If you ever Google “farm books” or “best farm books,” you’re likely to get an array of kids’ books, featuring cutesy images of guys in overalls and straw hats talking about raising cows or driving tractors. But there are lots of farm books out there perfect for grown-ups who want to learn more about food and agriculture and how the decisions our farmers are making today will impact the world. These great farm books explore history and science, feature innovative farmers or spin fascinating fiction, all while educating people and offering a variety of perspectives about how agriculture has come to function in the modern era.
And though you may be familiar with the most popular books that relate to food and farming (John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma being two that come to mind), there are so many other titles that should make it onto your reading list — some are lesser-known works while others are great ones that you may have forgotten about. The best farm books available explore topics on science and technology, sustainability, finance, and the food chain, and uncover the stories about those who help feed us.
We asked a dozen farmers and ag professionals which books they would recommend, and here are 31 that rose though the ranks (in no particular order), along with descriptions and links about how to get your hands on them. In this list, you’ll find a lot of diverse ideas, but all of them hopefully will move you and help to bring a unique perspective on today’s food system.
Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly
By James E. McWilliams
We suffer today from food anxiety, bombarded as we are with confusing messages about how to eat an ethical diet. Should we eat locally? Is organic really better for the environment? Can genetically modified foods be good for you?
Just Food does for fresh food what Fast Food Nation did for fast food, challenging conventional views, and cutting through layers of myth and misinformation. For instance, an imported tomato is more energy-efficient than a local greenhouse-grown tomato. And farm-raised freshwater fish may soon be the most sustainable source of protein.
Informative and surprising, Just Food tells us how to decide what to eat, and how our choices can help save the planet and feed the world.
Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman: Conservation Heroes of the American Heartland
By Miriam Horn
Many of the men and women doing today’s most consequential environmental work―restoring America’s grasslands, wildlife, soil, rivers, wetlands, and oceans―would not call themselves environmentalists; they would be too uneasy with the connotations of that word. What drives them is their deep love of the land: the iconic terrain where explorers and cowboys, pioneers and riverboat captains forged the American identity. They feel a moral responsibility to preserve this heritage and natural wealth, to ensure that their families and communities will continue to thrive.
Unfolding as a journey down the Mississippi River, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman tells the stories of five representatives of this stewardship movement: a Montana rancher, a Kansas farmer, a Mississippi riverman, a Louisiana shrimper, and a Gulf fisherman. In exploring their work and family histories and the essential geographies they protect, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman challenges pervasive and powerful myths about American and environmental values.
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year.
The Food Police: A Well-Fed Manifesto About the Politics of Your Plate
By Jayson Lusk
A rollicking indictment of the liberal elite’s hypocrisy when it comes to food.
Ban trans-fats? Outlaw Happy Meals? Tax Twinkies? What’s next? Affirmative action for cows? A catastrophe is looming. Farmers are raping the land and torturing animals. Food is riddled with deadly pesticides, hormones and foreign DNA. Corporate farms are wallowing in government subsidies. Meat packers and fast food restaurants are exploiting workers and tainting the food supply. And Paula Deen has diabetes!
Something must be done. So says an emerging elite in this country who think they know exactly what we should grow, cook and eat. They are the food police.
Taking on the commandments and condescension the likes of Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Mark Bittman, The Food Police casts long overdue skepticism on fascist food snobbery, debunking the myths propagated by the food elite. You’ll learn:
- Organic food is not necessarily healthier or tastier (and is certainly more expensive).
- Genetically modified foods haven’t sickened a single person but they have made farmers more profitable and they do hold the promise of feeding impoverished Africans.
- Farm policies aren’t making us fat.
- Voguish locavorism is not greener or better for the economy.
- Fat taxes won’t slim our waists and “fixing” school lunch programs won’t make our kids any smarter.
- Why the food police hypocritically believe an iPad is a technological marvel but food technology is an industrial evil
Food Bullying: How to Avoid Buying B.S.
By Michele Payn
As a gold medal award-winning title in the health/medicine/nutrition category of the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards, or “IPPY” Awards, Food Bullying: How to Avoid Buying B.S. reveals the $5.75 trillion secret that food marketers and celebrity spokespeople don’t want you to know and provides tools to defend your food choices.
More than 40,000 products can be found in a grocery store, making it a playground for food bullying and leading consumers to believe that B.S. (bull speak) food is superior. Positioning one food as superior to another lies at the heart of food bullying and marketing profits. Misleading marketing has made food an unnecessarily emotional topic where each choice is seemingly a moral statement or social movement.
Food Bullying upends the way you think about food and gives you permission to make eating choices based on your own social, ethical, environmental, and health standards rather than brand, friend, or Facebook claims. Michele Payn, one of North America’s leading voices in connecting farm and food, takes a startling look at the misrepresentation of food and sheds light on bogus nutrition and environmental claims to help you recognize and stand up to the bullies. Food Bullying guides you through understanding food label claims and offers insight on “the hidden world of farming.” Armed with science and a lifetime on the farm, Payn provides a six-step action plan for you to overcome food bullying, simplify safe food choices, and even save time in the grocery store.
Food 5.0: How We Feed the Future
By Robert D. Saik
Food has become the new religion. While denominations such as paleo, vegan, and organic debate which is “the way,” we’re ignoring a truth that affects us all: to support a population nearing 10 billion by 2050, agriculture must become infinitely sustainable. To feed the world, we have to grow 10,000 years’ worth of food in the next 30 years, which means farmers worldwide must increase food production by 60 to 70 percent. This book is about the small percentage of those “farmers of consequence” being called upon to grow the vast majority of the world’s staple food supply. While mighty in their ability, they need support from a general public that increasingly has no idea how they operate.
In Food 5.0, Robert Saik takes you on a journey from the “muscle era” of farming to a future where the convergence of new technologies like sensors, robotics, and machine learning make infinite sustainability achievable. With the veil lifted on modern agriculture practices, you’ll be inspired to contribute to a culture where farmers can adopt the science and tools they need to carry out their mission of feeding the planet.
No More Food Fights!: Growing a Productive Farm & Food Conversation
By Michele Payn-Knoper
Food fights might seem entertaining, but there’s nothing funny about the fight staking place over food production. Resource limitations, animal welfare, and biotechnology are just a few issues cropping up to create confusion in the grocery store. Ultimately, both farmers and food buyers are making a personal choice, and author Michele Payn-Knoper calls for decorum instead of mayhem in the conversation around farm and food.
In an effort to break stereotypes, one side of this book describes farmers who don’t wear overalls but who do use technology in producing food and preserving the environment, dairy farmers who work on “cow comfort,” and how hard farmers work on sustainability. On the other side, the book reminds farmers that only a tiny percentage of the population lives on a farm and urges farmers to tell their stories through social media and everyday conversation to correct mistaken beliefs about food production perpetuated by traditional media.
The book’s very design lends itself to exploring both sides of the issue. One side of No More Food Fights! is aimed at those who primarily consume food-chefs, health care professionals, foodies, dietitians, and retailers. Flipping the book reveals the other side, which is geared toward those who produce food-farmers, agricultural businesses, and ranchers.
A Soil Owner’s Manual: How to Restore and Maintain Soil Health
By Jon Stika
A Soil Owner’s Manual: Restoring and Maintaining Soil Health is about restoring the capacity of your soil to perform all the functions it was intended to perform. This book is not another fanciful guide on how to continuously manipulate and amend your soil to try and keep it productive. This book will change the way you think about and manage your soil. It may even change your life. If you are interested in solving the problem of dysfunctional soil and successfully addressing the symptoms of soil erosion, water runoff, nutrient deficiencies, compaction, soil crusting, weeds, insect pests, plant diseases, and water pollution, or simply wish to grow healthy vegetables in your family garden, then this book is for you.
Soil health pioneer Jon Stika, describes in simple terms how you can bring your soil back to its full productive potential by understanding and applying the principles that built your soil in the first place. Understanding how the soil functions is critical to reducing the reliance on expensive inputs to maintain yields. Working with, instead of against, the processes that naturally govern the soil can increase profitability and restore the soil to health. Restoring soil health can proactively solve natural resource issues before regulations are imposed that will merely address the symptoms. This book will lead you through the basic biology and guiding principles that will allow you to assess and restore your soil. It is part of a movement currently underway in agriculture that is working to restore what has been lost. A Soil Owner’s Manual: Restoring and Maintaining Soil Health will give you the opportunity to be part of this movement. Restoring soil health is restoring hope in the future of agriculture, from large farm fields and pastures, down to your own vegetable or flower garden.
Note: Author Jon Stika is a regular contributors to AGDAILY.com. You can read all of his articles by clicking here.
Seeds of Science: Why We Got It So Wrong On GMOs
By Mark Lyons
In Seeds of Science, eco-activist Mark Lynas lifts the lid on the controversial story and misunderstood science of GMOs. In the mid-1990s, as the global media stirred up a panic about the risks of genetically modified crops, Lynas destroyed crop fields and spoke out in the press…until he realized he was wrong. This book explains why.
Twenty years after GMO crops became a source of controversy, scientists are working hard to devise new farming methods that will meet the world’s food requirements while causing the minimum amount of ecological harm. We’re now discovering that the environmentalist mainstream might have misjudged the GMO issue completely, and as a consequence we have forfeited two decades’ worth of scientific progress in perhaps the most vital area of human need: food.
No one is more aware of this fact than Mark Lynas. Starting out as one of the leading activists in the fight against GMOs-from destroying experimental crop fields to leading the charge in the press-in 2013 Lynas famously admitted that he got it all wrong. Lynas takes us back to the origins of the technology, and examines the histories of the people and companies who pioneered it. He explains what lead him to question his assumptions on GMOs, and how he is currently tracking poverty by using genetic modification to encourage better harvests.
Seeds of Science provides an explanation of the research that has enabled this technology-something which led to countless misconceptions about a field that could provide perhaps the only solution to a planet with a population of ten billion people.
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
By Timothy Egan
The Worst Hard Time is an epic story of blind hope and endurance almost beyond belief; it is also, as Tim Egan has told it, a riveting tale of bumptious charlatans, conmen, and tricksters, environmental arrogance and hubris, political chicanery, and a ruinous ignorance of nature’s ways. Egan has reached across the generations and brought us the people who played out the drama in this devastated land, and uses their voices to tell the story as well as it could ever be told.” — Marq de Villiers, author of Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource
The dust storms that terrorized America’s High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since, and the stories of the people that held on have never been fully told. Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist and author Timothy Egan follows a half-dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, going from sod homes to new framed houses to huddling in basements with the windows sealed by damp sheets in a futile effort to keep the dust out. He follows their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black blizzards, crop failure, and the deaths of loved ones. Drawing on the voices of those who stayed and survived—those who, now in their eighties and nineties, will soon carry their memories to the grave — Egan tells a story of endurance and heroism against the backdrop of the Great Depression.
As only great history can, Egan’s book captures the very voice of the times: its grit, pathos, and abiding courage. Combining the human drama of Isaac’s Storm with the sweep of The American People in the Great Depression, The Worst Hard Time is a lasting and important work of American history.
Note: The founders of AgBookClub wrote about this title for AGDAILY.com. Read their reviews here.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
By Barbara Kingslover
Kingsolver writes about the year she and her family spent only eating what they grew or could source locally. It is inspirational, demonstrating the joys and struggles of being intimately connected to the food you eat and provides a good guide on how to support your local farming community. Highly acclaimed when it was published in 2007, it won the James Beard award and remained on the best seller list for years.
From the author — “Our highest shopping goal was to get our food from so close to home, we’d know the person who grew it. Often that turned out to be ourselves as we learned to produce what we needed, starting with dirt, seeds, and enough knowledge to muddle through. Or starting with baby animals, and enough sense to refrain from naming them.”
An Industry Worth Fighting For
By Derrick Josi
A storm cuts through the placid Oregon skies. Not a meteorological event — rather, an onslaught aimed at destroying the livelihood of dairy farmers across America. Standing in the bull’s-eye is Derrick Josi, a fourth-generation dairy farmer who is known as TDF Honest Farming and has taken a stand against the lies, deceit, and personal attacks made by self-proclaimed activists across social media.
This book offers readers a glimpse behind the curtain of a working dairy farm. Staying true to his charm and wit, Derrick does not shy away from sensitive topics. Rather, he presents reality in terms that are stark but sensitive … a balance as delicate as the lives for which he is responsible. This isn’t just the story of one dairy farmer; it is the story of an industry worth fighting for.
Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior
By Temple Grandin
Why would a cow lick a tractor? Why are collies getting dumber? Why do dolphins sometimes kill for fun? How can a parrot learn to spell? How did wolves teach man to evolve? Temple Grandin draws upon a long, distinguished career as an animal scientist and her own experiences with autism to deliver an extraordinary message about how animals act, think, and feel. She has a perspective like that of no other expert in the field, which allows her to offer unparalleled observations and groundbreaking ideas.
People with autism can often think the way animals think, putting them in the perfect position to translate “animal talk.” Grandin is a faithful guide into their world, exploring animal pain, fear, aggression, love, friendship, communication, learning, and, yes, even animal genius. The sweep of Animals in Translation is immense and will forever change the way we think about animals.
Note: Another great title by Grandin is Animals Make Us Human.
The Man Who Fed the World
By Leon Hesser
Dr. Norman Borlaug, one of the world’s greatest heroes, is the most highly-decorated individual of our time. He is credited with saving over a billion people from starvation. Dr. Borlaug is only one of five people in history to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. In addition, Dr. Borlaug received the Padma Vibhushan, the highest civilian award the government of India can present to a non-citizen. The Man Who Fed the World has won three nation book of the year awards: USA Booknews best Biography of the Year. The American Farm Bureau for Agriculture Best Book of the Year award, and Florida Publishers Association Best Book Award.
Note: The founders of AgBookClub wrote about this title for AGDAILY.com. Read their reviews here.
The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities
By Will Allen
A pioneering urban farmer and MacArthur Genius Award-Winner points the way to building a new food system that can feed- and heal- communities.
The son of a sharecropper, Will Allen had no intention of ever becoming a farmer himself. But after years in professional basketball and as an executive for Kentucky Fried Chicken and Procter & Gamble, he cashed in his retirement fund for a two-acre plot just outside Milwaukee’s largest public housing project. The area was a food desert with only convenience stores and fast-food restaurants to serve the needs of locals.
Despite financial challenges and daunting odds, Allen built the country’s preeminent urban farm-a food and educational center that now produces enough produce and fish year-round to feed thousands. Employing young people from the neighboring housing project and community, Growing Power shows how local food systems can help troubled youths, dismantle racism, create jobs, bring urban and rural communities closer together, and improve public health. Today, Allen’s organization helps develop community food systems across the country.
An eco-classic in the making, The Good Food Revolution is the story of Will’s personal journey, the lives he has touched, and a grassroots movement that is changing the way our nation eats.
Dirt to Soil: One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture
By Gabe Brown
Gabe Brown didn’t set out to change the world when he first started working alongside his father-in-law on the family farm in North Dakota. But as a series of weather-related crop disasters put Brown and his wife, Shelly, in desperate financial straits, they started making bold changes to their farm. Brown―in an effort to simply survive — began experimenting with new practices he’d learned about from reading and talking with innovative researchers and ranchers. As he and his family struggled to keep the farm viable, they found themselves on an amazing journey into a new type of farming: regenerative agriculture.
Brown dropped the use of most of the herbicides, insecticides, and synthetic fertilizers that are a standard part of conventional agriculture. He switched to no-till planting, started planting diverse cover crops mixes, and changed his grazing practices. In so doing Brown transformed a degraded farm ecosystem into one full of life — starting with the soil and working his way up, one plant and one animal at a time.
In Dirt to Soil Gabe Brown tells the story of that amazing journey and offers a wealth of innovative solutions to our most pressing and complex contemporary agricultural challenge — restoring the soil. The Brown’s Ranch model, developed over twenty years of experimentation and refinement, focuses on regenerating resources by continuously enhancing the living biology in the soil. Using regenerative agricultural principles, Brown’s Ranch has grown several inches of new topsoil in only twenty years! The 5,000-acre ranch profitably produces a wide variety of cash crops and cover crops as well as grass-finished beef and lamb, pastured laying hens, broilers, and pastured pork, all marketed directly to consumers.
The key is how we think, Brown says. In the industrial agricultural model, all thoughts are focused on killing things. But that mindset was also killing diversity, soil, and profit, Brown realized. Now he channels his creative thinking toward how he can get more life on the land―more plants, animals, and beneficial insects. “The greatest roadblock to solving a problem,” Brown says, “is the human mind.”
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
By J.D. Vance
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for more than forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.
The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.
A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.
Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic
By Dennis T. Avery
If one listens to the latest pronouncements from a number of prominent environmentalists, things seem very dire indeed. Poisonous apples, genetically engineered milk, rising global temperatures, and decreasing rainforest acreage are favorite causes. And all too often the media uncritically carries the environmentalists’ tainted water.Fortunately, there is another side to the story. The second edition of Dennis Avery’s 1995 seminal work, Saving the Planet Through Pesticides and Plastics shows that cancer risks in the industrialized nations are decreasing; that the world’s temperature rises and falls naturally; that governments, not agribusinesses, have been encouraging people to cut down rain forests; that the industrial nations pollute less than other countries; and that the widespread use of organic farming threatens the world’s wildlife.Avery shows that high yield farming techniques can both feed the earth’s burgeoning population that will reach 8 billion in the next century while preserving wildlands and wildlife. Thoroughly updated and re-written with new information and data, Avery’s controversial book shows how agricultural technology can save the planet for both people and wildlife.
Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love
By Simran Sethi
Award-winning journalist Simran Sethi explores the history and cultural importance of our most beloved tastes, paying homage to the ingredients that give us daily pleasure, while providing a thoughtful wake-up call to the homogenization that is threatening the diversity of our food supply.
Food is one of the greatest pleasures of human life. Our response to sweet, salty, bitter, or sour is deeply personal, combining our individual biological characteristics, personal preferences, and emotional connections. Bread, Wine, Chocolate illuminates not only what it means to recognize the importance of the foods we love, but also what it means to lose them. Award-winning journalist Simran Sethi reveals how the foods we enjoy are endangered by genetic erosion — a slow and steady loss of diversity in what we grow and eat. In America today, food often looks and tastes the same, whether at a San Francisco farmers market or at a Midwestern potluck. Shockingly, 95% of the world’s calories now come from only thirty species. Though supermarkets seem to be stocked with endless options, the differences between products are superficial, primarily in flavor and brand.
Sethi draws on interviews with scientists, farmers, chefs, vintners, beer brewers, coffee roasters and others with firsthand knowledge of our food to reveal the multiple and interconnected reasons for this loss, and its consequences for our health, traditions, and culture. She travels to Ethiopian coffee forests, British yeast culture labs, and Ecuadoran cocoa plantations collecting fascinating stories that will inspire readers to eat more consciously and purposefully, better understand familiar and new foods, and learn what it takes to save the tastes that connect us with the world around us.
Note: The founders of AgBookClub wrote about this title for AGDAILY.com. Read their reviews here.
Seventy Summers: The Story of a Farm
By Tony Harman
Tony Harman was a working farmer who, in his later years, became the author of the bestselling book and BBC television series, Seventy Summers. An advocate of modern farming methods, he wrote in a way that revealed a deep love of the countryside and a sensitive awareness of his influence on the landscape.
The Tale of the Axe: How the Neolithic Revolution Transformed Britain
By David Miles
Approximately 12,000 years ago, early humans in western Asia and Europe who had been itinerant foragers, subsisting on what food they could find, slowly began settling in one place. They farmed and domesticated animals, created new tools, built monuments, and began preserving and storing food. What brought about this shift? What difference did it make to the overall population? And what effects did this Neolithic Revolution have on generations to come?
The Tale of the Axe explores the New Stone Age — named for the new types of stone tools that appeared at that time, specifically the ground stone axe―taking Britain as its focus. David Miles takes the reader on a journey through Neolithic Britain by way of its ancestors, geographical neighbors, and the species from which humans emerged before turning an eye to the future and those aspects of the Neolithic Revolution that live on today: farming, built communities, modern man, and much more.
The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture
By Wendell Berry
Since its publication in 1977, The Unsettling of America has been recognized as a classic of American letters. In it, Wendell Berry argues that good farming is a cultural and spiritual discipline. Today’s agribusiness, however, takes farming out of its cultural context and away from families. As a result, we as a nation are more estranged from the land — from the intimate knowledge, love, and care of it.
Sadly, his arguments and observations are more relevant than ever. Although “this book has not had the happy fate of being proved wrong,” Berry writes, there are people working “to make something comely and enduring of our life on this earth.” Wendell Berry is one of those people, writing and working, as ever, with passion, eloquence, and conviction.
How to Feed the World
By Jessica Eise and Ken Foster
By 2050, we will have ten billion mouths to feed in a world profoundly altered by environmental change. How can we meet this challenge? In How to Feed the World, a diverse group of experts from Purdue University break down this crucial question by tackling big issues one-by-one. Covering population, water, land, climate change, technology, food systems, trade, food waste and loss, health, social buy-in, communication, and, lastly, the ultimate challenge of achieving equal access to food, the book reveals a complex web of factors that must be addressed in order to reach global food security.
How to Feed the World unites contributors from different perspectives and academic disciplines, ranging from agronomy and hydrology to agricultural economy and communication. Hailing from Germany, the Philippines, the U.S., Ecuador, and beyond, the contributors weave their own life experiences into their chapters, connecting global issues to our tangible, day-to-day existence. Across every chapter, a similar theme emerges: these are not simple problems, yet we can overcome them. Doing so will require cooperation between farmers, scientists, policy makers, consumers, and many others.
The resulting collection is an accessible but wide-ranging look at the modern food system. Readers will not only get a solid grounding in key issues, but be challenged to investigate further and contribute to the paramount effort to feed the world.
Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America
By Michael Ruhlman
In Grocery, bestselling author Michael Ruhlman offers incisive commentary on America’s relationship with its food and investigates the overlooked source of so much of it — the grocery store.
In a culture obsessed with food—how it looks, what it tastes like, where it comes from, what is good for us — there are often more questions than answers. Ruhlman proposes that the best practices for consuming wisely could be hiding in plain sight — in the aisles of your local supermarket. Using the human story of the family-run Midwestern chain Heinen’s as an anchor to this journalistic narrative, he dives into the mysterious world of supermarkets and the ways in which we produce, consume, and distribute food. Grocery examines how rapidly supermarkets — and our food and culture — have changed since the days of your friendly neighborhood grocer. But rather than waxing nostalgic for the age of mom-and-pop shops, Ruhlman seeks to understand how our food needs have shifted since the mid-twentieth century, and how these needs mirror our cultural ones.
A mix of reportage and rant, personal history and social commentary, Grocery is a landmark book from one of our most insightful food writers.
Note: The founders of AgBookClub wrote about this title for AGDAILY.com. Read their reviews here.
From Maverick to Mainstream: A History of No-Till Farming
By Frank Lessiter
Enjoy a stunning and unique collection of no-till stories, photographs, facts, and figures chronicling the history of no-till farming from the early years through today. This extraordinary hardbound book takes a decade-by-decade look at the world of no-till as seen through the eyes of those who observed the many changes in no-till since the first commercial U.S. plot in 1962. With its in-depth coverage and photographic appeal, A History of No-Till Farming: From Maverick to Mainstream features 416 pages of personal stories of how no-till changed the lives of no-till farmers and their families, hundreds of full color images, photographs and charts some never before published, top individuals who influenced no-till adoption and expansion, the evolution of no-till equipment and setups that were game-changers, global trends in no-till and the future of no-till farming!
Cowboy Wisdom: Over 200 Quotes about the Old West
By Gerd De Ley
From Roy Rogers to Will Rogers, Gene Autry to John Wayne, cowboys have always been a part of America.
Now, Cowboy Wisdom collects over 200 essential quotes from history, myth and culture about the defining era of the Wild West, including humor, wise words, and powerful quotations. Cowboy Wisdom is great for the lover of the cowboy days, western movies, and Americana.
Cowboy Wisdom presents a carefully curated collection of fun, ribald, and classic quotes celebrating the spirit of the days gone by.
By Edward H. Faulkner
Mr. Faulkner’s masterpiece is recognized as the most important challenge to agricultural orthodoxy that has been advanced in this century. Its new philosophy of the soil, based on proven principles and completely opposed to age-old concepts, has had a strong impact upon theories of cultivation around the world. It was on July 5, 1943, when Plowman’s Folly was first issued, that the author startled a lethargic public, long bemused by the apparently insoluble problem of soil depletion, by saying, simply, “The fact is that no one has ever advanced a scientific reason for plowing.” With the key sentence, he opened a new era.
For generations, our reasoning about the management of the soil has rested upon the use of the moldboard plow. Mr. Faulkner proved rather conclusively that soil impoverishment, erosion, decreasing crop yields, and many of the adverse effects following droughts or periods of excessive rainfall could be traced directly to the practice of plowing natural fertilizers deep into the soil. Through his own test-plot and field-scale experiments, in which he prepared the soil with a disk harrow, in emulation of nature’s way on the forest floor and in the natural meadow, by incorporating green manures into its surface, he transformed ordinary, even inferior, soils into extremely productive, high-yield croplands.
Time magazine called this concept “one of the most revolutionary ideas in agriculture history.” The volume is being made available again not only because farmers, ranchers, gardeners, and agriculturists demanded it, but also because it details the kind of “revolution” which will aid those searching for the fruits of the earth in the emerging nations.
Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing from Rural America
By Bo Brock
Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing from Rural America is a collection of humorous and poignant stories from a veterinarian in a small, dusty farming and ranching community in rural West Texas. Dr. Brock gives you an intimate look into his small-town and big-hearted perspective on life, animals, and their owners. His unique perspective and tales of doctoring beloved pets, cantankerous livestock, and occasionally their owners will make you smile, laugh, cry, and evoke every other emotion under the sun.
Crop Chemophobia: Will Precaution Kill the Green Revolution?
Edited by Jon Entine
The Green Revolution of 1960s introduced herbicides, pesticides, and advanced agricultural technologies to third world countries-rescuing hundreds of millions of people from malnutrition and starvation and transforming low-yield, labor-intensive farming into the high-tech, immensely productive industry it is today. Despite these stunning gains, critics of chemical farming remain vocal. Recently, the European Union passed a ban on twenty-two chemicals-about 15 percent of the EU pesticides market-to begin in 2011. In Crop Chemophobia, Jon Entine and his coauthors examine the “precautionary principle” that underlies the EU’s decision and explore the ban’s potential consequences-including environmental degradation, decreased food safety, impaired disease-control efforts, and a hungrier world.
All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Things Wise and Wonderful (3-Volume Set)
By James Herriot
James Herriot (1916–1995) was the pen name of James Alfred “Alf” Wight, an English veterinarian whose tales of veterinary practice and country life have delighted generations. Many of Herriot’s works became international bestsellers and have been adapted for film and television. Herriot’s stories rely on numerous autobiographical elements taken from his life in northern England’s Yorkshire County, and they depict a simple, rustic world deeply in touch with the cycles of nature.
Collected here are three of his masterpieces — All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and All Things Wise and Wonderful — which have been winning over animal lovers everywhere for almost 50 years. From his night visits to drafty barns during freezing northern England winters, to the beautiful vitality of rural life in the summertime, to the colorful menagerie of animals — and their owners — that pass through his office, Herriot vividly evokes the daily challenges and joys that come with being a veterinarian.
Witty and heartwarming, this collection of whimsical, dramatic, and touching anecdotes reveals the ties that bind us to the animals in our lives. This edition features a new introduction from the author’s son and bonus archival photos.
Read more about the impact James Herriot made on veterinarians and our appreciation of livestock here.
The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World
By Bjorn Lomborg
Bjørn Lomborg, a former member of Greenpeace, challenges widely held beliefs that the world environmental situation is getting worse and worse in his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. Using statistical information from internationally recognized research institutes, Lomborg systematically examines a range of major environmental issues that feature prominently in headline news around the world, including pollution, biodiversity, fear of chemicals, and the greenhouse effect, and documents that the world has actually improved.
He supports his arguments with over 2500 footnotes, allowing readers to check his sources. Lomborg criticizes the way many environmental organizations make selective and misleading use of scientific evidence and argues that we are making decisions about the use of our limited resources based on inaccurate or incomplete information. Concluding that there are more reasons for optimism than pessimism, he stresses the need for clear-headed prioritization of resources to tackle real, not imagined, problems. The Skeptical Environmentalist offers readers a non-partisan evaluation that serves as a useful corrective to the more alarmist accounts favored by campaign groups and the media. Bjørn Lomborg is an associate professor of statistics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Aarhus. When he started to investigate the statistics behind the current gloomy view of the environment, he was genuinely surprised. He published four lengthy articles in the leading Danish newspaper, including statistics documenting an ever-improving world, and unleashed the biggest post-war debate with more than 400 articles in all the major papers. Since then, Lomborg has been a frequent participant in the European debate on environmentalism on television, radio, and in newspapers.
Under the Rope
By Clive Venables
A sideways look at 50 years of farming. Seen through the cloudy and cracked mirror of retrospection, our lives are more journeying through relationships than places, through happenings not histories, more what took place on the train than the destination. More poetry than prose. My journey through late twentieth century farming, from suburban austerity dominated Nottingham, through post-colonial Africa to present day Dartmoor and the French Pyrenees was both eggshell strewn and diamond blessed. Time widens the cracks and beneath the bravado lies a fear that the giants and dwarfs of my journey might slip away like salt through dry fingers. To the giants go the first falling snowflakes from a black December sky, the red African sinking Kalahari sun, the husky welcoming bleat of a new-born lamb, the joy filled leap of brown river trout and the smoking winter luxury of wood warmed houses. To the dwarfs … mostly we passed unknowingly like boats on a dark sea.
This article was originally published Nov. 26, 2018, and updated on Aug. 11, 2020, Nov. 3, 2021, and Oct. 20, 2022.