Review by Michelle Gagnon

This fascinating nonfiction work by author Barbara Kingsolver chronicled her family’s attempt to feed themselves for a year either from their own farm or with items purchased from local farmers. After relocating from Tucson, Arizona to a tract of land in the Appalachian region of West Virginia, they began their experiment in April with the arrival of the first asparagus of the season, and concluded the following spring with turkey hatchlings from a brood they had personally raised.

The book marked a collaboration between Kingsolver, her husband, and their teenage daughter, all of whom contributed sections to the work. The main thread is Kingsolver’s account of their trials and tribulations, interspersed with fascinating information about the current food culture in the United States. Her husband provided sidebars relaying information on both the transformation of our food chain from small farms to large corporate cooperatives, and the damage that has done both the variety of offerings on our table and to the environment. Their daughter Camille offered a series of seasonal recipes and tips for weekly family menus.

In many ways, reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” completely changed the way I think about food, and I plan to modify my shopping habits accordingly. The Kingsolver clan raised many salient points with regard to the carbon impact of buying foods out of season that have often been shipped thousands of miles to reach your dinner table. I felt this book tied in nicely with another I read recently, Raj Patel’s “Stuffed and Starved,” which also advocates the environmental and economic benefits of shopping at local farmers’ markets. Even if your only option is a major supermarket, they recommend seeking out local produce as much as possible and asking grocers to stock products from the region.

Though at times the narrative became a bit redundant and preachy, all in all it was very informative and inspirational. Although I doubt I’ll be planting tomatoes in my tiny urban yard anytime soon, this has inspired me to make more of an effort to compose menus based on what’s in season at any given time, and to shop at farmer’s markets whenever possible. Now that being green is the new black, this book offers some manageable recommendations for adjusting your lifestyle to make less of an impact on our natural resources, while supporting local farm communities at the same time.

Michelle Gagnon is the author of Boneyard, a thriller depicting a cat and mouse game between dueling serial killers. Find out more about her at www.michellegagnon.com.

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