It’s hard to be objective about a book when you flinch every time he mentions Jesus. I therefore have to preface my review of “A Time to Plant” by Kyle Kramer with a personal statement: I was raised semi-Catholic (never did confirmation), and I hated it. I used to sport a button that said, “recovering catholic”. I was pretty sure this was not going to be a book for me, and I was right.
That does not, however, mean it won’t be a book for someone else. I have a friend, in fact, who I will be sending it to shortly. In essence this is a book about one man’s journey- both through religion and from academia to the farming life. I was hoping it would be heavier on the farming part, but this was not the case. It starts out in a promising way, when the author stands on what will one day be his farm, surveying the land and thinking of the ways in which he will heal and steward that land. But after that point, farming fades into the background, as the setting where Kramer makes his religious journey. Farming may have been the catalyst that led him to his insights into spirituality, but that does not make it the star of this production.
If you are looking for a book detailing the struggles of becoming an organic farmer, this is not the book for you. There are references, of course, to difficulties in finding a tractor, in building a home, in learning the ins and outs of farmer’s markets- but they are references, not even descriptions, and certainly not narratives. Kramer is able to present a number of interesting ideas, but we are reading the conclusions to his thoughts, not the long and messy process that likely lead to those thoughts. It is for that reason a very thin volume, both in actual size and in content.
Kramer says several times throughout the book that he is a very logical, thoughtful person. It shows in this book. For all I know, he may be incredibly passionate about his farming life- I’m sure he is, in fact, if he took the time to write this book, and to dedicate his life to this pursuit. But I don’t feel any of that passion in his words. He is not a story teller. He presents his arguments as if he is writing a paper for a philosophy class.
As I said, this will be a book for some people- it’s not bad, I just didn’t find it very interesting. The double whammy of a very academic presentation and more references to Catholic doctrine than I’ve heard since I was a very small child made it very difficult for me to get to the end. But it’s well written, clearly presented, and to some, will contain a lot of interesting gems of thought on the relationship between a life of devotion to religion and the rigors of a life dedicated to working the soil.