Paperback eBook


ISBN: 978-1-56512-352-6



ISBN: 978-1-56512-740-1


A story about dirt–and about sun, water, work, elation, and defeat. And about the sublime pleasure of having a little piece of French land all to oneself to till.

Richard Goodman saw the ad in the paper: “SOUTHERN FRANCE: Stone house in Village near Nimes/Avignon/Uzes. 4 BR, 2 baths, fireplace, books, desk, bikes. Perfect for writing, painting, exploring & experiencing la France profonde. $450 mo. plus utilities.” And, with his girlfriend, he left New York City to spend a year in Southern France.

The village was small–no shops, no gas station, no post office, only a café and a school. St. Sebastien de Caisson was home to farmers and vintners. Every evening Goodman watched the villagers congregate and longed to be a part of their camaraderie. But they weren’t interested in him: he was just another American, come to visit and soon to leave. So Goodman laced up his work boots and ventured out into the vineyards to work among them. He met them first as a hired worker, and then as a farmer of his own small plot of land.

French Dirt is a love story between a man and his garden. It’s about plowing, planting, watering, and tending. It’s about cabbage, tomatoes, parsley, and eggplant. Most of all, it’s about the growing friendship between an American outsider and a close-knit community of French farmers.



"There's a genuine sweetness about the way the cucumbers and tomatoes bridge the divide of nationality."--The New York Times Book Review

"One of the most charming, perceptive and subtle books ever written about the French by an American."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Deliciously hard to put down" -- American Bookseller

"The writing is clear, simple, evocative" -- Washington Post

"A minor gardening classic, perhaps, crisp as a big head of lettuce--though Goodman's lettuces tended in reality to be sour and best for penned rabbits. Goodman (a New York free-lance copywriter) and his Dutch girlfriend Iggy (who have since parted) answered an ad in the classified section of Journal Francaise d'Amerique that offered a stone house in a southern French village near Nimes/Avignon/Uzes (pop. 211--but Goodman uses an alias for the village). Once there, they found that the town had no stores, no cafe. As time passed in their wonderful stone house, they could make no fiends among the insulated villagers, so Goodman hired himself out as a vineyard laborer, and this in turn led him to borrow a plot of ground for raising a garden. The garden soon became an obsession for both ``crazy'' visitors. But difficulties with it led to making friends among the town's gardeners, each of whom had his own ideas about when to plant what and how to water the garden. The book is largely about the weather and nursing the plants and eventually the cruel, hard summer (the worst in years), whose heat almost destroyed the garden, with warmhearted sidebars on the local citizens--who thought at last that Goodman did very well with his garden, for an American. The most amusing moment is watching the author belatedly water the garden by moonlight at 2:30 a.m. All the personal stuff- -which might have added a larger crackle to the book--seems reserved for some other work. A great gift book, deliciously hard to put down." -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

meet the author

Photo Credit: Becky Goodman

Richard Goodman has written articles for the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Commonweal, Garden Design, the Michigan Quarterly Review, Creative Nonfiction, and He has twice been the recipient of a MacDowell Colony Residency. He created, wrote, and narrated a six-part series about New York City for public radio in Virginia. He lives in New York City.