Book review: The Wisdom of the Radish.

The Wisdom of the Radish and Other Lessons Learned on a Small Farm – Lynda Hopkins (2011, Sasquatch Books, Seattle)

Thrown into farming/market gardening by dint of her relationship with her boyfriend, Emmett, Lynda Hopkins transitions from suburban city life to the farmers’ market stall in this hilarious (and sometimes heartbreaking) account of her first few years “as a small farmer” in California.  It’s not idyllic, of course:  there are total crop failures (more than once); livestock deaths, injury and illnesses; insect infestations; frost and flood.  More than once she and Emmett wonder if they’re doing the right thing, but their dogged determination actually does win the day – and you can’t help but root for them and all the other small farmers like them who are trying to carve out a little niche for themselves in a tight, cutthroat market.

Hopkins’ witty, fast-paced style makes for a great read:  this book is about as far away from stuffy as you’ll ever get, despite the lessons she levels in for your consideration (the history of corn and tomatoes, incubating chicken eggs, etc).  Not merely a record of events, The Wisdom of the Radish is a commentary on what it means to grow plants and raise animals for a living, and how there is an emotional and economic value attached to everything produced on a farm.  It’s an intimate and unflaggingly – brutally – honest account of Hopkins’ relationship to the land, to her boyfriend, to her customers, and above all, her committment to a slightly nutbar venture/adventure that just might work. 

Plus, you’ll learn more about chicken pasty butts than you’ve ever known before!   😉


(There’s a blog for the book up at, and although it hasn’t been recently updated, it does offer some additional information and great photos of Hopkins’ Foggy River Farm).


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