One Size Fits None
Dear Stephanie Anderson,
I recall one of my teachers in my early education urging my classmates and I during a science lesson: “Take a look next time you drive. What is Indiana? Corn . . . and soybeans. Soybeans . . . and corn.” She began to give the words a musical rhythm and before long, the entire class was excitedly chanting along with her.
My teacher wanted to emphasize that what farmers grew around us was a part of who we were—subsequent study about soil, about ecological concerns, and about agricultural policy in the class all came back to how we treated the land and animals around us. When I drive through my home state and look out beyond the highway, I remember her lesson.
And yet, after I finished One Size Fits None, I realized I currently know little to nothing about farming and the ecology of where I grew up in northwest Indiana, or where I now live as a graduate student in Tampa, Florida, a wrong I hope to right. Though some of my friends grew up on farms, I often thought of farming as so specialized, so learned, that I would never be able to understand it, let alone approach the subject. Reading into agriculture through story, through the experiences of personalities and perspectives such as those of Ryan Roth, Phil and Jill Jerde, Kevin O’Dare, Fidel Gonzales, Joshua, Gabe Brown, and through you, helped this world become accessible for me.
Not only that, I would argue that farmers and ranchers have a lot to gain, if not the most, from One Size Fits None. It’s informative about methods, lifestyles, terms, and conversations, and it’s a work of art. It is a manifestation of the author’s brilliance: a cultivated, inquisitive, illuminating study, but also in the form of a story structure, with character relationships, linked setting, compelling narrative, and, my personal favorite, a passionate voice. It magnificently defies genre by blending literary journalism with elements of creative nonfiction.
This work was an awakening for me. Not only is your book organized, clear, enlightening, and thorough, but also it gets at the human element of agriculture, how we play an integral and increasingly powerful part—farmers, consumers, and readers alike. It goes beyond that: it truly makes us care.
One Size Fits None is an engaging work of literary journalism and a testament to how education is the gateway to understanding and change. This kind of education is rare: it’s present. We’re in the moment, using our senses along with the journalist, hearing the voices of the farmers and ranchers, tracing the landscape, smelling the vegetation, soil, and engines, feeling the textures in our hands. And then, from the ground level, we move into larger structures, the “get big or get out” conversations, government policy, and corporation domination.
This moment really hit home for me—when the narrator discusses with Fidel how he sees agriculture as a spiritual experience and she then notes: “Having food allows a society to create art, contemplate philosophy, make music, discuss politics, things that aren’t directly related to physical survival.” Farming is essential. Without it, the chanting stops. It’s when many of us look away from the land, when we turn back to the highways, always in a frenzy to somewhere, when we take everything for surface value, when we don’t take care of what makes us. One Size Fits None has brought me back to farmers, to their livelihoods, how they support those around them. This book reminds readers that their cause is our cause. Their profession is a noble one, but it is under pressure, and there’s a lot at stake. One Size Fits None is a leap forward, is a call to action, is hope in the form of alternative measures, all for which we hungered. Thank you bringing us these stories and this cause.
Andrew Miles – Sweet: Book Reviews Editor