The Land That Calls Me Home rolled off the press one year ago this week on March 25. I published it independently through Creaetespace, an Amazon company. I was also in charge of publicizing the release of the book. I reached out through social media and email to friends, family members, ministry colleagues, church members, locally grown food advocates, high school and college classmates, and writers I knew to promote the book. I started a blog and a Facebook page associated with the book to promote growing your own food and buying locally to support area farmers. The initial response was favorable. A couple hundred books sold in a few weeks through Amazon and personal sales. I ran out of books a couple of times at special events where I had the opportunity to sell them.
Between my full-time work of pastoral ministry and farming and gardening as much and often as I could, I had limited time to promote the book. Sales plateaued and declined. When interested friends would ask me how the book was selling I told them, “As well as I promote it.” I spent hundreds of hours over a five year period developing the book that finally went to press after more edits than I cared to count. I was tired of writing and relieved to finally tell the publisher to print the book for distribution and make it available on Kindle. But the real work for which I was not prepared was promoting the book past the initial three-month wave of interest. I have come to understand why Henry Ford said that trying to save money by cutting advertising is like trying to save time by turning back the clock.
In his books Tribes and The Icarus Deception, bestselling author Seth Godin stresses the importance of targeting the market for your product and message. General publicity is no better than publicity to the wrong market. I have made several friends over the years through cattle farming who are into industrial farming. Because they know me, they bought the book. They read enough to know that it was not for them but advocated an alternative to the way they farm. They did not tell their friends to buy it. The best advertisers for the book have been people who bought it, resonated with the stories and ideas in it, were helped or encouraged by it, and who told their friends about it and reached out to network with me because we are espousing similar or compatible ideas.
The tribes I have connected with most are agrarians, churched agrarians, and more specifically evangelical churched agrarians. I am a mainline churched agrarian, which sets me on the edge of the tribe that has embraced my book, the way of life I advocate, and me the most. I have yet to find evidence of many mainline churched agrarians, which leads me to conclude that almost all farmers left in my own denomination are still pursuing and espousing industrial agriculture. The book I wrote challenges the core assumptions of industrial agriculture, so I surmise that I am at best a fugitive of their tribe, and at worst a turncoat. I realize too that any big money from farming is derived from industrial agriculture, although most of it is enjoyed not by the farmers themselves but by the big corporations that supply equipment and chemicals to large-scale farmers. None of these have been big fans of my book or of my challenging the mainline church to promote local small-scale farm sales rather than the global food market.
I do still hold to the hope that a growing number of restless souls within the mainline church will get it that the way we on earth farm in the future has to change for the sake of our planet and its inhabitants. When they do, the message of my book to the church will have been heard. If in the next generation we do not reduce the distance between the people of earth and the soil, a distance created through my generation’s infatuation with the industrialization of agriculture, the words of Lamentations 4:9 will become our reality: “Those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of famine; racked with hunger, they waste away for lack of food from the field.”
There is irony here that I address in The Land That Calls Me Home. At first glance, the industrialization of farming appears to be the answer to increasing the food supply. Farmers can farm larger tracts of land with heavier modern equipment and crop yield has increased exponentially since the advent of chemical fertilizer. Genetically modified seed for row crop production and the widespread use of antibiotics and hormones that cause livestock and poultry to grow bigger faster are putting millions of tons more food on supermarket shelves than we would have without them. There is a hidden price we are paying now for these practices and that generations after us will pay in the diminished quality of our soil, water, and physical health. The way we farm now is not really efficient because it is not sustainable. There is another way that requires some changes in the way we live, what we eat, and how we relate to the soil. For more on the these topics, read The Land That Calls Me Home available in print and on Kindle through Amazon.