Wisdom of the Last Farmer
Wisdom of the Last Farmer
Harvesting Legacies from the Land
Free Press, Hardcover, 9781416599302, 256pp.
Publication Date: August 4, 2009
It was when David Mas Masumoto's father had a stroke on the sprawling fields of their farm that the son looked with new eyes on the land where he and generations of his family have toiled for decades. Masumoto -- an organic farmer working the land in California's Central Valley -- farms stories as he farms peaches. In Wisdom of the Last Farmer, an impassioned memoir of revitalization and redemption, he finds the natural connections between generation and succession, fathers and children, booms and declines as he tells the story of his family and their farm. He brings us to the rich earth of America's Fruit Basket, under the vine trellises and canes where grapes are grown, and to the fruit orchards flush with green before harvest, where he uncovers and preserves the age-old wisdom that is fast disappearing in our modern, information-driven world -- and that is urgently needed in this time of food crises and social disruption.
Masumoto sees the price the family has paid to grow complex heirloom peaches -- when the market rewards tasteless, big, and red fruits -- and the challenges of maintaining traditions and integrity while working in the modern, high-pressure agricultural marketplace. As his father's health declines along with the profitability of the family farm, Masumoto has the further hard work of nursing his father back to health -- becoming master to the teacher who once schooled him -- and is driven beyond economic concerns to even larger questions of life, death, and renewal.
In his gorgeous, lyrical prose, Masumoto conjures the realities of farming life while weaving in the history of American agriculture over the past century, encapsulating universal themes of work along with wisdom that could be gleaned only from the earth. By the end of the workday, he understands the feeling of accomplishment when you've done your best...and discovers that it's when he lets go -- of both his father and control of nature -- that wisdom manifests itself. And, when Masumoto's daughter intends to return to the family farm, hope is found in the generations. In the quiet eloquence of Wisdom of the Last Farmer, you will see how your own destiny is involved in the future of your food, the land, and the farm.
David Mas Masumoto is an organic peach and grape farmer who works with his wife, Marcy Masumoto, and their two children, Nikiko and Korio, on their 80-acre farm just outside Del Ray, 20 miles south of Fresno, CA. He has a bachelors degree in sociology from U.C. Berkeley and a masters degree in community development from U.C. Davis. He is a columnist for The Fresno Bee, has written for USA Today and The Los Angeles Times, and has been featured in Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine and New York Times. His farm has been featured Sunset, Country Living, and Glamour Magazines and on television as part of the California Heartland PBS series as well as the nationally aired program "Ripe for Change."
Masumoto has won numerous awards, including the James Clavell Japanese American National Literacy Award in 1986; the 1995 Julia Child Cookbook Award in the Literary Food Writing category, finalist for the 1996 James Beard Foundation Food Writing Award, and San Francisco Review of Books Critics' Choice Award 1995-96, all for Epitaph for a Peach; Commonwealth Club of California silver medal for the California Book Awards in 1999 and was a finalist for the Asian American Writers' Workshop award in New York for Harvest Son; and the University of California, Davis “Award of Distinction” from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 2003. He has been the key note speaker at diverse conferences including International Association of Culinary Professionals, Culinary Institute of America, American Association of Museums, and many more. He also was awarded a Breadloaf Writers Conference fellowship in 1996.