Gaining Ground by Forrest Pritchard 5 of 5 stars.
Upon discovering that months of backbreaking work and five freight cars’ worth of glittering corn have reaped his family’s farm a profit of $18.16, young Forrest Pritchard, fresh out of college, resolves to take matters into his own hands. What ensues–through a series of hilarious encounters with all manner of livestock and colorful local characters–is a crash course in sustainable agriculture. (Jacket copy)
Gaining Ground is an inspiring, insightful, and hilarious story about Forrest Pritchard’s journey to becoming a farmer. Coming home after studying Creative Writing at a high-brow private college, Pritchard can’t stand to see the state of his family’s farm. So instead of trying to hire another dead-end farm manager to grow corn for next-to-nothing on the beautiful acreage, he trades in his pen (temporarily, of course) for an ax and gets to work.
Pritchard goes from selling firewood to selling pastured meats out of the back of his pickup truck. From selling a couple dozen eggs at a farmers’ market to nearly selling out. His story of start-up and success is one of grit and determination and he graciously lets us see all of the twists and turns along the way. From colorful country characters to front-seat riding goats and killer pigs, Gaining Ground is as entertaining and vivid as it is inspiring.
One of the most interesting things Pritchard discusses is how he came to market selling and how he stuck with it. He’s blunt in describing the pros and cons of selling at farmers’ markets. It shows the market landscape from the point-of-view of an insider. The story of how he came to find what combination of markets and strategies would work with him was very interesting. Pritchard is obviously very hopeful about the future farmers’ markets have in America and paints a beautiful picture of what might be.
Gaining Ground is an exciting read, something that I believe would be entertaining to anyone–farmer or otherwise. However, for the farmer (especially the aspiring farmer), it truly has great worth as a detailed account of how someone made it work. For non-farmers, it’s a beautiful illustration of what the people who grow your food go through. What it really looks like. It shows how much these people are deserving of the “higher prices” that their locally-grown products often bring.