An Adventure Into the Heart of America’s Family Farms

By Richard Horan

Harper Perennial. 300 pp. Paperback, $14.99

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In his new book, “Harvest,” Richard Horan travels from northern Maine to Northern California, stopping at 10 small, organic family farms along the way to be a guest worker. From July to October, he picks potatoes, peaches, raspberries, brussel sprouts and other fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and grains, and he writes about his work with humor and detail: “Let me just say at this point that the stereotype of the laconic farmer who speaks only when spoken to, in utterances no longer than a single syllable, is a complete and total myth. Farmers, or at least the ones I met, are as long-winded as the day is long.”

Enjoyable as the book is, it meanders a bit, like Horan himself. Readers learn seemingly random facts about him that have little to do with farming. The author also can be a little ungracious to his hosts, as when he writes of one farmer, “Within the first half hour, he’d so overwhelmed me with his positive energy and use of superlatives and hyperbole and nonstop chatter that I got to feeling nauseous.”

“Harvest” serves up colorful vignettes about farm life but leaves the reader wondering if the author missed some bigger story.

— Moira E. McLaughlin