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Teaching Farming to the Next Generation

Tom Shepherd and Susan LeVine Coauthor A Handbook for Citizen Farmers


With terms like “urban homesteading” and “locavore” becoming nearly as ubiquitous as “tweeting” and “blogging,” one can say that things in this country may finally be on the right track. People are realizing that taking care of their own health also means taking care of the health of this planet, and the movement to eat better and live better now also involves making a conscious effort to lessen the impact we make on the environment.

For some people, like Tom Shepherd, this awakening happened long ago. Shepherd starting organically farming in 1973 after he became aware of the chemicals in our food supply and their damaging effect on human health and the environment. “I just started paying more attention,” said Shepherd, who then taught himself to garden, and eventually farm, organically. Owner of Shepherd Farms in Carpinteria, Tom sells his produce to schools, restaurants, and in farmers markets, and has become rather iconic on menus that simply announce “Shepherd’s greens” as their salad offering.

Tom Shepherd (and Greens)
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman (file)

Tom Shepherd (and Greens)

Now, he and his wife, artist Susan LeVine, have written a book to teach these principles to the next generation, our children. A Handbook for Citizen Farmers is an instructional book aimed at teaching young minds the important elements of how to grow a vegetable garden. Everything from selecting your garden site to exactly how deep to plant each seed and how to water is explained in 10 fundamental steps, also including tips specific to popular produce items like carrots and strawberries. Beautifully illustrated in watercolor by LeVine, each page depicts the likeness of a young Tom performing each part.

Shepherd and LeVine want to share the magic of producing your own food — the joy in planting a seed, watching it grow, and eating the fruit of your labor. They are active in school food programs and regularly teach children all about organic farming and eating well. They believe it starts at home and have designed their book to make it easy for adults to use, too, so that parents and children can be brought closer together through growing their own produce and living better lives.

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A Handbook for Citizen Farmers can be found at Upstairs at Pierre Lafond (516 San Ysidro Rd., Montecito), Chaucer’s Books (3321 State St.), Tecolote Book Shop (1470 E. Valley Rd. Montecito), Plum Goods (909 State St.), and of course, at the Shepherd Farms stall at Farmers Market. See shepherdfarmscsa.com for dates and locations. Also, the couple will be signing books on January 29 at Curious Cup (929 Linden Ave., Carpinteria).

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