Book Review: Scott Chaskey’s Seedtime

seed time cover

I make no secret that Scott Chaskey’s vision, philosophy and métier have inspired my life’s work. I am forever mindful that his first book, This Common Ground, was the catalyst on my journey to launch Dock to Dish. Knowing this left me humbled yet apprehensive about opening the front cover of his second book, Seedtime; what kind of life-changing content would I discover that might require another major adjustment to my worldview and a response to a critical call to action?

Curiosity soon ruled; I got past my front-cover cowardice and the prologue when,luckily,a longtime friend of Chaskey’s saw the book in my hand and said, “Hey,I’ve been waiting for that to come out!” To which I cheerily responded, “Well great, here you go.”  I then watched as my first copy of  Seedtime was marched off into chef Dan Barber’s kitchen office at Blue Hill, where he began thumbing the pages.

Surrendering my first copy of Seedtime gave me a temporary haven where I could continue clinging to my historic ways of thinking — sans seeds. It was a feeling similar to hitting the snooze button and remaining half asleep for a few moments.  But I knew by the look on Barber’s face that the subject of seeds — especially in a book written by Chaskey — was obviously of dire importance to the pioneers of our food movement, and their alarm clocks were already ringing loudly. I realized I had rarely given seeds a moment’s thought and that ignorance was not, in fact, bliss. Two days later, I stopped at Canio’s and bought my second copy of Seedtime.

The florid poetic genius and spiritual connectedness of Chaskey’s writing captured me in the first pages of chapter one. Tapping into a lifetime of learning as a citizen of nature and his quarter-century-silo of East End farming experience and organic expertise, he tells the insider’s story of seeds on the world stage by infusing meticulously researched elements of history, science, the political landscape and even mythology into a very personal narrative. I was continually fascinated by how honest and intimate his revelations were, especially one heart-wrenching experience, which he later told me “had to be included”.  And by the wealth of information, where I had formerly believed the basic laws of plant inheritance had been understood and handed down for thousands of years, Chaskey writes that they were discovered by an Augustinian friar in the mid 1800s, who went from tinkering with simple garden peas to eventually opening the door to a science that would change the world.

Not long after I started my second copy of Chaskey’s second book, I realized two things: I was going to have trouble putting it down; and the new adjustments to my worldview were not only underway, but also were warmly welcomed by this bliss-seeking mind of mine.  His profound perspective on“the interrelation of things”, laid out in living color in the pages of Seedtime, gradually expanded the horizon of how I understand the world, and what each of us can do to make it better.