The Planter of Modern Life

By Stephen Heyman

The Planter of Modern Life book cover
Added March 1, 2021

How a literary idol of the Lost Generation launched America's organic and sustainable food movement. In interwar France, Louis Bromfield was equally famous as a writer and as a gardener. He pruned dahlias with Edith Wharton, weeded Gertrude Stein's vegetable patch, and fed the starving artists who flocked to his farmhouse outside Paris. His best-selling novels earned him a Pulitzer-and the jealousy of friends like Ernest Hemingway. But his radical approach to the soil has aged better than his books, inspiring a wave of farmers, foodies, and chefs to rethink how they should grow and consume their food. In 1938, Bromfield returned to his native Ohio, an expat novelist now reinvented as the squire of 1,000-acre Malabar Farm. Transplanting ideas from India and Europe, he created a mecca for forward- thinking agriculturalists and a rural retreat for celebrities like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (who were married there in 1945). Bromfield's untold story is a fascinating history of people and places-and of deep-rooted concerns about the environment and its ability to sustain our most basic needs and pleasures.

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