I took The Grapes of Wrath with me on my trip last week, thinking it would be a good mix of travel and agriculture. (I had forgotten how sad it is, though; I had to stop reading in the Denver airport because I was getting weepy.) Reading it now, right after all my other books about alternative farming and eating locally, and after visiting the family farm that miraculously still struggles on, I’m really struck by how current it is–Steinbeck saw the writing on the wall in 1939:

“…crops were reckoned in dollars, and land was valued by principal plus interest, and crops were bought and sold before they were planted. Then crop failure, drought, and flood were no longer little deaths within life, but simple losses of money…[until the landowners] were no longer farmers at all, but little shopkeepers of crops, little manufacturers who must sell before they can make. Then those farmers who were not good shopkeepers lost their land to good shopkeepers. No matter how clever, how loving a man might be with earth and growing things, he could not survive if he were not a good shopkeeper. And as time went on, the business men had the farms, and the farms grew larger, but there were fewer of them.”