By: Arlo Crawford
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, LLC
Publication Date: April 2014
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 9, 2014
Arlo Crawford deserves absolute praise for his beautiful (and first-hand) account of the farming life in his memoir: A Farm Dies Once a Year.
At thirty-one, Arlo Crawford returns home to spend the summer with his mother and father on the farm where he grew up. New Morning Farm, a ninety-five acre stretch of land nestled among the comforts of the Appalachian ridges in south-central Pennsylvania is more than a place to visit. It is the home and stretch of land his parents purchased in the 70’s with a vision to transform it into a productive life not only for them, but an environment for Arlo and his sister Janie to thrive.
Crawford’s vision to leave the familiarity of his city life behind in Massachusetts and venture back to his roots was something he was passionate toward doing. After explaining to his partner, Sarah, the decision was more of a deep-rooted need rather than a whim; even though skeptical at first, she is supportive. Through the years, Crawford had gone back to the farm for holiday visits and other occasions; but they had been just that: visits. The desire to return and spend a season of rolling up his sleeves and immersing himself into the actual work—laborious at times, was something he needed to do. At the same time, he would gain a sense of appreciation toward what his parents had embraced as much as sacrificed once they had solidified their commitment to the land. When he arrives for his summer and upon his reorientation to farm life, Crawford peels the layers of the onions away one-by-one and steps into the life he knew growing up across the pages of A Farm Dies Once a Year.
Crawford guides the reader through the long hours and back breaking days in the fields picking while delivering a consistent and sublime message of the importance and, in a way, the healing he sought in order to get on with the rest of his life. He talks of the delicate balance between a profitable season and one that can easily derail given the myriad of infestations ranging from blight to bugs and droughts to flooding. On the flip side, however, Crawford provides the reader with an experience of the many market days he, the workers and his parents would spend and the constant flow of patrons all too willing to be on their receiving end. Crawford’s knowledge and first-hand experience of living the farm life exudes credibility throughout his memoir. He touches upon the business aspect of running a successful farm and complements the information with a few chapters devoted to the actual growing of vegetables. He delivers high level insights toward the technicalities involved in proper irrigation and what seems to be the constant cycle of farm equipment upkeep and maintenance.
Arlo Crawford has created an eloquent tone and sound voice to the many passages across the pages of A Farm Dies Once a Year. His writing ability demonstrates confidence and throughout his memoir there is a beautiful sense that he is a person filled with love for his parents. He has created a lasting homage of thanks and heartfelt gratitude to the people who brought him into this world. As a parent myself, this is truly a gift that any parent would welcome from their child.
Quill says: This is an intimate story filled with the importance of recognizing what truly matters most in life.