Gene Logsdon and Friends

“Holy Shit” Becomes A College Textbook

In Gene's Weekly Posts on January 8, 2014 at 9:14 am

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From GENE LOGSDON

If I am ever asked for highlights of my “career” I will answer unhesitatingly that one of them was how my book, Holy Shit, became a textbook in a university. The book was not used in an ag course, as one might expect, but for a course in anthropology and sociology. This is the sort of thing I have most wanted to see happen as a writer: recognition that food production is not just of prime concern to agriculture and farmers, but to social science and human culture as well. The intrepid professor involved is Dr. James William Jordan at Longwood University in Virginia. His course, Anthropology/Sociology 322, is titled “Sustainability: Prehistoric, Colonial, and Contemporary People On the Northern Neck of Virginia.” That’s him in the photo with his grandson, Jack, on his daughter and son-in-law’s farm, helping with the farm work. I shake your hand from afar, Jim Jordan, and bow to you.g1

I found out about him and his course from his son-in-law, Brent Wills, who visited us recently.  Dr. Jordan is at the moment teaching a course in archeology in England and I hope to interview him when he gets back. I asked him, through his daughter, Anna Wills (that’s her with the blacksnake in the other photo). “My students don’t need any more theories or hypothesis. They need more real life and that’s what Holy Shit is about.”

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That’s what Brent and Anna are all about too. They make a good example of the new kind of farm selling produce directly to consumers and to restaurants and selling home-produced meats and other products through its own CSA. Brent brought us some of his sausage and bologna and it is delicious. He and Anna have two small children, Jack and Marren, who are learning the ways of farm life, like dealing with blacksnakes. The family finds time (I don’t see how) to make and sell wild raspberry wine and artisanal breads. But I don’t need to describe their operation here. You can find it at http://www.bramblehollowfarm.com. On top of that, Brent is a practicing soil consultant with Brookside Labs.

When he visited, he regaled us with some great stories about their farming. In one of them, Anna captured a big blacksnake that was eating their turkey chicks. Brent was describing this to me in a rather matter-of-fact tone, as if everyone has a wife who is not afraid to wrestle snakes, and when I interrupted him with amazed exclamation points, he promised that Anna would send proof. She did, but I believed him anyway. A professor who has the brass to use “Holy Shit” as a textbook would surely be likely to have a daughter who can handle blacksnakes.

The Wills couple and Jim Jordan give me great hope as we skid and slide into a new year. Things are looking up, I tell you. Bramble Hollow Farm is one of many thousands getting established in the local food movement, with more on the way. We have reached the point in history when the front lines of farming are moving away from the big industrial operations despite their array of gigantic farm machinery and advanced genetic engineering (or because of it). The sons and daughters of the large scale farmers who shaped the age of Big Ag will become executives and foremen of huge agribusiness enterprises owned and controlled by the likes of Monsanto, Cargill, John Deere, Dow, etc. The new pioneer farmers will be the ones who are farming like the Wills family. I say that not to put down big corporate farmers who will probably go on growing “crops” for fuel and other mass market industrial products. But I have a huge hunch that the future in food production (and many other artful human enterprises) is moving toward more decentralization and localization. Wouldn’t it be something to live in an era when every town and village has its own honored food farmers as well as its own revered artists, artisans, musicians, writers, restaurateurs and educators? I think we may be closer to that already than we realize. My goodness, we may even reach a time so advanced that National Public Radio will allow its commentators to say holy shit on the air, at least when it is the title of a book.
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  1. Congratulations Gene! I’m happy too that your book was chosen as a source of learning in a formal place of education. I’m excited that Professor Jim Jordan would choose a book that is really interesting and full of anecdotes (I’m assuming here, based on your blog and another book written by you that I have read since I have yet to read this one) rather than some dry textbook full of fact that may or may not be true.
    I’m also happy that you showed a little of Dr. Jordan’s real life, “getting his hands dirty” to back up his comittment to “real life” farming and community wellness.
    Farming should be a personal thing and a social one.
    We need more teachers like Dr. Jordan. They bring common sense and fun back to a job that is full of hard work and tender moments.

  2. Given that noted scientists predict that current known phosphorus reserves will be depleted by 2050 and other “experts” predict human population will be higher by 2050 than ever before in history and natural gas , which is currently used for making synthetic fertilizer, will also probably be much sought after for energy, including fuel to keep commerce moving, the only ways I can see to keep a productive agriculture into the next generations is to follow what is suggested in your :”Holy Shit” book and the other books you’ve written through your very productive long-term literary endeavors.

    My copy of your :”Practical Skills” homesteading book is becoming very dilapidated by now and your long ago articles in the old small format :”Organic Gardening and Farming” collection I had, ( which I perused religiously) have long since unfortunately turned to compost or ashes or been recycled. (That newsprint paper just didn’t last). Nevertheless, it seems the information contained in your writings is essentially timeless.

    Therefore, I’m asking if it’s possible to have your writings collectivized and reprinted, or at least accessible on the web, so my grandchildren can benefit therefrom. Why should a select few college students be the sole beneficiaries of your collected and well-earned wisdom? If that feat could be performed, I’m sure rejoicing would be widespread. I’m reminded of the texts in the Bible describing events wherein the descendants of the people of Moses rejoiced when they re-discovered the old scripture texts that gave them guidance as to how they should live. I’m not placing your writing on the same level as scripture, but still… I’ve lived a much better life than I otherwise would have because of what you’ve shared through your writings through at least the last fifty years. Thank you Gene.

  3. “Wouldn’t it be something to live in an era when every town and village has its own honored food farmers as well as its own revered artists, artisans, musicians, writers, restaurateurs and educators?”

    I like this dream a lot, Gene. It makes me giddy to think of it.

    the life of the hand/the life of the mind as status quo…on center stage in every town and village…the lamb lying down with the lion at last…

    giddy i say

  4. I have not read that book yet but it is on my list. I am glad you now can say you authored a text book! Only if the land grant colleges of Agriculture would follow suite. We can only hope and dream.

    I think I will suggest that the next time I get a chance at a Purdue Ag outing. Wouldn’t that be a hoot for a freshman Ag course!

    Congratulations Gene.

  5. Holy Moses!!! This is happy news. I’m looking forward to the interview!

  6. Bet academia didn’t know what hit them! :) What a testimony to the kind of life you have led. James put it perfectly when he said, “I’ve lived a much better life than I otherwise would have because of what you’ve shared through your writings through at least the last fifty years. Thank you Gene.” Yes,… We all thank you. Congratulations!

  7. Congratulations, Gene. Your book led Mr to say Holy whit from the pulpit. Come on, NPR.

  8. I would not want to rely too heavily on the internet to archive the priceless–and timeless–wit and wisdom contained in the writings of Gene Logsdon; the internet may disappear along with much else of the current crop of gotta-have technology one day. Better would be for each of us who are devotees of those writings to invest in copies of his books to pass on to our own family members and use them as gifts for our friends and neighbors in lieu of less useful trinkets and gadgets.

  9. Gene, four books have awkened this topic, so it’s always on my mind. Your ” Holy Shit” is the one most recently written. Sir Albert Howards’ ” An Agricultural Testament “, ” The Soil and Health ” and Kings’ ” Farmers of Forty Centuries ” should a be included in college curriculums universally.

    Unfortunately, our collective phobia of ” that stuff ” has even affected the good senses of persons who ought to know better. I recently saw a bagged compost company , an OMRI approved one even, that used the trademarked phrase for marketing purposes ” Poo Free “. What a shame. We are wasting our ever dwindling supplies of plant nutrients, while ignoring a legitimate way to deal with wastes, and use fewer resources. Kudos to you and your book, and shame on us all.

  10. This is out of sequence and goes back to pigweed. Monsanto is upping the stakes and trying to develop better pesticides for pig weed. Some where I came across the idea that Amaranth (pig weed) were the seeds used by the Aztecs to make a biscuit that the priests ate along with the blood and heart of the person sacrificed. The Catholic church didn’t like the idea of competition with their own communion so outlawed the growing of pig weed. I wonder what the religious affiliation is of the Monsanto CEOs ?

  11. I’m not surprised a college in Virginia would have Holy Shit in its classes,here in Virginia there are still many of us old farmers/homesteaders that never really changed our minds or ways of doing things and the good part is there is also a huge influx of younger folks joining and leading the way with the organic and eat locally movement.We even have a group VICFA (VA Independent Consumers and Farmers Association) that does all sorts of good things and note that Consumers in the title means just that as the good news is consumers are getting into the act.And I suspect that you and your books have been the topic of conversation at VA State University more than a few times even if they don’t offer a class.
    Your books offer insight into why farming is (or should be) much much more than just producing food and will be read long after both of us are long gone.

    • Gary, a couple of years ago VA State made me a generous offer to come and give a talk. Unfortunately because of health and old age I couldn’t accept. Gene

  12. Holy Shit! A text book! Now there’s an idea. Wonder if I can work it into any programme I might teach on. I shall have to think about that.

  13. Congratulations!

  14. What happened to the snake?

    • Constant Gardener, it was dissected to scientically determine that blacksnakes really can swallow turkey poults. I hope to write more about the Wills operation in the future. Gene

  15. So glad to hear that your book, and quite rightly, has been adopted as a textbook. I loved it– it made me laugh, and at the same time, I learned a lot. I’ll bet the kids are going to love it, too. I wish it could be required reading in all the schools. It should be.

  16. Gene,

    This isn’t about shit, but its liquid component, pee. Thought you might be interested in this one.

    http://www.wired.com/design/2014/01/stool-built-sand-bacteria-urine

    And here’s another on making leather out of chicken feathers: http://www.fastcoexist.com/3023593/green-chemists-use-rocket-science-and-chicken-feathers-to-create-cow-less-leather

  17. If I’d had textbooks like that in school when I was in college, maybe I wouldn’t have been so doggone bored! Great news, Gene!

  18. Dr. Jordan is the most amazing and intelligent professors! He gives his students real world examples and experiences that stay with his students for the rest of their lives. I am one of his students and am a 1993 Longwood graduate and I will purchase this book and read it along with the anthropology students.

  19. Gene, after reading your book, I convinced my human servant to use dirt in my litter box and he has been emptying it in the garden. My two sisters and I have been adding fertilizer each day and he has been putting it in a couple beds in the garden. This year, he plans to plant buckwheat and wild flowers in those beds for the bees. He is still a bit afraid of eating my shit.

    Fluffy

    PS: My servant says congratulations on your success. May you have many more.

    • Fluffy: Our Fluffy disappeared about a month ago, honest. Are you our Fluffy checking in to let us know you are safe and sound and now have the luxury of a litter box when all I provided was the barn floor? Is that why you left? I promise you a litter box if you come home. Gene

      • Gene,

        Sorry to hear your Fluffy disappeared. I’ve been here for 18 years.

        Fluffy

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