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Pastoral Song: A Farmer’s Journey by James Rebanks

Pastoral Song: A Farmer’s Journey is a memoir by James Rebanks about his life growing up on a traditional English farm. As a young child, he is taught many practical, important lessons mostly from his grandfather on how to farm and how to be a hardworking man.

Pastoral Song

The story takes a turn roughly when his grandfather passes away. The necessity to “modernize” the farm becomes more necessary but also more difficult. It is expensive to do things on a larger and larger scale and thus many farms must cut corners. The animals and soil become less well taken care of as the push for cheaper and cheaper food at supermarkets grows out of control.

It is this battle of keeping things on the farm running smoothly without degradation. It is a battle that is ongoing but one that Rebanks is still working towards after taking over the farm from his father.

I love the approach of Pastoral Song. Nostalgia and Utopia are both unattainable. But we can strive to do better. Farming and nature are and must be connected. Together we can grow crops and raise animals for food. But we need to know where our food comes from and not be obsessed with maximizing production at the cost of everything else.

“The applause of middle-class people who ‘care about the environment’ isn’t worth much when the bank manager says no.”

James Rebanks

A book about farming may not sound appealing to everyone. But I think Mr. Rebanks does an excellent job of story telling. His writing style is a perfect blend of good prose that gets to the point. He also knows how to rein in the preaching. He discusses Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and how devastating it is that “big agriculture” didn’t heed her advice properly. But he understands that we can’t have a utopia and instead should seek a pastoral.