Letters to a Young Farmer: On Food, Farming, and Our Future

In Letters to a Young Farmer, the first book from Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, some of the most influential farmers, writers, and leaders of our time share their wisdom and insight in an anthology of 36 essays and letters.

Barbara Kingsolver speaks to the tribe of farmers–some born to it, many self-selected–with love, admiration, and regret. Dan Barber traces the rediscovery of lost grains and foodways. Michael Pollan bridges the chasm between agriculture and nature. Bill McKibben connects the early human quest for beer to the very modern challenge of farming in a rapidly changing climate. US representative Chellie Pingree probes the politics of being a young farmer today. Farmer Mas Masumoto passes on family secrets to his daughter and not-soon-forgotten stories to us all. Letters to a Young Farmer is both a compelling history and a vital road map a reckoning of how we eat and farm; how the two can come together to build a more sustainable future; and why now, more than ever before, we need farmers.

Praise for Letters to a Young Farmer

“The chance to make a difference in quality of life for all depends on the soil and those who care for and nurture the earth. New young farmers are on the front lines in the struggle for survival, the future of our children and theirs.”

—Neil Young, Farm Aid

“An extraordinary harvest of wisdom from a ragtag crew of farmers, cooks, and agitators—and a must read, not just for young farmers, but for anyone with an interest in a robust food supply in our era of climate chaos.”

—Tom Philpott, food and agriculture correspondent, Mother Jones

“What a wonderful gift this book is to all aspiring farmers—full of sage wisdom, passionate encouragement, and practical advice from some of the greatest food and farming heroes of our time. Their words will inspire and remind you why farming is indeed the most important work to be done.”

—Naomi Starkman, founder and editor-in-chief, Civil Eats

About the Editor

Martha Hodgkins is communications director at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. A former editor of Nature Conservancy magazine, she is the editor of In Response to Place: Photographs from The Nature Conservancy’s Last Great Places and The Field Guide to The Nature Conservancy.

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is on a mission to create a healthy and sustainable food system that benefits us all. A nonprofit organization, Stone Barns Center works to develop a culture of eating based on what farms need to grow to build healthy soil and a resilient ecosystem. In its quest to transform the way America eats and farms, the organization trains farmers, educates food citizens, develops agroecological farming practices, and convenes change makers. Stone Barns Center, 25 miles north of New York City, is home to the celebrated Blue Hill at Stone Barns, under the direction of chef and co-owner Dan Barber, a multiple James Beard award winner.

Real Food Reads Recipes

Our resident recipe guru Jessica Jones weighs in with some tasty treats that’ll take your book club to the next level. Check out Jessica’s blog and podcast, Food Heaven Made Easy, an online resource for delicious and nutritious plant-based living. 

Spaghetti With Mint-Pea Pesto

Courtesy of Jenny from Dinner: A Love Story


1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, washed
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parm, plus more for serving
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/3 – 1/2 cup olive oil
salt to taste
1 pound spaghetti


  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove. Whirl remaining ingredients (except spaghetti) in a food processor.
  2. Taste and adjust as you go. (Don’t overprocess or it will be too emulsified.) Consistency should be somewhere in between smooth and chunky guacamole.
  3. Add pasta to the pot and about half way through cooking it, scoop out about a cup of hot water. Set aside. Drain pasta once cooked.
  4. Scrape pea mixture into the empty hot pot, then start drizzling reserved pasta water into the dip, whisking until it has the consistency of a creamy sauce.
  5. Toss pasta in sauce and serve with freshly grated Parm and some torn mint leaves if you’re feeling fancy.

Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Pita Pizza

From Food Heaven Made Easy

  1. 1 100% whole grain round pita bread
  2. ½ cup tomato sauce
  3. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  4. ¼ teaspoon brown sugar
  5. ¼ onion, sliced in ½” thick rounds
  6. ½ cup button mushrooms
  7. 1 tablespoon goat cheese
  8. ½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  9. Fresh basil, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Place the pita bread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  3. Coat the pita bread with tomato sauce, and set aside
  4. In a pan, heat olive oil and cook the sugar under medium heat for 1-2 minutes or until the sugar starts bubbling
  5. Add the onion rounds and mushrooms to the pan, and cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown
  6. Remove and top the pita bread with the mushroom onion sauté
  7. Crumble the goat cheese on the pita, and pop in the oven at 400F for 10 minutes
  8. Remove and top with drizzled balsamic vinegar and fresh basil leaves