Rest in peace, Contrary Farmer

Heroes come in all shapes and forms. Some of us have superheroes that wear tights, masks and capes that fly out behind them as they leap tall buildings in a single bound. Others of us find heroism in our mothers and fathers whom we remember as larger than life after their passing. Many of us see the soldiers who serve and have served our country as heroes. Mother Theresa, the antithesis of those who use force or strength to change the world and thwart evil, used prayer, kindness and compassion.

One of my heroes died this week. Gene Logsdon, essayist, novelist and Contrary Farmer, died of cancer at the age of 84 at his home in Ohio with his family around him.

Logsdon was a prolific writer. He published 25 books of nonfiction and four works of fiction in addition to hundred of essays and blog posts. His writing was colored by his studies in religion, his acute observation of nature, and his love for people and the land around him.

Like his friend and fellow essayist, Wendell Berry, Logsdon described what he saw in poetic detail. His descriptions of his farm and the ecology of that place are those of poetry written for a lover. He knew the names of all the birds, many of the insects, most of the wildlife and plants on his farm. He paid attention to nature and appreciated the abundance of gifts of the earth.

Logsdon was an unapologetic opponent of the industrialization of agriculture. He believed the “bigger is better” philosophy of modern agriculture was the demise of rural America. He minced no words about what he saw as the detrimental effects of the consolidation of land ownership and pointed to the Farm Program and modern technology as major causes for the disappearance of small farms and the emptying out of small towns. He eloquently described how he saw the world from the spoil banks left behind by strip mined coal in the Appalachians to empty towns across the prairies.

He was a fearlessly passionate advocate for small farms and local economies. He spoke from his heart with humor and eloquence. Logsdon was not only an excellent essayist who conveyed his thoughts in a compelling and clear way. He was someone who thought outside the box. He either made you think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” or made you squirm in your own complacent acceptance of the way things are.

From his book “The Contrary Farmer:”

“Our God does not reside in the inner sanctums of cathedrals, but walks with us, hoeing in the fields. Sometimes I see Him checking the bluebird houses for murderous starlings and house sparrows and give Him hell for inventing the nest-robbing bandits. He smiles and reminds me that stupid scientists brought the starling and house sparrow to American, not Him.”

If you have not read any of his essays or books, check out his blog at <>  You will find food for thought.

Rest in peace Mr. Logsdon.

Copyright © 2016 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains