From Filmers to Farmers
Yes, I’ve read the headlines, and once again – although perhaps a bit more so than previous iterations – the previous year (2016) was one for fawning over many-a-departed pop stars. David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, and many others. Pop stars aren’t really my thing, but if that stuff floats your dinghy, well, all the best with that. In the meantime, 2016 was also the year that several luminaries with a more agrarian bent also bade their farewell, beginning with the co-founder of Permaculture, Bill Mollison. Just a couple of weeks ago one of Permaculture’s most respected and more recent practitioners and teachers, Toby Hemenway, also made an all-too-early departure. But along with these, 2016 also saw us lose an agrarian outside the world of Permaculture, that somebody being the aptly named Contrary Farmer, Gene Logsdon.
I’ll admit that I’m nowhere near as familiar with Logsdon’s writing as I am with others of the American Agrarian Crew (as I call them) – Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Gary Paul Nabhan, etc. – or what Logsdon referred to as “the five musketeers, a quintet of somewhat radical thinkers and doers coming together in opposition to the steady consolidation of farming into an international mega-agribusiness monopoly” – Berry, Jackson, Maurice Telleen, David Kline, and himself. Having gone through a heavy and prolonged dose of the aforementioned and other agrarian authors a few years ago, I’d somewhat overdosed on said writing and had to take a break from it all, just as I was getting to Logsdon. I did however read just enough – to go along with a bit of a recent nudge – that I’ve been able to realize that Logsdon left us all with a rich treasure trove of writing to discover.
The first of Logsdon’s writings that I (unsurprisingly?) read – and thoroughly enjoyed – was his book Good Spirits: A New Look at Ol’ Demon Alcohol, but it was then with (misplaced) disappointment that I soon thereafter discovered his book Gene Logsdon’s Practical Skills: A Revival of Forgotten Crafts, Techniques and Traditionsin a thrift shop. “Seriously?”, I asked myself. “Did Logsdon actually write one of those hokey ‘101 Ingenious Ways to Using Baking Soda’ type books?” I of course bought it anyways (I probably paid $2.50 for it), and after languishing on my book shelf for a couple of years I one day found myself with nothing to read and so pulled it out.
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.