Looking Back Grain by Grain: A Successful Book Tour

It has been a year and a half since Liz Carlisle and I started on our great adventure called “book tour.” Since bookstores and publishers no longer sponsor authors on book tours, this venture was something we financed ourselves. That said, our publisher and many book stores were a great help to us with logistics and connections. For the first 3 to 4 months we followed Liz’s game plan for her first book, but were run ragged scheduling most of what she had done in a year into the semester she had taken off from her lectures at Stanford. Her help was invaluable as she coached me, set up the schedule and made most all of the contacts.

We started in California at her alma mater of UC Berkley the last week of February 2019. The next week we were at Expo West in Anaheim and then we were off to UC Davis, my alma mater. We spent a week in northern California making a lot of university stops and a week in southern California as guests of Patagonia as we spoke at a whole string of their stores. We spent 2 weeks in Montana, the better part of another 2 weeks in the Northwest and then a week in the Midwest going from Minneapolis through Iowa to Chicago. After that whirlwind, we started splitting up. Liz changed jobs and is now at UC San Diego creating a whole new program and loving it. She joined me when possible as I continued to do radio and TV interviews and visit book stores, libraries, universities, town halls, and community centers and speak at conferences all over the country. I had a few weeks off in August and a few weeks off in December but other than that, I was going somewhere almost every week until the end of February 2020. It was a great experience! I made lots of new friends and met up with many old ones.

My last event, at Expo West in Anaheim the first week of March, was canceled an hour before my plane landed in California. I was just thankful we were at the end of the tour and not the beginning when everything began to shut down. There were so many highlights throughout the year that I could not cover them all with this short summary. I will tell you, however, that sitting down for a discussion with college classes who had read the book were my favorite events. And there were two experiences that were like capstones of my tour for me.

The first occurred at the Montana Farm Bureau summer meeting in Bozeman. After my presentation, an older gentleman came up to my table where I was selling my books and said rather gruffly, “Well, I don’t really give a [care] 😉 about all this organic stuff, but I see what you are talking about all around me [farmers going broke with high input costs and low commodity prices, the decline of our rural communities and in our health] and I want to buy your book.” As I sold him a book, the thrill of realization went through me: this was exactly the kind of person I wrote the book for! Folks who saw things were not going in the right direction but had no idea why things were going wrong or where and how to start to change it.

The second experience occurred near the end of our tour at Washington State University in Pullman. After I spoke, the daughter of my neighbor and close friend came up to me. “I read your book,” she started. “It made me angry.” As I regrouped my thoughts from that surprise comment, she went on. “The doctors treating my dad’s brain cancer asked what his occupation was and then asked about the chemicals he was using on his farm. When they were told, they said to my mother very matter-of-factly, ‘Well, that is no surprise. We see way too much of this kind of cancer coming from folks with similar backgrounds.’” She then said, “Maybe if we had had such a book as yours earlier, my father would still be alive.” Even though her statement struck me to the very core and caused me to weep inside and out, I was grateful for all the hours and efforts I had gone through to write the book. If it can save even one family from the heartbreak of losing a loved one to cancer and hasten the day we grow all our food without poison, it will have all been worth it.

I cannot close without another heartfelt thank you to my co-author, Liz Carlisle, without whose help this book would have never been possible. And, of course, a huge thank you to all of my family, friends, readers, and to you, for your interest and support.