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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Farm – the making of a climate activist by Nicola Harvey

Farm is an unsettling read. Not only is it a story that needs to be told with urgency – it is a story about conflict: personal, professional and societal. As one who shies away from conflict, but embraces the belief we in New Zealand need immediate change in our farming methods to mitigate climate change and combat both regional and global food insecurity, I read this book with some disquiet.

Harvey knows her stuff. She’s not only a practising, multi-generational farmer, but she returned to the land from a stellar career as the former managing editor of digital media giant BuzzFeed, so she brings a journalist’s eye to the debate, as well as moving in the right circles to find the appropriate contacts to interview. She’s well known for her pod-casts, and collaborations with celebrities like food-queen and series presenter, Rachel Khoo.

That said, being an editor does not always translate to being an author (a fact to which I can attest with some personal authority) and nor does it guarantee that the correct word or spelling will magically appear on the page. In fact, editors need their sub-editors just like everyone else, sometimes more.

It’s a long time since I’ve felt the need to read a book with a pencil in my hand to mark errors. And that is just damn annoying and distracting. Especially when a book is attempting to convey a worthy message. The majority of errors were small: missing apostrophe’s and the incorrect use of capital letters. But the one that pulled me up in the beginning was the transposing of the words imminently and eminently. From that time on the pencil was always at hand.

The fact is editors/sub-editors all add the essential polish to a book and it doesn’t matter whether you want to self-publish or lay claim to being a small publisher, these people are your friends and saviours. Without them your message – no matter how important and urgent - will inevitably be discredited.

Am I being overly-pedantic? Perhaps so... but it is out of a respect for language and grammar, and a personal belief that no amount of celebrity will replace getting the basics right. Publishers, please hear my plea.

And, lest I come up short on my grumbles... let me continue. Throughout, the book seemed disjointed. In the end notes I learnt that some of the content had first appeared in a variety of other formats and these were threaded together with Harvey’s personal experience. The result is a bit of a jumble, but the overall story is great and hopeful, if riddled with personal despair and conflict.

Overall, I was hoping for a call to arms. I wanted to be educated and rallied. I was left feeling moderately encouraged.

Reviewer: Peta Stavelli



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