Book review: The Land Remembers by Ben Logan

Hoard's Dairyman: 

Book review: The Land Remembers by Ben Logan

Date: 
Wed, 06/01/2011
Ben Logan's The Land Remembers was originally published in 1975. He is now 90 years old and lives in Viroqua, Wis. Photo by Caroline Beckett used with permission of Itchy Cat Press.

As a transplant to Wisconsin, and an aspiring history buff, I always enjoy learning more about my surroundings and history of this state.

In late 2010, a memorial for the late Rod Nilsestuen was given at the Cooperative Network annual meeting. Rod served as a 24-year executive secretary of the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives, and 4 years in the same position at the Minnesota Association of Cooperatives. He died tragically in the summer of 2010 while serving as Secretary of Agriculture for the state of Wisconsin. His family had taken their annual trip to help build houses for Habitat for Humanity, and he drowned while swimming in Lake Superior.

During the memorial, Tom Lyon – a good friend of Nilsestuen and former CEO of Cooperative Resources International (CRI) – explained that besides the Bible, the book The Land Remembers was the most quoted and referenced by Nilsestuen. After reading it, I can see why.

This book creates an urge to go back to the time that author Ben Logan references. Logan grew up in the southwest Wisconsin hill country. After a strong career writing in New York City, he returned to his home and now resides in Viroqua at the age of 90. The Land Remembers explains what life was like in the “driftless area,” where the glaciers were unable to flatten the land to resemble neighboring Iowa and Illinois.

Dairy farming is not the main subject of the book, but it did happen twice a day, every day, on Logan’s farm. While I did not grow up with many of the challenges the book recalls, my grandparents and great-grandparents did. Logan presents his childhood in a way that gives us all a feeling we were there, and at the same time we missed out.

The book was originally published in 1975. The version I sped through (because I couldn’t put it down) was the 2006 release, eighth edition, third printing, with a great afterword from Logan. I am told they are working on the fourth printing now. Any farmer, dairy producer, agriculture industry professional, or amateur gardener should come to love this book. There is probably no way to improve the short review given by the New York Times. It captivates what the book is and how one feels when reading it:
“What drew me so irresistibly through The Land Remembers?... You feel nostalgia when the details of the world are so precisely concrete and right that by the time the author tells you his own reactions to that world you feel you already know it just about as well as he does. . . . It’s not nostalgia for my own past that The Land Remembers made me feel; it’s nostalgia for a world he makes me wish I’d known.”
- The New York Times

Take a time out during your next rainstorm and pick this one up. It is worth a trip to the library. Otherwise it can be found at publisher Itchy Cat Press’ website http://www.itchycatpress.com/ or wherever books are sold.

Cover for The Land Remembers, a watercolor by Steven R. Kozar, used with
permission of Itchy Cat Press.