Jere Gettle's been called "a young, countrified Elvis," and you can see why. The guy runs around in hokey tunics and overalls, goofy shirts and hats.
Please read The Heirloom Life Gardener, by Jere and his wife, Emilee, with Meghan Sutherland, just published by Hyperion ($29.99). You'll learn a ton about this unusual fellow, who deserves respect for his family's commitment to the local food movement - specifically, heirloom seeds from around the world, which they sell through their 13-year-old company, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, in Mansfield, Mo.
In 2009, they also converted a 1920s bank building in Petaluma, Calif., into the Seed Bank, and last year, they bought the venerable seed company Comstock, Ferre & Co., in Wethersfield, Conn.
Thus, the Gettles are increasingly important players in the burgeoning heirloom seed universe. And may I just say: Their catalog is the best.
Gettle's first book tells the whole story. It's truly heartwarming to read how a little kid raised by independent-minded parents in rural Oregon and Montana came to love traditional gardening and old-fashioned seeds. The great news for us is that he's still at it.
The book also includes solid advice on seed-saving and growing vegetables - literally from A to Z.
Now can I vent?
One: Many of the hands shown planting or holding seeds or vegetables in this book are filthy, and not in a pleasing, gardener way.
Two: Emilee's name is on the cover, but only Jere's voice is heard.
And three: Gettle repeats the legend of Robert Gibbon Johnson downing tomatoes on the steps of the Salem County courthouse in 1820 to prove they weren't poisonous. It's a story food historian Andrew F. Smith, after examining primary sources of the day, has pronounced "culinary fakelore."
Sloppy, I say.