I loved Sarah’s previous book, “Farm and Other F Words”, which was more essentially a critique of farming. This one tries something harder: proposing a way forward, a way to create farms that don’t take from society, that treat people well, that balance all of the priorities.
That’s hard. The author was very publicly involved in one attempt to create a farm like that, and that farm failed. Big Team Farms doesn’t go into detail about that experience, but you can tell by the writing how much of a disappointment that was.
The parallels between her understanding of farms versus the current scenario in other industries are numerous. I especially felt this vibe that the organizations that really try to achieve equity and uphold some values are also the ones with the most public and depressing failures. Yeah, this is kind of referencing Saman’s post this month about Mapbox and how it shifted from a values-oriented small consultancy into a sort of normal and conflicted corporation. I’ll have more to say on that someday, when I’ve processed it all.
Anyway - this book was best when it was talking about concrete examples of farming practices and ownership structures, and near the end it has another section of critique that echoed the feelings of Farm and other…. Some of the positive suggestions were interesting and felt fresh, but others felt sort of sad - like they were written by someone who was already seeing them fail. Which I think is kind of the case.
Oh, and the bit about hobby farms versus the actual business of farming is such a good explanation of business-in-general that I had never encountered in such a clear statement. That part alone is worth the read.