The Planter of Modern Life Louis Bromfield and the Seeds of a Food Revolution

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Louis Bromfield first rose to fame in the 1920s as a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist with a green thumb. He built a beautiful garden outside Paris where he threw legendary parties that attracted flower breeders, movie stars, and expatriate writers like Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. His novels were all bestsellers, but Bromfield’s greatest passion was the soil.

In 1938, he returned to his native Ohio to transform 600 badly eroded acres into a utopian cooperative farm called Malabar. From his rural seat, Bromfield launched a national crusade to improve America’s relationship with the land. He sounded the alarm about harmful pesticides like DDT years before Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. And he made Malabar into America’s most famous farm, a mecca for his many agricultural disciples and a country retreat for celebrities like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (who were married there in 1945).

While his novels, once read by millions and made into Hollywood blockbusters, have faded into obscurity, Bromfield’s agricultural vision lives on in the farmers and chefs he inspired and the revolutionary ideas he planted more than half a century ago. A fascinating history of people, places, and deep-rooted concerns about the environment, Louis Bromfield’s story is an entertaining and ultimately thought-provoking exploration of how to live.