Rory Groves hadn’t planned to write a book.
However, the first-time author with extensive experience in the technology sector saw a chance to not only write a book but pass on his faith, values and the culture he holds dear to his five children while offering those same lessons to the broader public.
The book, “Durable Trades: Family-Centered Economies That Have Stood the Test of Time,” was published last month by independent publisher Front Porch Republic.
“I really enjoy writing,” Groves, who lives in Northfield, noted. “I didn’t set off to write a book, but it was a really great process, and I really enjoyed it.”
The book presents a ranked list of the most durable family trades throughout history. Most have been in place for thousands of years.
Groves’ work included researching the trades that were in place when the U.S. was founded that are still in practice today and survived the Industrial Revolution. He compiled a list of 61 trades, vocations and professions and gave every trade a score based on a number of criteria, setting a parameter of the occupations he deemed durable enough to withstand economic disruptions, political upheaval, wars and pandemics. His work also includes an evaluation of some of the challenges and dilemmas facing modern societies.
“I was just starting to crave something that I could do with my family,” said Groves, who spent approximately three years writing and publishing the book. “I was looking for what really could last for generations.”
The second part of his book includes a summarizing all of the trades, including connections from both historical and modern perspectives. For example, the No. 1 profession listed in his book is shepherd, an occupation thousands of years old that includes anyone who works for animals, whether the person is a rancher, livestock farmer or specialty breeder.
Though his work precedes COVID-19, Groves noted the dwindling supply chains and other challenges caused by the pandemic coincide with the publishing of the book.
“Given Northfield’s history of dairy farming, I thought that was worth highlighting,” Groves said. “One of the reasons this profession ranked so high is that it is so resistant to automation. Where we have seen tractors and fertilizers radically alter the profession of farming in the last century, robots have not (as of yet) displaced humans in the basic care of animals.”
Carpentry, a profession often mentioned in ancient history, is ranked No. 5 on the list. Groves interviewed a fourth-generation carpenter for the book.
Groves said his biggest discovery when writing the book was his realization that families working together is the ideal way to pass on important lessons relating to faith and culture to future generations. To him, jobs that don’t allow for that same amount of closeness strip that continuity away.
Life on the farm
The book is essentially an outcropping of Groves’ shifting career goals after he moved to Northfield eight years ago. He is a technology consultant and software engineer who has worked remotely while beginning to dabble with farming and raising a growing family. Today, Groves and his family raise sheep, goats and hogs. His son, 10, knows the basics of taking care of animals.
Though technology and the constantly changing industry can seem a world away from farming, Groves was drawn to the communal aspect of growing food. The ability of him to pass on the farm to future generations was attractive, compared to the relatively intangible aspects of the technological industry.
The Groves family runs A Learning Farm. The family sees the operation as a chance to learn traditional skills, raise animals, care for God's creation and be a steward the land through events and workshops, summer day camps, farm tours, internships and a quarterly newsletter.
Groves hopes to write more on the concept of a family-centered economy. He knows many Northfielders have a family member who has worked together on a farm and hopes they understand the gift they have in doing so.
“It’s really a validation that they are doing something that is incredibly important,” he noted.