Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Field Days

Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating, and Drinking Wine in California

Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 344
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Field Days
    Book Description:

    "Sooner or later, nearly everyone who cares about wine and food comes to Sonoma"-so begins this lively excursion to a spectacular region that has become known internationally as a locavore's paradise. Part memoir, part vivid reportage,Field Dayschronicles the renaissance in farming organically and eating locally that is unfolding in Northern California. Jonah Raskin tells of the year he spent on Oak Hill Farm-working the fields, selling produce at farmers' markets, and following it to restaurants. He also goes behind the scenes at Whole Foods. In this luminous account of his experiences, Raskin introduces a dynamic cast of characters-farmers, chefs, winemakers, farm workers, and environmentalists. They include such luminaries as Warren Weber at Star Route Farm, the oldest certified organic farm in Marin County; Bob Cannard, who has supplied Chez Panisse with vegetables for decades; Sharon Grossi, the owner of the largest organic farm in Sonoma; and Craig Stoll, the founder and executive chef at Delfina in San Francisco. Raskin also offers portraits of renowned historical figures, including Luther Burbank, Jack London, and M.F.K. Fisher.Field Daysis a heartfelt celebration of the farm-to-table movement and its cultural reverberations.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94318-6
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. IX-X)
    (pp. 1-12)

    Call it local pride, a love of region, or an eagerness to welcome the world to my part of it. In any case, I like to believe that sooner or later, nearly everyone who cares about wine and food comes to Sonoma and spreads the word of its spectacular food and wine around the world. Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food movement, came thousands of miles from his home in Italy and was amazed at the variety of crops and the earthiness of the farmers. Alice Waters made the journey from Chez Panisse, her restaurant in Berkeley, an...

    (pp. 13-57)

    In 2006, when I began my odyssey across the landscape of California’s organic farms, I was nearly sixty-five years old and beginning to feel that I had a finite amount of time on earth. I was living in Santa Rosa in an old barn that had been converted into a small house with electricity, plumbing, and windows. It sat on a road dotted with barns filled with melons, hay, wool, and animals. The fall semester at the college where I taught writing was drawing to a close. I had time, energy, and curiosity. I wanted to get out and explore....

    (pp. 58-78)

    I had been to Glen Ellen before, but not for a long while, and I couldn’t remember precisely how to get there. In fact, Glen Ellen wasn’t far from home—at most thirty minutes by car. As the proverbial crow flies, the journey wouldn’t have taken more than a few minutes of rapid flight. Had I been able to fly, I would have gone over Sonoma Mountain, the highest peak around here and a sacred space for Native Americans. But air travel was not an option. I would have to drive. And although Glen Ellen wasn’t inaccessible by road, it...

    (pp. 79-99)

    In London and Leeds I continued my food and farming odyssey, though I also gave a paper about Doris Lessing at the Second International Doris Lessing Conference and visited Doris herself at her flat. On the cusp of ninety, she was still writing—and just then she happened to be writing about farming, no less. “I think it’s going to be my last book,” she told me. “I don’t have the energy anymore. I’ve written a novel about what would have happened if there had been no World War I. I’ve made my father an English farmer, which is what...

    (pp. 100-124)

    In July and August I spent day after day in the fields. All my days were field days, and I felt as though I were on new ground. It was summer, and I did not have to go to my job on campus. I was free to work, and to work for free. I felt I was being handsomely paid in the produce I carried home at the end of each day and in the experience, which was exceedingly valuable to me. I was a fortunate man. I knew that all over California, wanna-be farmers and wanna-be grape growers from...

    (pp. 125-135)

    By midsummer I felt that I’d been at Oak Hill too long and needed a sense of distance—and a reality check, too. I felt the need to get outside the Oak Hill bubble. So I went up above the earth in a Cessna owned by Bill Pinkus, a pi lot and criminal defense lawyer who uses his plane to commute to the venues of his court cases. To really know a place, I feel, you have to fly over it and look down at it, as well as walk it and feel the ground under your feet. As an...

    (pp. 136-161)

    Candi described Ted Bucklin, Anne Teller’s oldest child, who had been in charge of Oak Hill for six years, as the black sheep of the family. Candi admires Ted more than anyone else at Oak Hill, apart from his mother, for his ability to inspire and lead. She is sorry he lives in New Mexico. Was Ted in exile from the family? Is he happy or unhappy to have all those miles between him and Oak Hill, where, as I had found out, no one felt neutral about him? To some he is an unsung hero; to others he is...

    (pp. 162-176)

    Except for the family wedding he and Candi attended in Wisconsin one weekend, Paul had not enjoyed a single idle day that summer. He plowed, planted, cultivated, harvested, watered, and seemed able to keep the whole farm and all its many fields in his head, which was overflowing with vital information that summer of abundance. When it was over, he would look back at it and wonder how he could have managed to do it all. The near-constant activity enabled me to appreciate farming and farmers in a new way. Planting doesn’t take place only in the spring, and harvesting...

    (pp. 177-201)

    By the end of summer I’d been to Oak Hill so often that I began to think my Volvo could get there on its own. Down Petaluma Hill Road, turn left at Crane Canyon, and zoom past Sheila Smith’s horse stables, past their locked gates, high walls, pond, old barn, and sleek horses in the pasture. As the car climbed the twisty hill, I gazed at the grapes, at the old abandoned orchards, at yet another old weather-beaten barn, and at the herd of goats bleating in the cold. At the summit I looked down into the valley on the...

    (pp. 202-227)

    Fall swept through the valley and altered the landscape. A chilly wind blew leaves from the trees, and the leaves swirled in kaleidoscopic colors. During the day, temperatures rose steadily, so it went from cold to hot, foggy to crystal clear. At sundown, temperatures dropped sharply. The vineyards changed from green to orange and red, and grape harvests went on and on. Apples ripened in abundance, and all the other fall fruits tumbled down, too: pomegranates, persimmons, and pears, all of which I ate profusely, with Café Fanny Granola, or with blue cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery, or all by...

    (pp. 228-247)

    After the early rain, the fields suddenly turned green, and the earth looked as if it were springtime again. In the Red Barn Store, plump cherry tomatoes were available again, along with a variety of autumn squashes: delicata, sunshine, acorn, butternut, and spaghetti. In the sun it was hot, in the shade it was chilly: T-shirt and sweater weather at the same time. Jimmy Reed’s voice filled the barn, and Priscilla Coe, a loyal customer and locavore, was gathering all the vegetables she’d need for the next few days. “My favorite part of the week is when I come here...

    (pp. 248-270)

    Fred Euphrat gazes at Sonoma and sees it turning into Provence. It is a future he doesn’t like, and he doesn’t mind saying so. Fred has a quick wit and a disarming sense of humor that makes him well liked in his community. He speaks out on almost all the environmental issues of our day—on the radio, at town hall meetings, in a delightful book entitledSonoma Mandala,and any time people will listen. Fred has facts at his fingertips and a way with words. A graduate of UC Berkeley—with a BA in physical geography and a PhD...

  16. 12 I AM WHAT I EAT
    (pp. 271-288)

    For much of my life I ate without thinking and without knowing what I was eating. I ate to fill a spiritual emptiness, to assuage my anxieties, not because I was hungry in my belly. That was the truth of the matter, hard as it might have been to admit it to myself and others. I had glimpses of that truth from time to time, but now I knew it. Meeting farmers, working with them, and bringing home organic produce made me more aware of what I fed myself, where it came from, and what it did to my body—...

  17. CODA
    (pp. 289-292)

    New Year’s Day stole into the Valley of the Moon, and Oak Hill noted its arrival. Anne Teller recovered from surgery in time to worry about climate change, rainfall, and the environment. Will Bucklin raked leaves and carted them away. Lizanne Pastore sat down at her computer and went online. Jesús relaxed after a long night. Gael and Patrick made art. Candi cooked enough food to feed a small army, and a small army arrived and wolfed it down. Paul drank beer, talked with old friends, and soon afterward did the first planting of 2008: salad greens, parsley, and broccoli...

    (pp. 293-298)
  19. NOTES
    (pp. 299-302)
    (pp. 303-306)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 307-329)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 330-330)