A Critical Thinker Book Review: Hunt Gather Grow Eat

We all benefit from the wisdom and experience of those around us. For someone with a beginning passion for a subject, a mentor is extremely valuable; and for those that have achieved a reasonable amount of competence, a respected peer can be a great sounding board for exploring issues and alternatives. For those with a general interest in self sufficiency or a specific interest in food independence, the new book from Jason Akers comes very close in replicating those relationships. His book, Hunt Gather Grow Eat: Your Guide to Food Independence, is a very readable and useful survey of self sufficiency techniques and experiences. As I was reading the book, I could picture in my mind the author sitting on my deck with me. I would say “Hey Jason, what do think about (name a subject)”—then the book responds with the author’s thoughts and personal experiences about that subject. Sounds unusual, huh; well, it was a new experience for me as well—but in a good way. I haven’t enjoyed reading a non-fiction book like this in a long time. (The book was published in 2012 by The Self-Sufficient Gardener, ISBN 1475275412.)

According to the author, the book was written for people who want to get back to the land and to pure living– whether they have never grown anything and don’t know where to start, or for those that have “lost their way along the path”. The book provides solutions to avoid the food safety hazards using sustainable techniques and demonstrates that it is not terribly difficult to begin to implement them into ones everyday life.

The book contains sections on permaculture, food safety, hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering, gardening, animal husbandry, harvesting, preservation, and diet. By far, the largest and most informative section is the chapter on gardening. There were a few minor topics absent in the book that I expected e.g.  fish farming; and some topics were discussed at an absolute beginners level e.g. hunting. The author does not claim to have firsthand experience with every subject covered; but from the style of writing and the inclusion of anecdotes, I expect that he has had experience with the great majority of them. I would hazard to guess that any omissions are a result of the author’s personal experience and a natural avoidance of talking about things that he was not knowledgeable of – a healthy habit that many could benefit from. The authors writing style is very clear and exceedingly concise. The book addresses many subjects in a direct and informal manner with little emphasis on introductions and transitions. Occasionally this abrupt shift in subject narration is somewhat distracting. There are numerous figures—primarily black and white photographs. Unfortunately, the quality of many of the photographs is inadequate to illustrate the author’s points e.g. edible plant identification is really not feasible and may not even be safe using the photographs included. The utility of the book would increase if there was an index and list of references. Although the writing is generally good, there are occasional editing and minor formatting issues. If the issues identified are corrected within a second edition, this title would be a valuable and enjoyable contribution to a self-sufficiency library.

A unique aspect of the book is its discussion of permaculture. The book begins with an overview of permaculture and its application to the books subject. Permaculturalists, in particular, should be very interested in the manner that the book’s author has integrated permaculture principles into his approach. The author points out that the permaculture community has not really addressed or included hunting and fishing, and has not stressed wild crafting within their body of practice. The book, however, does address this integration of permaculture theory and, for the lack of a better term, “country boy skills”. It seems natural for me to imagine that the author grew up in a family that practiced many of these skills as a general way of life; and that when he was introduced to permaculture, its principles and practices provided him an underling theory that was consistent with his own background and experience, and it then in turn provided a basis for extension of his adult philosophy and practice.

The author, Jason Akers, is an active, practicing homesteader. He grew up on a farm and as an adult has practiced and developed his self-sufficient skills. He has received training in permaculture design; and now hosts the Self-Sufficient Gardener Podcast.

Jason’s book has struck a great balance in providing a very healthy amount of content without becoming dry and encyclopedic–not to say that there aren’t some drawbacks to this form. Because of the breadth of coverage undertaken in the book, there are not many subjects covered in great depth. In other words, for those of us that enjoy reading in great detail about a subject; it does not replace books that cover very specific subjects. Generally, it is a survey of techniques with an emphasis on successful and practical approaches. The great value of the book is that it efficiently and naturally provides general descriptions of many practices to achieve food independence, with the very useful words of experience from someone that is practicing what he preaches.
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