Books & Essays
The Blueberry Years
Thomas Dunne Books 2010
The Blueberry Years captures our experience creating and operating one of the mid-Atlantic's first certified-organic, pick-your-own blueberry farms. For a decade, Sarah, my wife, and I planted, pruned, and picked while also opening the field to hundreds of people who came to harvest berries. These pickers shared blueberry-flavored moonshine and sober religion, warm hugs and cool hats, and always bushels of stories. To give a larger context to our story, I include brief chapters on national issues such as organic foods and new farmers. I also include short interludes on all things blueberry, like the fruit's many health benefits, the woman who domesticated this plant, or the blueberry in literature. Ultimately, this book tells the story of a young couple pursuing their blueberry dream.
Of this book, Ron Rash has said: "There is so much to praise in this beautifully written memoir, but what I admire most is Jim Minick's utter lack of self-righteousness. In these pages we are given a wisdom that has, at its center, a quiet and abiding humility. What a fine, fine book The Blueberry Years is." Robert Morgan has called this book, "an intimate visit to a delightful place with an inspired guide." Sharyn McCrumb, Nina Planck, and Steven Hopp also praise this book, along with Ann Pancake, Joel Salatin, and Gene Logsdon. Naomi Wolf calls it "delicious reading" and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance picked The Blueberry Years as one of the best new books for the summer of 2010.
Book Review #1:
Minick, a columnist for the Roanoke Times New River Current, chronicles how he and his wife, Sarah, pursued their dream of starting an organic, pick-your-own blueberry farm in Virginia. They hope that the experiment in new millennial homesteading will make them independent of their "off-farm" teaching jobs and lead to a simpler and environmentally responsible life that gives them the time to practice their arts (Jim writing, Sarah basket weaving). The chapters narrating their 12 years of farming are separated by interludes on the scientific and cultural history of the blueberry and the benefits of organic farming. Minick also expands the story beyond his personal experience to tell a larger story of the extreme financial challenges facing the independent American farmer, as well as exploring the negative effects of agrobusiness on American diets and health. Despite the headaches, loneliness, and unglamorous aspects of farming, Minick sees the farm as a holy place of fellowship between humans and the land. The narrative benefits from the charming stories of people who visit the farm, many driving hundreds of miles to pick blueberries, concluding with a collection of enticing blueberry recipes. from Publishers Weekly
Book Review #2:
Teacher and writer Minick moves his family to a Virginia farm, where he plants a thousand blueberry bushes. Learning the ins and outs of blueberry culture, they toil to make their farm an economic success while following rigorous principles of organic agriculture. Local farmers deride some of their practices and warn that rejecting modern pesticides and fertilizers will leave them vulnerable to blights and pests. The Minicks find their chosen methods not always easy, but they bask in the many rewards their efforts yield. The blueberries themselves have incomparable flavor, and, when conditions are perfect, yield abundantly. People drive hundreds of miles just to gather pristine berries in the warmth of a Virginia afternoon. And the daily and seasonal rhythms of the farm give the Minicks pride of ownership and of productive accomplishment so long as nature chooses to cooperate. Very useful for anyone eager to plunge into organic agriculture. Recipes included. --Mark Knoblauch, Booklist
All There is to Keep
Iris Press and Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative 2008