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It's that wonderful time of the year . . . and I don't mean Christmas. For me, the best season is when the farmers' markets are open. I am blessed to live in an area in which I can shop at a different local farmers' market at least four times a week. From May to early November, I buy everything but orange juice from a local producer.
I'm not alone in my love of the family farm. Janine MacLachlan is "a self-described farm groupie," and her new book, Farmers' Markets of the Heartland, is a celebration of locally produced American bounty. The book can be enjoyed on several levels, but for me, the primary features are the stories of the farmers and their land and the informative sidebars, which cover a variety of issues about our food and food supply.
MacLachlan focuses on eight Midwestern states (and gives Chicago its own chapter). For each state, she provides descriptions of specific markets, including the type of information you would expect: number of vendors, location, and operation times. What makes the book unique, though, are the profiles of the vendors. Through their stories, MacLachlan paints a vivid and fascinating portrait of the modern family farm that moves beyond the barnyard to history, government, science, and philosophy. In Ohio, for example, we meed Deanna and David McMaken of Rose Ridge Farm, who are fifth-generation farmers, living on land that has been in their family since the early 1820s. As they talk about their farm, we learn about the Homestead Act, early land surveying, small-farm cattle breeding, and the woes of living in a house built by their great-great-grandfather.
Tucked between the market data, you'll find a treasure trove of facts such as the Greenfield Agrarian Book Club reading list and "A Day in the Life of a Market Manager." But being a farmer today is not always easy, and Farmers' Markets of the Heartland takes time to examine more serious issues, such as conservation, the rapid loss of farmland to development, preserving biodiversity, CSAs, and the future of the small farm.
There is much to love about this book, even if you don't live in the Midwest or even in America. Farmers' Markets of the Heartland will appeal to anyone who has interest in fresh, locally produced food. It's a book that you won't necessarily read from cover to cover in one sitting. Instead, you'll dip into it, reading a profile or two or perhaps turning to the feature on artisan cheeses.
Of course, if you live in the American Midwest or are planning a trip, you can use the book as your guide to finding great eats. In addition, you'll want to spend an hour or two just looking at the beautiful photographs. Finally, even though this is not a cookbook, MacLachlan includes a handful of yummy recipes; there's a rosemary salt bread that's calling my name.
For those of you who are looking for recipes based on farmers' market produce, visit Janine MacLachlan's website The Rustic Kitchen.
Buy Farmers' Markets of the Heartland at an Indie, at Powell's, at Book Depository, or at bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs
Published by University of Illinois Press, 2012
Source: Review (see review policy)
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