New England’s dairy farms, with their aging barns, grazing cows, and weather-beaten workers, have the lines, cracks, and textures that lend themselves to the starkness of black-and-white photographs.
Vermont native Skye Chalmers has captured this lifestyle to striking effect in his new coffee-table book “Sending Milk: The Northeast Farms and Farmers of the Cabot Creamery Cooperative.” Cabot, a farmer-owned co-op, hired Chalmers to create a series of black-and-white portraits (right) to celebrate its farmers. Chalmers expanded the concept, traveling the Northeast to photograph not only farmers but their workplaces: the tools, barns, cows, and wide expanses of land.
The introductory essay by Stephen Kiernan is an eloquent testament to the hard work and passion of dairy farmers and the enduring value of what they do, both in producing food and preserving a landscape that pleases the eye and ties the present to the past.
For years, the news about dairy farms has been grim, but Kiernan has good tidings to report: “Farm closings have dwindled to a trickle. Delinquency on federal loans is near zero,” he writes. After Hurricane Irene, the Vermont Community Foundation hoped to raise $1 million over the course of a year for its Farm Disaster Relief Fund. Within 10 weeks, it had $2.2 million.
Throughout the essay, Kiernan returns to the refrain: “Why be a farmer?” Among the reasons he offers: “To have no end of things that need doing, job security for as long as the world wants supper . . . To see buildings and equipment age, show signs of good use, and realize that the same thing is happening to you.”
Chalmers published the book himself, locating an employee-owned printer in Wisconsin to produce hardcover and paperback editions and sharing the printing costs with Cabot. In keeping with his independent spirit, he’s selling the book in independent bookstores and online, not on Amazon but through Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt.
Nantucket Book Festival
The first Nantucket Book Festival kicks off on June 15 with a discussion among three authors whose writing lives are closely tied to the island. On the opening night of the weekend festival, island residents Elin Hilderbrand, a beach romance novelist, and Nathaniel Philbrick, author of “In the Heart of the Sea” (Penguin) about a Nantucket whaling disaster, will join Pam Belluck, author of a new book about island doctor Timothy Lepore. Belluck, formerly New England bureau chief for The New York Times, logged time on the island researching “Island Practice: Cobblestone Rash, Underground Tom, and Other Adventures of a Nantucket Doctor” (PublicAffairs).
In addition to talks and panel discussions by more than 50 authors, there will be a literary limerick picnic and a pig roast. Details at nantucketbookfestival.org.
• “Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness” by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
• “Does This Baby Make Me Look Straight? Confessions of a Gay Dad”by Dan Bucatinsky (Simon and Schuster)
• “Ozzie’s School of Management: Lessons from the Dugout, the Clubhouse, and the Doghouse”by Rick Morrissey (Times)
Pick of the week
Jean-Paul Adriaansen of Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, N.H., recommends “The Watchers” by Jon Steele (Blue Rider): “An ancient cathedral in Lausanne, Switzerland, becomes the playground for the eternal fight between good and evil. A crippled, simple-minded belfry watcher, an amnesiac detective, and an American high society call girl are the unwilling and unknowing players in a thrilling story.”
Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter @JanLGardner.