The Dirty Life is the memoir of Kristin Kimball as she falls in love with a farmer, Mark Kimball, and the two of them marry and start Essex Farm, a horse-powered “all you can eat CSA.” The farm currently has 222 customers that get most of their food needs met by this farm. It’s an extremely interesting proposition.
For $3700/year ($3300 for the second adult), you get to take all the food you want both to eat and to preserve. The farm offers grass-fed beef, pastured pork, chicken, eggs, fifty different kinds of vegetables, milk, grains and flour, fruit, herbs, maple syrup, and soap. Members come to the farm on Fridays evenings. The Kimballs sometimes limit scarce items, like maple syrup or the year’s first tomatoes, but most food is available on an all-you-can-eat basis. In the off-season, the CSA members can take what is available from the root cellar. Members can also hike the farm, visit fields and animals, and join as volunteers for harvest and field work.
The Kimballs farm 600 acres and it is powered by fifteen solar panels, nine draft horses, ten full-time farmers, and three tractors. They do not use synthetic fertilizer, herbicide, or pesticide, and their animals eat feed grown on the farm or local hay and local, certified organic grain.
The Dirty Life tells the story of how the Kimballs met and began farming near Lake Champlain on rented land. The book is well written and engaging, as told from Kristin’s city-girl experience of learning just how dirty, exhausting, and rewarding farming life is. As she notes, “As much as you transform the land by farming, farming transforms you.” The fact that the farm continues to grow after the initial publication of this book in 2010 is also nice to see despite the recession. Clearly, this farm has captured the interest of the local consumers and is a model that seems scalable in areas where a diverse, whole diet can be grown and processed.
Since the book was written there are numerous interviews online that tracks Essex’s farm progress. But it is the genesis of the farm and the perseverance through initial young farmer challenges of lack of capital and land that leaves me hopeful for the future. If you want to be inspired by the story of the next generation of farmers creating and growing a truly sustainable farm, read The Dirty Life.
To buy The Dirty Life, go to HMI’s store at: https://holisticmanagement.org/store/books/