19 May 2012

Weekend Cooking: Review: Farmers' Markets of the Heartland by Janine MacLachlan

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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
ISBN-13: 9780252078637
Rating: B
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


caite 5/19/12, 6:10 AM  

No New Jersey? But we are The Garden State! Well, I would still love it if just for the photos. ;-)

Carol @ Always Thyme to Cook 5/19/12, 6:28 AM  

I wish there were Farmer's Markets by me locally. Sounds like a very informative book and the recipes and photo's would be sure to catch my eye!

Patty 5/19/12, 6:37 AM  

Even here in tiny Belgium, the notion of famers' markets is well established. I'm always amazed at the variety of organic, locally harvested produce and the their superiority against the overwhelming mediocre quality in supermarkets!

Libby 5/19/12, 7:12 AM  

This is going to the top of my TBR stack! This is just the type of book I love :)

Happily, my 13yo daughter is becoming a farmer's market fan too. There is one every Tuesday at the bottom of our hill, and I let her go down by herself and bring back treasures!

Thanks for the review!

jama 5/19/12, 7:21 AM  

I love Farmer's Market season. This looks like a beautiful book. The stories about the farmers sound interesting :).

Alex 5/19/12, 7:27 AM  

I love farmer's markets and we have some wonderful ones here in NYC where you can buy locally grown produce. It makes such a difference to use fresh food in recipes. I will definitely be looking for this book.

Amanda 5/19/12, 8:39 AM  

This sounds lovely! I really miss farmer's markets.

Rikki 5/19/12, 8:57 AM  

We have markets like these everywhere so the concept is not new or even particularly exciting to me. I suppose we take those markets for granted, which we obviously should not.

bermudaonion 5/19/12, 9:48 AM  

I'd love to find a book like that for the south, because it sounds fascinating!

JoAnn 5/19/12, 10:21 AM  

I'm so glad it's Farmer's Market season again! It would be fun to spend some time looking through this book, too.

Cecelia 5/19/12, 12:02 PM  

Rosemary salt bread?! Sounds amazing. Very interesting concept for a book, too - I wouldn't have imagine this (though it's cool to know it's out there).

Joanna 5/19/12, 12:26 PM  

I love the Farmers' Market, but it's not easy to get to here (in middle Tennessee, where we have farmers all over!). My local one is only open on Saturday mornings from Memorial Day to Labor Day. A couple of years ago, I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which details her family's quest to eat local or self-grown food almost exclusively. Ever since, I've made an effort to buy local when I can.

Carole 5/19/12, 3:26 PM  

Hi there Beth, today I have put in a link for a very simple chicken casserole as well as a link to Food on Friday. This week the ingredient is beef - and we already have 46 lovely recipes there. Have a nice week. Thank you for hosting Weekend Cooking

Gilion at Rose City Reader 5/19/12, 4:12 PM  

We have amazing farmers' markets here in Portland, many that go year-round.

But since I am from Nebraska, I want to get this book!

Becky 5/19/12, 4:24 PM  

I'm excited this season as well! This sounds like a great book. Thanks for sharing this one.

Esme 5/19/12, 6:31 PM  

I so love going to Farmer's Market. This would be a fun book to have.

Col (Col Reads) 5/19/12, 6:34 PM  

Is Pennsylvania in there? Because I'm pretty sure it more Midwest than East -- at least our piece of it. :) This sounds like a really good summer/fall cookbook. Thanks for the review!

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 5/20/12, 2:39 AM  

I love Farmer's Markets... and here in the Midwest they are everywhere, even the tiny towns have them. An entire chapter on Chicago? I'm going to have to find a copy of this book.

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) 5/20/12, 10:13 AM  

Oh what a great book! We have some pretty rocking FM's in Atlanta and it would be a great way to travel, I think. Thanks for spotlighting this!

Fay 5/20/12, 2:11 PM  

The food photography in this book looks like it's worth checking out. I just added her blog to my reader.

Peppermint Ph.D. 5/20/12, 9:15 PM  

I've added this one to my Wishlist...and the one by Sophie Dahl that this author talks about on her most recent blog post!

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog 5/21/12, 4:42 PM  

oooh, i read a farmer's market cookbook recently and I loved it!! I wanted to stop by and let you know that I mentioned Weekend Cooking in my blog post about weekly memes today :)

Vasilly 5/23/12, 6:45 PM  

After reading your great review, how can I not add this to my tbr list? Thanks for bringing this book to everyone's attention.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity 5/24/12, 8:25 AM  

I keep meaning to check out our local Farmers Markets but I just keep forgetting. Because Scott's allergic to so much produce I really didn't keep much of it in the house until Elle was eating solids because I couldn't eat it fast enough. Even now I have to limit myself when I'm shopping because EVERYTHING looks great but I can't possibly eat it all. You certainly are lucky to live in an area with so much locally grown produce!

I've been meaning to check out CSA. My coworker was telling me yesterday about the boxes that he gets. Might be something that I could split with my mom or sister so there's no waste.

Allison 5/24/12, 10:23 AM  

I absolutely LOVE local food markets and homegrown resources. Ack! I will have to check out this book and ASAP. :) Thanks for the recommendation.

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