I first met Brent Preston over lunch at Richmond Station. Brent is an organic farmer, co-founder of The New Farm in Creemore, Ontario. He suggested Richmond Station because The New Farm supplies it and other top downtown Toronto restaurants with fresh produce.
As we tucked into salads, Brent, our sales director Matthew, my publisher Anne, and I discussed his book idea. We took to Brent immediately, and he appreciated our respective approaches to food. Matthew appreciates good food, full stop, and resists the creeping corporatization of the food industry. Anne grew up on a farm and knows first-hand the issues farmers face; she still lives on the family farm, and commutes downtown each day. And I’m mostly vegan with various food allergies, survived on a self-created “all-Ontario diet” for one cabbage-rich winter, and biked to organic farms in the Creemore area a few years ago. I think we all knew what we had before we were through our mains.
We knew that Brent’s proposed book would sit alongside other wonderful books Random House Canada publishes, from The Stop: How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement, by Nick Saul and Andrea Curtis, to The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, by J.B. MacKinnon and Alisa Smith, which is often credited with sparking the local food movement. We’re in the midst of a good food movement spreading across Canada and around the world, one that highlights the importance of healthy food, grown with care, served with dignity, and eaten in community.
Brent’s book chronicles his evolution from an unhappy cubicle worker to an organic farmer, and all the mistakes he made (and successes he had!) along the way. It will appeal to those interested in going back to the land, but also those who want to grow a few herbs on their balcony. It’s a truly inspiring, honest, and damn funny book about forging ahead when the stakes are high and the knowledge is low.
Brent and his wife and co-founder, Gillian Flies, knew next to nothing about farming before deciding to launch a farm. Ironically enough, their lack of knowledge about farming has been one of the secrets to their success, as they didn’t get caught in “tried and true” ways to farm or buy into the myth of the poor and “backwards” farmer. Their farm is profitable, debt-free, and truly sustainable. For that reason I think The New Farm will also appeal to small business owners, creative professionals, and those trying to approach work from a new angle. The book also tackles industrial food, GMOs, hunger, and climate change, and shows how one family and one business can make a difference.
One of my pressing tasks before leaving Penguin Random House Canada at the end of September was to deliver the final manuscript to production. I remember walking up Spadina and talking through the final details with Brent on a very rainy day during my last week. I threatened to show up on his doorstep to be put to work; he told me I’d be welcome anytime.
I’m truly so proud of this book, and I can’t wait until it hits shelves on May 2nd, 2017. I might bike out to the farm to celebrate in person…
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