Thursday, June 26, 2008

Summer Reading

If you could pose a question to a former president, what would you ask? In my pre-farmer days, I interned at the peace-waging, disease-fighting Carter Center, where I was fortunate to be given just such an opportunity. I asked President Carter for advice about peanut farming.

Before entering politics and eventually founding the Carter Center, President Carter began life as a farm child . I took the opposite track (sans the political interlude), interning at the Carter Center before I became a farmer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, I kind of idolize President Carter. Most folks probably associate his name with the presidency, public health work in Africa, or the Middle East peace process. All well and good. But pick up a copy of his memoir An Hour Before Daylight and you will discover that he is also an eloquent source for information about life in rural Georgia during the Great Depression.

President Carter grew up in an era when mules were tractors, children were cheap labor, and everyone was, by default, a locavore. Meandering through his hometown of Plains and his father's fields in nearby Archery, the memoir is both candid and detailed. The Georgia of his childhood seems infinitely distant, but still tethered to the present by small habits: breaking in a field with a watermelon crop, eating boiled peanuts, and walking barefoot through newly plowed fields. I would give my eye teeth (if I knew what they are) for the chance to walk a parcel of farm land with him.

In the meantime, I will think of my former "boss" and his farming advice as I tend to our small peanut patch.

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