Solicited and Compiled by Beth and Ed Greenwood
Me and Gene have had conversations about his strain of corn that has long ears. I got a collection of old farm journals and one which Gene said touched him was his first article he sold to Farm Journal beginning his career. I finally got to meet Gene at a small farm conference close to Indianapolis in. Though I missed his writers class he taught at in Greenfield, In. While I was a great fan of Louis Bromfield and visited his Malabar farm twice and even named my farm in reference to one of his stories, Gene’s people and stories were and are real unless he says otherwise. That made Gene’s writing even more valuable to me as a farmer both in my younger days farming and working for farmers, and now as a 54 year old trying to get started again on my small farm in failing health both trying to help my folks and take care of them and get my small farm going starting almost from scratch. Gene’s writing has given me a direction and a sense of knowing that the way I want to go on my farm is really my way and not something I read in some farm magazine that was pushing someone’s dream of agriculture that made everybody but me rich! Not that I am a money grubber. Gene’s articles have kept me on track through the years and have been my college education that no college could give me. Gene has done something that no big agribiz mag could do or at times he’s done it through them, and that is to let me know that there is and can be more than one game in town and though the rewards may not be as big financially, they are still huge in things you can’t put a dollar sign on. Gene’s book, “Living At Natures Pace” and the chapter on Traditional Farming every bit as good and in my humble opinion better than Louis Bromfield’s chapter in one of his books on ponds. – Tim S. Henslee, My Thirty Acres.
I’ve been reading Gene’s work for at nearly 40 years. Every time I read the blog or pick up one of his books or read an article by him, I am reminded of why I left the city for 42 challenging acres in Appalachian Ohio. Gene captures in words all the feelings and thoughts that grow from living in a natural place and working with livestock, crops, and orchards. I’ve been honored to meet Gene and Carol at their farm and treasure the memory of the visit and of lunching with him at an OEFFA meeting. Gene is to us farmers what Elvis was to music lovers. Rock on, Mr. Logsdon! – Deb Schneider
Gene has given me hope over the years of reading his books, attending OEFFA conventions, seminars, visits to his farm, and letters. Hope can get in short supply when you’re bucking the Farm Bureau, GMO producers, CAFO’s, and government agriculture agencies. You think you’re beating your head against the wall and shouting against the wind. Then, Gene shows up with mismatched rubber boots, 2 different gloves, and says to keep fighting for what common sense tells you is right. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t and simplify. Listening to Gene, Wendell Berry, and Wes Jackson at Xavier a couple years ago was better than a Beatles concert. The world is a much better place for having Gene and Carol in it. – Deb Wingert
Although I have never met either Gene or Carol Logsdon, I feel I know them both – Gene through his writings, and Carol from what he says about her. Since I didn’t grow up in a farming family, I’ve had to learn through reading and making mistakes (which means I learned a heck of a lot from my many failures!). Like Gene, I am contrary and stubborn, traits that are often called by other names when they appear in the female of the species. No matter how frustrated I got, Gene was there with tried and true ideas, or thoughtful speculations about something that puzzled me. Gene’s books fed my quest for knowledge, and his comments about Carol’s place in the scheme of things reinforced my sense of marriage as a partnership. Gene’s books are the sort I reread regularly, and each time I glean a new insight, idea or technique. Long may the contrary farmer continue to provide us with entertainment and wisdom. – Beth Greenwood
I’ll be 62 this year. I started learning from Gene way back when I was a kid, not long after I learned to read, which helped me contribute to the family in the form of improved vegetable, fruit and livestock production. In turn I’ve been privileged to teach my now grown children the garden farming concepts, yet I still practice the lifestyle daily in spite of infirmities. I am also privileged to occasionally share with students in both High Schools and Colleges and conferences the concepts of small-scale sustainable agriculture (aka garden farming). When I sit down to a meal of home grown goodness shared with others, I thank both the Lord and at the least send good thoughts in the direction of Gene.
Hopefully, he senses such positive energy.
My most heartfelt tribute results from when a couple of wonderful ladies from the Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya heard my presentation on Garden Farming and how to do so with minimal health risks to both producers and consumers. They then (over lunch) invited me to spend some time in their country teaching and leading by example the sustainable garden farming concepts. I’m still hopeful of that concept becoming a reality.
Thanks Gene for your major role in blessing my life and through my humble efforts at passing on the information I learned from you the lives of many others. – James M. Thomas
It is indeed a pleasure to write something to celebrate what Gene’s writings means to me.
I have come to Gene’s writing late, but it has been a joy to read his writing, done with such warmth, humour and realism. There is no sugar coating the hard work required in farming in his writings, but there is a great recognition of the balance of nature, coupled with the realisation that there is no one way of doing something. He offers his experience as a part of the larger body of knowledge, gleaned from his years of working the land and listening to others. I love the way that he is open minded enough to consider the options and not so set in his ways he is not able to appreciate the experience of others, even now.
I spend many hours reading through academic materials for my PhD studies, which encompasses rural issues and so the light relief of reading such honest writing each week, set at the very heart of agriculture is nourishment for the soul. It reminds me of the point of what I am trying to do, of helping developers and academics alike to acknowledge the wisdom of those who work the land and to take their views seriously. My heart is to see farmers, academics, developers and other rural inhabitants sit down at the table and work things out together for the betterment of rural life now and into the future. Gene’s writings encourage me to keep on with this work. – Joanna Storie
Wow! Where do you even start when you talk about the impact Gene Logsdon has had on your life… I’m going to give it a try… but understand Gene, my words can’t possibly convey the love I feel for you in my heart.
You just intuitively understand and almost unconsciously demonstrate and write about a lot of things that many of the rest of us take a lifetime to learn. There is a spot in my house where I keep the signed copies of your books lovingly referred to as the “Logsdon Library.” Every one of those books is worn and dog eared.
If it weren’t for you I wouldn’t have 30 chickens, two big gardens and a collection of Michael Perry books. And in this crazy world of computers I’ve even used variations of your name and books so I wouldn’t forget all thosefrigginpasswords. And even Gene Everlasting came along when I needed it most.
You’ve taught me about the incredible mystery behind the process of gardening and I love your spirit of awe, wonder and constant learning. Is it any surprise I have such a special place in my heart for you. Thanks for turning your farm into a classroom and sharing the lessons you’ve learned with all of us. The harvests will go on forever.
From the bottom of my heart – Jeannie
I was fortunate to live in a small town, for which Mr. Logsdon has written for the weekly paper since I can remember. He was a favorite of my parents since he tended to offend the modern agribusinessmen. Sometimes people wrote in to threaten to cancel their subscriptions, and the editor of the paper stood by Gene. Gene usually gave people something to think about. Like I said, I was fortunate. – Brad Roof
Despite your self-titled name of being the ‘Contrary Farmer’ I find that you are anything but. You look at the world around you with critical eyes and a sharp mind, you do not take what is perceived by others to be ‘gospel’ and so question what the truth really is and then you put your thoughts and comments down on paper in a wonderfully eloquent and, usually, witty manner. It is such a blessing to the rest of us who read your blog and books that you have chosen the topic of homestead, lifestyle or small farming (call it what you will) as your theme. As such you have been a constant source of information, humour and keen observation to us regardless of whether or not we have been in the game for many years, just started on the journey or merely thinking of going down that path; I thank you so much and wish you and Carol many, many more happy years ‘in the saddle’. It has been a honour to follow your exploits, adventures and day to day life and I hope to do so for a long time to come. God bless. – John Finlayson (ex NZ and now retired in Tropical North Queensland, Australia).
It seems like destiny to have read some of Gene’s earlier books and then to have the great honor to get to know him and Carol over these past years. Reading Gene’s books are like sitting down across the kitchen table to chat. Gene’s writing is story-telling that teaches without one even realizing it! Sometimes, living the life of a market gardener, we don’t socialize a lot. To find a writer (and friend!) whom we can relate to so deeply, fills a void in our lives. I can’t think of one single thing that Gene has said or done that stands out … his entire philosophy simply helps give us validation in how we live our lives. Thank you Gene! — Jan & Andy
I just read Gene’s latest on wildlife unexpectedly showing up and it struck me why I value his comments so much. He has Perspective. So many people get all worked up and shriek about the world ending and meanwhile, nature keeps coming ’round each spring, and creatures keep poking around into ecological niches that they didn’t fit before. Surely there are things to worry about, but he has the gift of sitting back, making an amused observation and suddenly our rushing about with worries about this, that and the other looks frenetic and maybe a bit foolish (not that he would call us fools). When I read Gene’s column, I feel just as I do when I read Robert Frost at his best: a bit amused, a bit sad and most importantly-refreshed-as though I had just had a long draught of cold well water from the garden faucet on a hot July afternoon. – Chris Nerland
I am so thankful for this opportunity to tell you how you have been an inspiration, influence, and example of what is possible in homesteading. From my earliest memory of what I wanted to do with my life, it was farming. I suppose that comes from spending my summers on my Grandmother’s farm in Arkansas. If my mother had been born a son and if I had been born a grandson, I suppose that dream would have become true. (My uncles farmed and now my cousins still farm in northeastern Arkansas.) But I can now say that I am glad that dream did not come true, and you’ll see why in a bit.
Farming being out of the question for my gender and time, I became a nurse. I worked, raised a family, lived the ups and downs of my life, and buried a good man. All the while, I collected and read your books and, of course, the books of many others who wrote of farming, of homesteading, and who published good nature writing. In my collection, your books far outweigh all the others, and I have what I call the “Encyclopedia of Logsdon” set. I’ve read and refer back to every volume except, “Holy Shit,” which I have and will get to. Having been a nurse, I guess I’m still just a little tired of shit. But I read, avidly gardened, and dreamed of being a farmer.
I spent the last few years of my work life living alone. I don’t know if it was advancing years (50s at the time), “contrariness,” which I’ve always had in common with you and was the hook for me in your writing, or sheer desperation, but I began to farm–right where I was on 1/4 acre in suburbia. I grew hedges around my backyard to hide my nefarious activity. I started with a garden, then a bee hive and hell why not 4 beehives, and OK what about some damn chickens? Having no real experience, I just consulted my “Logsdon encyclopedias.”
I eventually outgrew that 1/4 acre and moved to the country on 12 little acres of paradise. A big garden, more beehives, chickens and goats all made it possible for me to retire early. I may be poor, but I can sure as hell feed and entertain myself! So, even on this little 12 acres, I am at long last a farmer! But I am much more–a homesteader farmer–intimately involved with the land, and part of it–not a slave farmer as my cousins are, out of touch with the land. That is the reason that I can say I’m now glad that I did not carry on the family tradition of conventional farming.
Our shared contrariness extends into not having to know there is a god/goddess to know we are part of the natural world and of the universe and will return to it one day as “Buzzard bait.” (My ultimate dream would be to die here on my little farm, just keel, over, and have the buzzards dispose of and incorporate me back into the natural world before anyone else found me.) So yes, “God is a pure red iris” speaks to me too.
I could go on, but I’ll quit. Thank you – Betty
If I were to quote my favorite Gene Logsdon lines, we’d be here a while. Whether the subject is pigs, poop, or petunias, Gene writes with the twinkling crustiness of Mark Twain in barn boots. I only hope someday I will grow up and be more like him. May we also take a good long moment to salute Gene’s wife Carole, who will tell you sometimes genius still needs to pick up its dirty socks. – Michael Perry
Gene’s is a much needed voice, not only for those of us who are interested in a less cumbersome lifestyle, but also for those who may never have contemplated living more simply. Always inquisitive and innovative, he continues to be thought-provoking in what he gives his readers. We here on the home ground are grateful for his knowledge, wisdom, and especially, his friendship, throughout all the years. Thanks, Gene – Berny and Brad.
Three years ago while I was looking for alternative viewpoints to “Better farming through modern Chemistry”; I stumbled upon references to a fellow by the name of Gene Logsdon. I had never heard of him so I thought I would see what his writing was all about. I started with “The Contrary Farmer” and then “You can come home again: Adventures of a Contrary Life”. Reading those two books was like giving Whiskey to an alcoholic. You just have to have more of it. Since then I have read most everything Gene has written in book form. The wit and wisdom pours out of the pages like water. Even though we have never met I feel I know this man who struggled with religion, the treadmill of working for someone else, and the insanity of “get big or get out” modern farming. What I enjoy most of Gene’s writing and blog is his love and devotion to family and friends. When Gene’s writes of his wife Carol you can just feel his love for her. I look forward to every book and word you write Mr. Logsdon. – Kenneth Lynn
Dear brother Gene,
Just knowing you are close by- over there across the fields- feels like a gift. We greet the same mornings and evenings. We take note of the same weather to order our days, keep the same watchful eye on our acres underfoot and overhead. You have taught me so much about our work loving our land, and I thank you. – Love, Sister Jenny
I think the genius from Gene’s writings and what I got from them wasn’t just the information it was the inspiration they contained. Remember when he started to write the small farm type books he was one of the few voices in the wilderness along with J I Rodale, Charles Walters and a few others. I think history will say Gene and these fellows are great men that started a huge movement that is just now really gaining a full head of steam. All I can say is thanks! — Gary Burnett
When I’m driving around in endless circles annoyed with landlords and competing farmers and thinking this is not what farming should be, I think of Gene. Gene is the sort of farmer and writer who I’d like to be. Gene talks about poop but my problem is I’m full of poop! — Budd E. Shepherd
At first, I thought it would be difficult to do justice to Uncle Gene’s influence in only a few sentences — and in some of the more nuanced, personal ways, that will always hold true — but when I look around our house and homestead, I begin to realize it is not difficult at all. His imprint — intellectually, philosophically, and practically — is ubiquitous:
The garden right outside this window, fortified with deep litter from the chicken coop (pitched with the *correct* fork); the shed, anchored to two old hickories in what his son once told me was classic Gene fashion (“There’s the right way, and there’s Gene’s way…”); the old softball bats and gloves in the garage, the smoker out back; the food on our table — raised and grown and sourced, to the best of our utility, at nature’s pace; the books on our shelves, even the Bourbon in our cupboard.
Gene’s section of the old family woodlot is but ten feet from my living room window. So, yes — what I see out there, amongst the stacks, all around, and sometimes when I least expect it, within — are the innumerable ways my life is inspired by, and aspires to, his. — Nick Barnes, Upper Sandusky
Gene, I started following your posts on the blog because I had already read and appreciated a couple of your books, but I think I’ve enjoyed your writing on the blog most of all. The varied topics, fleshing out the whole life of your particular place and its relation to the world around us… it’s full of hope (but not the cheap, empty kind) and comfort. Maybe it’s just because it’s freshest in my memory, but I especially enjoyed your “muddled” post. You and your writing beautifully exemplifies something really noble. — Thank you, Eric
The Watcher in the Wry
Ode to Gene Logsdon
waiting and wondering why waters so wander
while searching for simile. Seeking solace from squander
of nature’s mysteries
through natural histories.
Wistful remembrance recognizing resemblance
of industrial ag’s
Quarterly reports and Big Money Corps(e).
GMOs (Gene`tickley modified observations) of the present
revealing both dangerous and inherently pleasant
natures of that which we oft overlook,
our heads held too high to look down and see
a world at our feet wherever we may be,
till themed revelations become a book.
Hitching wagons to stars
**Let wit serve the truth**
The wisdom of age the passion of youth
I’ve been to the mountain and seen
Wes, Wendell and Gene
laugh and sass and evoke the dream
of a land that brings health to body and spirit.
Let all who can, hear it!
And let these three abide – Jackson, Logsdon and Berry.
But only one is the most Contrary.
And one final thought before our ways part
It is good to be Gene!
Life is more than serene.
Every day is Christmas with a Carol in your heart.
– Russ Miller
Who ran off with my …?
by Eugene H. Logsdon
[Gene’s first published article…
Farm Journal May 1964
Thanks to Tim Henslee]
I once kept track of the time my father, brother and I spent hunting grease guns, drawbar pins, jacks and wrenches. The total: I won’t tell you, because you’d never believe it. And I’m not even counting 7 woman-hours of help by Mother and various sisters; 3 hours by the gas man and two salesmen who helped hunt a funnel, a checkbook, and a fan belt; the vet, another half hour hunting a rope.
Dad generally starts the hunt.
“Who ran off with my ……?”
“It didn’t walk off, you know.”
“I’m going to buy a lock and…”
There you have the symptoms of “who-took-itis” or “pliers-dropsy” or “wrench-amnesia” an inherited disease of males passed on from father to son with no symptoms on the female side.
No man ever believes he has it. My father will come striding across the barnyard, his face drawn. “Someone,” he says solemnly, “stole the hitch off the mounted mower.” We search. Dad says he left it along the road where many people must have seen it. The Stolen Theory begins to sound plausible. We return to the shop for a council of war.
Shall we or shall we not call the sheriff? My brother remembers the dogs barking through the night. One of the girls thinks she saw a car parked down there, or at least going “awful slow.” The bread man says there’ve been robberies on the other side of the county. We wonder how a thief could get the blasted thing unbolted, especially at night, but we say nothing. We’ve found a villain. So we buy a new attachment. Weeks later when the “stolen” one is found, we agree it’s good to have a spare.
Over the years we’ve tried cures. Dad once came home from town with half a dozen hammers. We stumbled over them in the barnyard, kicked them out of the way to get doors close. No tractor seat or shop chair was safe to sit down on. It was a gloriously secure feeling. But by the end of a month, we were down to two. For awhile Mom had a tack hammer in her sewing box that went by the name of “Momshammer” and was used in emergency hammer shortages. Until, in one such emergency, Dad tried driving spikes with it.
During the boom days of the 40’s, we expanded to five farms several miles apart, with several tractor outfits and sundry part-time help.
We lost wrenches, sure. We lost needle valves, spark plug wrenches and V-belts. We even lost track of a four-row cultivator and two 16-foot harrows!
We couldn’t fritter away time on tools and equipment. There was always another 50 acres to plant or harvest, lurking somewhere over the next hill. Harrows dragged hastily into a woods at the end of spring planting, passed out of memory by wheat sowing time in the fall.
Once I tried to put 20 feet of electric fence — that I’d left strung along the edge of the wheat — through the combine. I shifted the fence over into the adjoining cornfield, and sure enough, Dad tried to run it through the corn picker in the fall.
There came a day when we all resolved to do better. No more tool dropping. No more litter. We even tackled the spot back of the barn where junk multiplies like bacteria. We tore down all old buildings, so that we could mow the whole farmstead clean.
It was beautiful.
But for only a week. Someone dropped a stone about six inches high in the center of that spotless sweep of ground. It seemed an innocent little rock.
Three hours later there were two end wrenches lying on it and an oil can beside it. Shortly after, a 5-gallon gas can. By chore time next day, a grease gun, and an ax. By Sunday morning, a two-by-four, a half sack of fertilizer, a canvas, a calf bucket, a broken sickle, a battery and four cats. The pile was now big enough to put things behind it. After that there was no getting rid of it. In the fall we removed the pile completely, but by then it was too late. The habit of dropping things there was firmly entrenched in us, even though the rock was gone.