points to Ponder before becoming a farmer,  which include Deal Makers and Deal Breakers, could be applied to just about any business. I especially like Question Marks, which make for illuminating self-analysis. Here are a few:

Are you looking for a different life — or a different job? 

Are you a generalist or a specialist? Do you mind having lots of different things to do and often no enough time to get all of them done?

Are you an optimist or a realist? When you embark on a new undertaking, are you willing to entertain the worst-case scenario as well as the best?

Storey Guide to Growing Vegetables Keith Stewart

…Ketih has managed to write a bible, while handling the endlessly improvisational life of farming. Open it anywhere, and you’ll find something that makes you THINK.

—Sally Schneider

Related posts: keith stewart’s ‘it’s a long road to a tomato’ (farming = improvising)
radical shift: economist into farmer/forager
on tomatoes and improvising
alliums as alt-summer flowers
life change: photographer into farmer
manny howard’s empire of dirt

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2 replies on “keith stewart’s books on farming + 20 points to ponder

  1. I remember meeting Keith at a party in NY right before they moved to the country — it seemed such a foreign idea at the time. How things have changed since then! Thanks for the heads up on his new book!

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