Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Half a dozen people have now recommended to me that I read Michael Pollan's bestseller The Omnivore's Dilemma. I have the book in my possession now and will report back after I've made some progress.

In the meantime, one might wonder what other reading material is to be found lying atop the kitchen table of a working farmhouse. The pile is ever changing – added to and subtracted from by passersby – but here's an accounting of the present stack:

- Rural Heritage magazine. This bi-monthly magazine is devoted to farming and logging with horses, mules, and oxen. Articles include discussion of farm equipment, multiple declarations of outrage against something called the National Animal Identification System (more on that later), and a thoughtful essay written in tribute to a dead horse that was apparently better than everyone else's horse. A sampling of Autumn 2007 headlines includes "Clydesdale Extravaganza," "The Misunderstood Slow Moving Vehicle Emblem," and "Rulemaking Gone Berserk."

- Lehman's catalog. This shopping catalog contains a wide assortment of specialty knickknacks and tools. Examples include: Lehman's Ice Cream Spade, Pocket Rotary Hair Trimmer, Handheld Weed Torch. I'm told by a regular Lehman's reader that the catalog is a good place to observe if a product actually exists. If it does, the wise shopper then seeks it out for a more reasonable price someplace else.

- Small Farmer's Journal. Another quarterly, but this one strikes me as more technical and probably more useful to an actual farmer than Rural Heritage. Headlines include "Chestnut Restoration," "French Gardening Part III" and "Maintaining Grassland Part II." Once again, there is an essay critical of the National Animal Identification System.

- Lancaster Farming. Whose smiling face can be seen in a big picture on the front page of this weekly newspaper? That's right, Michael Pollan's. And what was one of the first questions he was asked about in his interview? The National Animal Identification System.

So okay then, what is all the fuss about the NAIS? And why are some small farmers pledging open revolt if it goes through? See tomorrow's post for the exciting answer.