Trauma Farm

Michael Hayward

In Trauma Farm (Greystone), Brian Brett, poet and farmer, maps the experiences and insights gained from eighteen years of subsistence farming onto the events of a single day: “an eighteen-year- long day that includes both the past and the future of living on the land, tracing the path that led hunter-gatherers to the factory farm and globalization.” This seems ambitious—the past and the future contained within a single day, a single volume!—but the metaphor works nicely.

Brett successfully maintains a delicate balance between broader, abstract issues: the global and historic context, and personal anecdote: the concrete, day-to-day details of operating a small farm on Saltspring Island, B.C. This particular (and symbolic) day opens as Brett sets out into darkness toward his back road, “where the cedars are six feet thick,” naked (except for sawed-off gumboots), with a mug of hot milk, and his dogs “panting at [his] side.” It is clear that Brett loves the life and the landscape he has chosen (“I’m a raincoast boy, in my element”).

If the small, family-run farm still has a future (Brett himself is pessimistic: “The small farm hasn’t got an ice-cube’s chance in hell”), it is because there will always be some small number of hard-headed

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