My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Lucie Amundsen’s Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm - from Scratch took me on a roller coaster of emotions. From frustration to happiness to sadness to pondering about what will be around the corner. I’ve “read’ it twice on Audible. Kate Reading narrates it and does an excellent job. The only glitch I noticed is that Kate Reading mispronounced Shakopee, but that doesn’t affect the story and only those familiar with the Minneapolis/St. Paul suburbs would notice.
Full disclosure: I am Lucie’s alley neighbor.
This book is memoir and a how-not-too. The writing style is casual, easy-to-read (listen) and interspersed with self-deprecating humor. Sandwiched in between humorous paragraphs and yarns of the struggles of her family, she gives a mini-education in economics, sustainable food and agricultural businesses. However, Amundsen teaches economics in a palatable manner. I eat a plant-based diet, so I don’t eat eggs, but that doesn’t stop me from supporting the Amundsen's for trying to make a difference in America’s food supply. The Amundsens ARE making a difference. And they caught the public’s attention by naming their business Locally Laid rather than Amundsen Farms.
The printed version includes footnotes to cite the information on economics, agriculture and food.
One of my favorite lines is, “Americans tend to be put off by evidence of where their food comes from.” Amundsen wrote this when explaining the egg washing process, something that is not done in Europe. Today so many americans don’t understand the origins of their food. They want it wrapped up and sanitized and whether a plant-eater or a meat-eater, Americans don’t want to know the nitty gritty details of food production, but they should because our health and economy depends on this knowledge.
I have many favorite parts, here are some of my favorite scenes:
-Their friends helping them build chicken coops during “freezing drizzle punctuated with the occasional driving hailstorm: this is springtime in the Northland.” The reader feels their cold physical struggle along with the warmth of their friends.
-The chickens’ arrival. Nine-hundred chickens sweltered in a semi-truck on the Interstate before reaching the farm. Lucie and the children were shocked at the treatment of the chickens. The chicken supplier grabbed the limp, the overheated, chickens and threw them into coops.
-Lucie’s trip to Maine for a class to dissect chickens, While there she learned about chicken anatomy and experienced an epiphany moment when she figured out why their chickens internal clocks were screwed up.
-The Amundsen’s mixing with cultures other than their own, like their visit to Amish famers; and the visit from glitzy California PR to the egg farm.
-I related to the scene where Lucie stood up for her own dream, which included living in town close to the children’s schools and her off farm employment, not out in the country. I could see myself in that scene. Mothers tend to become courageous when realizing the need to role model strong behavior for watching daughters.
There isn’t a chapter I didn’t enjoy. And I plan to listen again.
Anyone who likes to eat should read this book. It would be of particular interest to locavores, the environmentally conscious, and those with a commitment to sustainability.
The book starts in 2012 and flashes back to 2010, the year we moved near the Amundsens. When we became neighbors the Amundsen’s had a chicken coop near an alley we share. We knew that Jason had lost a job and felt really bad for him. But I didn’t have much sympathy for him when he greeted me in the alley and told about some land he found to rent to raise chickens. He told me to be sure and tell my husband. (My husband was raised on a farm.) I figuratively threw cold water on him saying, “You know my husband could have been a farmer, but he chose not to. It’s hard work.” I thought Jason was crazy.
And this is how the book took me on a roller coaster ride. Lucie has a cheerful, fun personality and Jason is sincere. As I read, Lucie’s vivid writing showed gave a glimpse of hard they worked. Of course I already knew that farmers work damn hard, but yet reading the book I felt bad for not be more supportive of the family. I thought that they were romanticizing the farm life. Later as I read, I had an I told-you-so feeling. But by the middle of the book I was cheering this family’s passion and commitment to healthy food, local economy and animal welfare. I came to admire understand their tenacity.
I am grateful for families like the Amundsens who work to bring us healthy, sustainable food. And for writers like Lucie who use their craft to explain its importance in an entertaining manner.
Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm - from Scratch
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