If you find all this as depressing as I do, here's a suggestion: go out and buy a copy of A Garlic Testament, by Stanley Crawford (HarperCollins, 1992, $20). It's a book about garlic farming, written by a garlic farmer, and it features some of the most eloquent writing on business I've ever read.

Crawford describes how the experience of selling his produce at farmers' markets in Santa Fe and Taos, N. Mex., transformed him from a reluctant, even angry, salesman into someone who views markets as "places of sociability and conviviality" in which economic exchange enlivens our communities. He writes insightfully about the limitations of conventional financial statements, explaining his conversion to the Amish concept of labor not as an expense but as a product consumed by family, friends, and neighbors. And anyone who tills entrepreneurial soil will identify with what Crawford calls "cranky farmer talk," his own complaints about the pressures that he feels from outsiders -- environmentalists, bankers, neighbors, fellow farmers -- to farm one way or another. The effect, he says, is to intensify the already solitary life of the individual farmer.

During a time of rapid change, when we are exhorted on all sides to be smarter, faster, and ever more innovative in our economic pursuits, Stanley Crawford's book is a gentle reminder that true security can come only from "that web of arrangements with family and friends and neighbors and coworkers . . . which one has woven into a sense of community."