Sunday, January 9, 2011

"My Empire of Dirt" (duplicate post)

Today I finished one of my Christmas books, from Amanda's parents, "My Empire of Dirt" by Manny Howard. If you recall, it was this past summer when I blogged about seeing his book review on the Colbert Report. While, of course, some of you don't think it advisable to take book recommendations from the great Colbert, this one in particular interested me for a few reasons.

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Manny Howard
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1) Manny Howard tried to raise his own food in Brooklyn, New York. As a person involved in agriculture, I wanted to see what his experiences turned out like; his interview indicated that they were diverse, expensive and challenging.

2) Manny talked in his interview about how underpaid farmers truly are. While I'm sure there is a journalist's exaggeration stored up in there as well, he had a point that I wish more people understood. Farmers are subsidized so that the public doesn't have to pay as much for their food as they should have to, and people today just don't realize how much that is. People go on and on about subsidies and how they are protecting farmers, but the truth is that these same subsidies protect the people as much or more than they protect the farmers. And in this current market, food prices will go up; be prepared for it.

3) In his interview, he exhibited a unique sense of humor that I imagined would be equally entertaining in his book.

So let me tell you about my thoughts on this book after reading it...

Manny Howard is as easily distracted in his book as he is on camera. The very definition of ADD, this book is not good for someone who has trouble keeping track of weaving plot lines or conversational asides. If I could do one thing for this book, I would at least keep it strictly chronological in the real-life recounting of his activities on the farm. His division by topics is good but I like to see the whole-picture of timing as well and sometimes that falls by the wayside. His book is also laced with a bit of foul language, but frankly that doesn't bother me because in today's cultural context, it just goes to accurately show the extremity of emotional experiences he and his counterparts went through during his farming experiment.

Slight criticisms aside, I loved this book. It is fun to read a book and almost watch a man go through the same harsh learning experiences and realities that many inexperienced urbanites (myself included at one time) go through during an introduction to agrarian lifestyle. His opinion on locavorism is also refreshing and realistic. Not only that but he does a really good job of jumping right into the necessary mentality and struggling through his labor, approaching even the repulsive tasks of slaughter and manure management as requirements for a true agricultural experience. The fact that all of this happens in Brooklyn makes the story that much more hilarious and I enjoyed his inclusions of funny asides related to this as well. This book was a great and easy read.

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