Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Manipulating amazon reviews for fun and profit - Tim Young, natures harmony farm.

Tim Young over at Natures harmony is trying his absolute best to astroturf the negative reviews on his book. There's three reviews of his book that were the top-rated, and magically, in the last week, all three of the reviews got hundreds of downvotes, leaving only the negative reviews that Tim agrees with, apparently. The reviews that used to be on the top of the list are listed below. These are reviews of "Accidental Farmers" by Tim Young, recounting his farming experience at natures harmony farm.   Positive reviews are also getting pumped up.

Product reviews are most useful when they're an accurate portrayal of customer experiences.  All of the downvotes on these reviews happened in the course of 3-5 days, and a couple of years after the publication date.   Tim has posted fake reviews and responses to reviews under pseudonyms, claiming to be "a customer of natures harmony farmers" and to have purchased products, etc.

Marketing your product is one thing -- this appears to be an act of desperation in my opinion.  Sorry you've chosen this path, Tim.

Reviews follow

This one went from 81 of 92 to :

81 of 156 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 2nd halfApril 6, 2011
This review is from: The Accidental Farmers: An urban couple, a rural calling and a dream of farming in harmony with nature (Paperback)
I really, really wanted to like this book. I've followed Nature's Harmony Farm for the past two years, so I was very excited to read it. The first half was a joy to read- well written, funny, and heart-warming. It offered a clear sense for what starting a new farm from scratch is like - the anticipation, joy, fear, self-doubt and hard work. I also appreciated the honesty in the chapter that detailed the dark side of farming.

The second half's plunge into ideology was very disappointing to read. Like many American farms, the farm's soil is deficient in nutrients, but fertilizer doesn't fit into their ideology. I was left wondering how many of the animal health problems could have been averted by making sure the soil was well-balanced and had the minimum of minerals (calcium, boron, etc. that aren't supplied by manure from poor soil) to support animal health. Also, the ideology involved in wanting their animals to live completely "natural" lives doesn't jive with the fact that livestock are not wild animals. The point to which they expected their animals to live with minimal support on depleted soil scares me a little, and I wonder if these chapters will end up as fodder for the animal rights movement and conventional ag to argue that pasture-based agriculture is not a viable solution.

I appreciate all that Nature's Harmony Farm has done, especially through their blog and excellent podcasts. Unfortunately, I recommend this book only for those who want to read an account of what happens when livestock are expected to live with minimal help on depleted soil.

This one went from 57 of 61 helpful to:

57 of 130 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing and disappointingDecember 7, 2011
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This review is from: The Accidental Farmers: An urban couple, a rural calling and a dream of farming in harmony with nature (Paperback)
As someone who has been involved in sustainable agriculture for over 15 years now, I was disturbed and disappointed by the approach to animal husbandry detailed in this book. I read the book nearly a year ago and in that time, I've been unable to write a review that would reflect my visceral reaction to the Youngs' extreme approach without sounding overwhelmingly negative. If nothing else, the Youngs have increased public awareness of the cause of sustainable agriculture, so there is some merit in their work, and many farms could learn from their no-holds-barred marketing style. But as far as their animal husbandry goes, I think Masanobu Fukuoka said it best in his classic "One Straw Revolution:" "I had acted in the belief that everything should be left to take its natural course, but I found that if you apply this way of thinking all at once, before long things do not go so well. This is abandonment, not 'natural farming.'"
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This one went from 14 of 16 to: 

14 of 50 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wish I hadn't wasted my time or money on this book.June 3, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Accidental Farmers: An urban couple, a rural calling and a dream of farming in harmony with nature (Paperback)
I had heard just enough about Nature's Harmony that I was really excited to read this book because I thought there would be lots of good ideas about how to run a small, diverse, humane and financially viable farm. My husband and I have run a small, humane, three to four species farm for a couple years and, while I think we are headed in the right direction, our farm is not yet financially viable. By small I mean a farm that can be run sanely by its owners with at most two employees. By humane I mean that animals do not need needlessly suffer, are able to express their nature, and there is constant striving for improvement of both. And, by financially viable, I mean bringing in enough money to meet ongoing expenses, service debt or return capital, and pay a salary or profits to the owner.
I don't know anything about Nature's Harmony beyond this book, but while they may have been small, they were not humane and there is no way that they were financially viable when this book was written.
Blaming an domesticated farm animal's failure to thrive with minimal human intervention is not fair or humane. Trying to breed for resistance is fine but what about humane euthanasia for animals clearly to sick to recover?
As for financial viability, what little is written about how their farm finances might work ignored the costs of a tractor, 8000 ft of irrigation pipe, thousands of feet of woven wire perimeter fence, fancy cattle trucked in from out of state, two sets of swine breeding stock, 800 plus chicks and all the feed to keep these critters alive...
They may have started out with the best of intentions and they may have tried their best, hack they may even have a successful farm someday, but when this book was written it was not, yet in the final chapters the author implies that it was and even implies that a financially viable livestock farm can be started quickly with little capital.
I'm not sure how to close this review other than by suggesting you skip this book if you are looking for an honest picture of starting a small, humane, financially viable livestock farm.

This one went from 47 of 61 to:  

47 of 161 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tims summer vacationMarch 27, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Accidental Farmers: An urban couple, a rural calling and a dream of farming in harmony with nature (Paperback)
Note: The author has both posted reviews of his own book under pseudonyms, and has posted responses to reviews claiming to be a "customer of this farm", repeatedly. If you'd like to see what fans of natures harmony have said about this book, please check out the the 2 star reviews here -- kellyjane april 6, 2011 and Meredith Mizell, Dec 7,2011 -- both contain reasoned objections to the topics covered in this book based on their experience with Mr. Young, and both had hoped to like the book but could not based on its contents.

With any venture it takes time and effort to become proficient at it. What Tim does over and over again is set himself up for farming failure. With the pigs/chickens/rabbits/sheep/beef/bees, he doesn't stick with it long enough to know what it looks like to succeed.

At this time he's not raising any commercial quantities of many of the animals he describes in his book; beef cattle, laying hens, rabbits, large black and berkshire pigs, bees and sheep. He claims to be sustainable, but one measure of sustainability is continuing to be in business. Tim appears to no longer be in any of the ventures he promotes in this book, and has put his farm up for sale at the time I write this (4-22-2014)

What I find objectionable about this book is that tim actively promotes a farming style that in my opinion causes the needless death of animals. He decided to feed his hundreds of laying hens half the food they required in a misguided effort to encourage foraging, and hundreds of the stressed birds died. He then gives away the survivors and equipment. How about you figure out what went wrong and make it right, Tim?

I cannot think of another farmer who buys livestock and then just watches them die when they could be treated or saved. Chickens, turkeys, dairy cows, sheep... they all get the natures harmony farm treatment, and hundreds die. Turn them out and let them fend for themselves. Survival of the fittest. This is opposite the view that most farmers hold -- that they can, through love and care -- make a positive impact on the animals on their farm.

Most farmers cannot afford to spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on livestock and watch them die. I would hate to see someone who was interested in farming follow in these guys footsteps from an animal welfare or simple economics point of view. If I ran my farm the way they did, I'd go broke.
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