Life now couldn’t possibly be more opposite than the one Kristin Kimball was living ten years ago. She was in her early 30’s, a Harvard graduate enjoying the New York lifestyle, working for a literary agency, teaching creative writing and picking up freelance writing jobs.
About this time Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation was shedding light on some of the more shady corners of the food system and Kristin grew interested in who might be doing things right. She says in an interview on PBS, “I found there was all these really interesting young farmers who had graduated with fancy degrees, from good colleges, and could have done anything with their lives and had decided to go into farming.” She thought this could make an interesting story and set out to interview some of these growers which eventually led her to a small community sustainable agriculture (CSA) farm in Pennsylvania.
Here she fell in love. First, with farming. Second with the farmer. The Dirty Life is the story of how both unfold.
Kristin knows it must be love when she gives up her rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan to join the farmer, Mark, in the rehabilitation of a neglected 500-acre farm in Essex, New York. Their ambitious dream: to create a full diet CSA – the first of its kind, as far as they know. The book, broken down by the seasons of the first growing year, chronicles how they transformed the land, powered by draft horses none-the-less, into a self-supporting farm that offers grass-fed beef, pastured pork and chicken; eggs and milk; grains and flour; fruit, herbs and over 50 types of vegetables. They learn basic veterinary and slaughtering skills. They tap maple trees and boil down the syrup. They wage war on bindweed. They become part of the small community.
This is certainly not a romanticized story. It’s one of unbelievably hard work and dedication, both to the farm and the relationship.
The local food movement doesn’t get much more local, or sustainable. CSA members pick up each Friday afternoon year around and can take what, and as much as, they want. They are encouraged to freeze, can and preserve to extend the root cellar offerings of the winter. The handful of members they had that first year has now grown to over 225.
The Kimballs have brought the old-style family farm back – it’s now just for a really large family.