Nonfiction

Soil and Spirit

Cultivation and Kinship in the Web of Life
Available now in paperback!

Soil and Spirit is truly a feast. Scott Chaskey celebrates the emergence of beauty, nourishment, and community from the earth.”—JOHN ELDER
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As a farmer with decades spent working in fields, Scott Chaskey has been shaped by daily attention to the earth. A leader in the international Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement, he has combined a longstanding commitment to food sovereignty and organic farming with a belief that humble attention to microbial life and diversity of species provides invaluable lessons for building healthy human communities.  

Along the way, even while planning rotations of fields, ordering seeds, tending to crops and their ecosystems, Chaskey was writing. And in this lively collection of essays, he explores the evolution of his perspective—as a farmer and as a poet. Tracing the first stage in his development back to a homestead in Maine, on the ancestral lands of the Abenaki, he recalls learning to cultivate plants and nourish reciprocal relationships among species, even as he was reading Yeats and beginning to write poems. He describes cycling across Ireland, a surprise meeting with Seamus Heaney, and, later, farming in Cornwall’s ancient landscape of granite, bramble, and windswept trees. He travels to China for an international conference on Community Supported Agriculture, reading ancient wilderness poetry along the way, and then on to the pueblo of Santa Clara in New Mexico, where he joins a group of Indigenous women harvesting amaranth seeds. Closer to home on the Southfork of Long Island, he describes planting redwood saplings and writing verse under the canopy of an American beech.

“Enlivened by decades of work in open fields washed by the salt spray of the Atlantic”—words that describe his prose as well as his vision of connectedness—Scott Chaskey has given us a book for our time. A seed of hope and regeneration.

LOOK INSIDE THE BOOK:

 

Keywords
essays, poets, farming, community supported agriculture, CSAs, farm-to-table, agriculture, organic, food sovereignty, organic farming, community, travel, homestead, cultivate, maine, Abenaki, Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Cornwall, China. New Mexico, Long Island, seeds, crops, food
ISBN
9781639550890
Publish Date
Pages
264
Dimensions
8.5 × 5.5 × 0.5 in
Weight
2 oz
Author

Scott Chaskey

Scott Chaskey is the author of Soil and Spirit. His poetry, first printed in literary journals in the early seventies, has been widely published over four decades. A pioneer of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement, for thirty years he cultivated more than sixty crops for the Peconic Land Trust at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett, New York, one of the original CSAs in the country.

Praise and Prizes

  •  “How to classify this collection of interconnected essays by community-agriculture pioneer and poet Scott Chaskey? Science and nature? Memoir? Poetry? Rhapsodic exhortation? Soil and Spirit is all of those things. […] Chaskey’s ruminations and celebrations are reminiscent of, and often pay tribute to, poets and planters who have come before him […] Like them, he emphasizes connections and kinship, noting, for instance, that recent studies of how plant life, especially trees, are linked by a vast network of mycelium model the benefits that humans could reap from closer connections with nature and with one another.”

    Pamela Miller
    Minneapolis Star Tribune
  • “Scott Chaskey’s elegant and spirited essay collection Soil and Spirit concerns the interconnectedness of elements and life forms. Studded with literary quotes, poetry, personal anecdotes, and scenes from a well-traveled life, these essays consider how flora and fauna, earth and sky, and rock and water are linked through different ecosystems and cultural traditions […] Soil and Spirit is a sensuous and serious collection of nature writing, replete with passages about the layered wonders of the natural world. It is also unwavering in stressing the imperative of working to undo the environmental damage that imperils all human beings.”

    Foreword Reviews
  • “As one of America’s greatest agrarian poets and essayists, Scott Chaskey deserves recognition as a national treasure. He both expands our horizons and deepens our contemplative capacities with the astonishing connections he makes between soil, soul, and sustenance in these challenging and eloquent essays. Soil and Spirit will be read and reread for many years to come.”

    Gary Nabhan
    author of Jesus for Farmers and Fishers: Justice for All Those Marginalized by Our Food System
  • Soil and Spirit is truly a feast. Scott Chaskey celebrates the emergence of beauty, nourishment, and community from the earth. The vivid range of narratives and voices here—from his adventures as a farmer in Maine, Cornwall, and Long Island to the deep love of poetry the author bears in his heart even when (or especially when) laboring in the fields—makes this an exhilarating book. Readers of Suzanne Simard’s Finding the Mother Tree, Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, and James Rebanks’s Pastoral Song: A Farmer’s Journey will be struck by the many levels on which Chaskey enters into dialogue with those fine achievements.”

    John Elder
    author of The Frog Run: Words and Wildness in the Vermont Woods
  • “So much is happening under my nose, but I missed some of the essence until Scott came along. Following his teaching, instead of a villa with pool and tennis court, I, too, started a farm. Scott is a teacher, a mentor, a guide. He made me understand Nature through the irreplaceable wisdom of agriculture that humans have practiced for thousands of years, shaping our civilization. This book is on one level a guide to farming, and a spiritual guide to the deep emotions Nature raises in us all.”

    Isabella Rossellini
    author and award-winning actress
  • Soil and Spirit stands as a beautiful meditation on the endless richness of the Earth’s rocks, fungi, herbs, vegetables, fruits, and trees, and our place among them as expressed in word and deed. In this hopeful and heartfelt book, seedsman, poet, and world traveler Scott Chaskey brings a lifetime of experience to his wide-ranging exploration of our human relationship with the natural world and the many possibilities our engagement with it offers.”

    Jane Brox
    author of Silence
  • “In Soil and Spirit, poet, farmer, and educator Scott Chaskey generously reflects on the natural world, his travels visiting growers around the country, and his insight into how we can build healthier communities while tending to the earth.”

    Orion Magazine
  • In conversational character, [Soil and Spirit] is like some priceless friendship where a number of essential discussions are occurring all at once; these discussions build, deepen, and inform one another over time. We return to the meaningful topics, we make fresh work of understanding interrelationship. In the work at hand, each chapter stems from a particular point of departure, then progresses in an associative manner. The meandering (but not desultory) flow of the prose carries a sense of discovery, a stream-of-consciousness-like progression where themes and threads of thought synthesize as the book unfolds.”

    Evan Harris, East Hampton Star
  • Soil and Spirit is full of beautiful prose and thoughtful ruminations on the relationships between people and the earth.”

    Independent Book Review
  • “In the pages of Soil and Spirit, Chaskey travels around the world and revisits familiar American landscapes, weaving together the literature, art, and agricultural traditions of each region he visits.”

    Los Angeles Review of Books