Katherine Leiner is a part-time resident of Durango and New York City and is a well-known writer in many circles. Growing Roots : The New Generation of Sustainable Farmers, Cooks, and Food Activists is her fifth book and her second adult nonfiction book. The others are two childrens books and one novel. She currently is working on her second novel.
When Leiners second child graduated from college, she suffered from empty nest syndrome. With her newfound free time, Leiner set out to answer the question of just who is growing our food. Thus began a cross-country journey to discover and then interview the many dedicated, young individuals and families who are laboring to bring fresh, wholesome food to the table of all Americans. In the end, she found almost 60 who are featured within the pages of Growing Roots.
Of special interest to Durangoans will be the local people featured. For readers who frequent the Farmers Market, there will be familiar faces. Dan and Becca James and Jennifer Craig are regulars at the market. The Jameses bring locally made cheeses to market while Craig brings worms from her compost company.
Also featured are Katrina Blair from Turtle Lake Refuge and raw food cook Samantha Johnson. Leiner relates the journeys of Emily Capelin and Zak Randell, who roam around the country in their biodiesel truck. Nasha Winters from the Namaste Health Center and Joslyn Erica of Hummingbird Herbals are highlighted, as well.
Leiner traveled to 19 states from New England to New Orleans and from Virginia to California. Her research and interviews took almost three years. The book is ordered to follow Leiners journey across the country in logical and geographical sequence. Some of the many people included are farmers who specialize in areas such as beekeeping, raising pigs, beef and chickens, organic wine making and organic grains. Others make sausages and organic ice cream, and one industrious young man is amassing and preserving heirloom seeds.
Growing Roots could be described as a travel journal of sorts with the bonus of meeting fascinating and extremely dedicated and hardworking individuals. The entire book is told in first person with Leiners preface and introduction to each person featured in italic typeface. Each interviewee tells his or her own story about upbringing, home and how they came to live the life they have chosen. These people are sincere and devoted, and many display humor and joie de vivre in the face of days filled with hard physical labor. Most are highly educated and have great stories to share.
In addition to the interviews, Leiner includes recipes provided by the individuals. Many of the recipes are labor-intensive. Some breakfast items might take too much time to prepare during the workweek. The organization of the recipes could have benefited by a different presentation. A separate section devoted solely to the recipes and categorized by usual classifications of breakfast, main course, dessert, etc. might have made navigating the recipes easier, but this is a small quibble.
Growing Roots is graced with almost 200 beautiful color photographs taken by Andrew Lipton. The landscape and still-life photos are artfully done and vivid with a luminescent quality. The photographs of the people are candid and intimate and reflect a feeling of joy and spontaneity, showing us individuals who are happy and content with their choices in life.
This book is encouraging and is filled with the stories of a new generation dedicated to bringing the best the earth has to offer to Americans of all walks of life. Some are dedicated to preserving the tried-and-true methods of bringing food to the table practiced by our forefathers and mothers. Others are trying new ways of educating people to treat their bodies and the land with the care and respect needed for a healthy life and planet. Growing Roots is a welcome addition for those interested in healthy living.
Leslie Doran is a local freelance writer whose book reviews have appeared in The Denver Post, numerous magazines and other publications. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.