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Fields Without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea Paperback – 1 Mar 1997

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Product details

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1st Free Press Paperbacks Ed edition (1 Mar. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684835703
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684835709
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,392,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Mullane on 27 Dec. 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a book of barely held in check anger, for a way of life heading for extinction, the family farm. It is also not a modern book, in that it echoes the primitive ethos of ancient Greece, the struggle to make a living from the soil against the elements but as well the more deadly depravations of urban dwellers. It charts the history of the Hanson family raisin farm. It explains the culture of raisins and how it an afternoon weather can spell disaster for a year’s crop. A fine swan song for a dying breed of heroes.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
68 of 68 people found the following review helpful
Fields Without Dreams 21 Mar. 2004
By Alison Burke - Published on
Format: Paperback
I must respond, although a bit late, to the review posted in Dec. '99 by "a reader": "As we read this book it became clear that Professor Hansen's uniformly negative opinions of the people who now support themselves as professional farmers are truly clouded by his amateur status as a farmer. The sad thing is that he does not see that himself. In case you are wondering, his profession is, after all, that of College professor."
Clearly the "reader" did not read Mr. Hanson's book carefully enough. As a nearby resident of his town of Selma, I can attest to Mr. Hanson's personal and family legacy of professional farming. He is by no means "an amateur farmer." Instead, he has worked on his family farm more than full time since his pre-teens, and supported his family doing so.
The difficulties Hanson encountered as a farmer were common to the ventures of his particular crops. In addition, his acceptance of a university position at Cal. State Fresno was mainly a way to keep food on the table after the raisin crash. I wish this reviewer had read the book more carefully before tossing out major criticisms.
As an outsider to farming, although my uncle is a cattle farmer in Wisconsin, I developed a passionate respect for farming after reading Fields Without Dreams. Hanson's overriding point, I think, is to emphasize the character and toughness required of farmers in any age. His book is particularly timely because, as he notes, "Family farmers are noble, but vanishing stewards of ancient ground."
Hanson also makes an important statement about farming--that its myth of simplicity and quaintness is unfounded. While capitalism overtakes the family farm in favor of agribusiness, just like it has many other American businesses, what is disappearing along with the family farm is an honorable society we'll never see again. I am glad Hanson is around to capture this moment for us.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
two worlds, one person 17 Jun. 2004
By Samuel L. Baldwin - Published on
Format: Paperback
Hanson is one of the rare people that can live in two distinct worlds and have the vision to see the difference. Fortunately for all the rest of us, he also has the ability to allow us all to see his two worlds. To me, many that read this book need to read it closer, for the book contains much more than casual reading can reveal. This book tells real life stories of real life people and the many interactions that take place between these people, that will ultimately shape everyones future. I did my best to try and say how I feel about this book. Read this book yourself and enjoy.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant, engaging, impressive. 23 Oct. 2000
By "lwandapang" - Published on
Format: Paperback
A wonderful read. Hanson sweeps the reader up into the the high stakes game, the espirt d'corps of the family farm, the teeter-totter hazards of weather and market demands, the changing fortunes of agrarian culture. A magnificent achievement. One of my favorite books of the last decade.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Baffled: Why isn't this book better known? 20 Nov. 2010
By VA Book Lover - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is, without question, one of the finest works about the decline of the family farm, specifically the harsh realities of California agriculture during the 1980s (written from the perspective of the late 1990s). The profiles of the last holdout "yeoman" are compelling and full blooded. But what's even more interesting is how, through the small details and the individual anecdotes, Hanson is able to diagnose the larger trends and social consequences of this decline.

One thing other reviewers haven't pointed out is that this book is really a warm-up, the personal backstory, for the much tighter and much more damning argument put forward in Hanson's book "The Land Was Everything." That book is an easy five star, mainly because it is so finely argued and so elegantly written. I have turned passages over and over with my wife ever since I finished the last page. You just can't read some of those paragraphs once. They are simply too packed with implication and subtle observation, based on years of real-life experience.

It is also a warm-up for his book "Mexifornia," which separates out in a humane and clear-eyed way the realities of illegal immigration in Central California. Like "The Land Was Everything," this book is a classic in the genre and will be read for insight long into the future. So, all in all, these other two books might be approached with more benefit first, before turning back to this mid-way point in Hanson's thought. Anybody who is interested in learning what it takes to grow grapes for raisins will be interested in this earlier account.

My only question is: Why aren't Hanson's books on agriculture better known? The quality of writing and thought are far superior to a Michael Pollan (who is really too urban) or even a Wendell Berry (who tends to be too abstract or ponderous). There is so much in these books that, perhaps contrary to most expectations, liberal readers interested in the dynamics of social class or race, the construction of gender, the criticisms of corporate capitalism, and the problems of environmental stewardship will find much to ponder. Conservative readers will be equally challenged by the concern for virtue, the difficulty of good government, and the inevitable problems of modernity.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Real life tragedy 29 Dec. 2008
By Thomas V. Warthen - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hanson's prose is lively and elegant. His knowledge of Greek and Roman literature broadens the context of the history of his ancestors' farm in California. The larger background of the struggle to hold on to the farm is the extinction of a way of life in America, swallowed up by the meaninglessness of acquiring things, and avoiding real work.
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