Bibliofiles #2: The greenhorn movement in print - a generational sea change?

Bibliofiles is a biweekly exploration of all things literary.

The interest and intrigue surrounding country life has never disappeared, but it seems lately a niche market for farming memoirs has emerged.

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love (2010), Trauma Farm (2009), The Wisdom of the Radish (2011) and Growing a Farmer (2011) are just a few titles from the last two years.

These books in particular share a common narrative: city-dweller with no farm experience starts a farm. The term “greenhorn” has been recently reappropriated to describe a young, inexperienced farmer (due mostly in part to the film, The Greenhorns), and many young farmers are using the term to describe the movement.

Of course, like most successful memoirs, the books mentioned above are heartbreaking, frustrating, humorous and, most importantly, well received.

But, it’s an interesting trend for an interesting time. Their audience is clearly fuelled by the slow food/local food movement and the resurgence of good ol’ fashioned living (quick on-topic tangent: I’m currently reading The Lost Art of Real Cooking and on the topic of taking care of your cast iron skillet, they recommend you ask a bear slayer for some leftover fat - I wouldn’t even know where to start looking for my local bear slayer).

But, I have to wonder: how much of this is about trying to recreate the idea of the idealized farm (the one that children’s books constantly depict) and how much of it represents an actual sea change in our generation’s idea of living? 

This literary trend seems to reflect our generation’s disconnect between our food, our land and ourselves, but it’s also possible that people just love wacky animal stories.

Perhaps this is something I’ll have to bring up with my bear slayer, when I find him/her.

Next up: the lost art of copyediting and online newspapers’ recent move to reader-edited content.