Live Slow x Connecting People & Food: Books We're Reading
“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”  

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden  

The Plowman's Folly
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.

 

The Unsettling of America
Wendell Berry

Since its publication by Sierra Club Books 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 development 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. We continue to suffer loss of community, the devaluation of human work, and the destruction of nature under an economic system dedicated to the mechanistic pursuit of products and profits. Although “this book has not had the happy fate of being proved wrong,” Berry writes, there are good 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.
 
Defending Beef
Nicolette Hahn Niman

For decades it has been nearly universal dogma among environmentalists and health advocates that cattle and beef are public enemy number one.
But is the matter really so clear cut? Hardly, argues environmental lawyer turned rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman in her new book, Defending Beef.
The public has long been led to believe that livestock, especially cattle, erode soils, pollute air and water, damage riparian areas, and decimate wildlife populations.
In Defending Beef, Hahn Niman argues that cattle are not inherently bad for either the Earth or our own nutritional health. In fact, properly managed livestock play an essential role in maintaining grassland ecosystems by functioning as surrogates for herds of wild ruminants that once covered the globe. Hahn Niman argues that dispersed, grass-fed, small-scale farms can and should become the basis for American food production, replacing the factory farms that harm animals and the environment.
The author—a longtime vegetarian—goes on to dispel popular myths about how eating beef is bad for our bodies. She methodically evaluates health claims made against beef, demonstrating that such claims have proven false.  She shows how foods from cattle—milk and meat, particularly when raised entirely on grass—are healthful, extremely nutritious, and an irreplaceable part of the world’s food system.
Grounded in empirical scientific data and with living examples from around the world, Defending Beef builds a comprehensive argument that cattle can help to build carbon-sequestering soils to mitigate climate change, enhance biodiversity, help prevent desertification, and provide invaluable nutrition.
Defending Beef is simultaneously a book about big ideas and the author’s own personal tale—she starts out as a skeptical vegetarian and eventually becomes an enthusiastic participant in environmentally sustainable ranching.
While no single book can definitively answer the thorny question of how to feed the Earth’s growing population, Defending Beef makes the case that, whatever the world’s future food system looks like, cattle and beef can and must be part of the solution.
 

The Omnivore's Dilemma
Michael Pollan

What should we have for dinner? The question has confronted us since man discovered fire, but according to Michael Pollan, the bestselling author of The Botany of Desire, how we answer it today, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, may well determine our very survival as a species. Should we eat a fast-food hamburger? Something organic? Or perhaps something we hunt, gather, or grow ourselves? The omnivore’s dilemma has returned with a vengeance, as the cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast-food outlet confronts us with a bewildering and treacherous food landscape. What’s at stake in our eating choices is not only our own and our children’s health, but the health of the environment that sustains life on earth.


From farmer Joel Salatin's point of view, life in the 21st century just ain't normal. In FOLKS, THIS AIN'T NORMAL, he discusses how far removed we are from the simple, sustainable joy that comes from living close to the land and the people we love. Salatin has many thoughts on what normal is and shares practical and philosophical ideas for changing our lives in small ways that have big impact.
Salatin, hailed by the New York Times as "Virginia's most multifaceted agrarian since Thomas Jefferson [and] the high priest of the pasture" and profiled in the Academy Award nominated documentary Food, Inc. and the bestselling book The Omnivore's Dilemma, understands what food should be: Wholesome, seasonal, raised naturally, procured locally, prepared lovingly, and eaten with a profound reverence for the circle of life. And his message doesn't stop there. From child-rearing, to creating quality family time, to respecting the environment, Salatin writes with a wicked sense of humor and true storyteller's knack for the revealing anecdote. 

Salatin's crucial message and distinctive voice-practical, provocative, scientific, and down-home philosophical in equal measure-make FOLKS, THIS AIN'T NORMAL a must-read book. 

 

Kiss the Ground: How the Food You Eat Can Reverse Climate Change, Heal Your Body & Ultimately Save Our World 
Josh Tickell

Discover the hidden power soil has to reverse climate change, and how a regenerative farming diet not only delivers us better health and wellness, but also rebuilds our most precious resource—the very ground that feeds us.

Josh Tickell, one of America’s most celebrated documentary filmmakers and director of Fuel, has dedicated most of his life to saving the environment. Now, in Kiss the Ground, he explains an incredible truth: by changing our diets to a soil-nourishing, regenerative agriculture diet, we can reverse global warming, harvest healthy, abundant food, and eliminate the poisonous substances that are harming our children, pets, bodies, and ultimately our planet.

Through fascinating and accessible interviews with celebrity chefs, ranchers, farmers, and top scientists, this remarkable book, soon to be a full-length documentary film narrated by Woody Harrelson, will teach you how to become an agent in humanity’s single most important and time sensitive mission. Reverse climate change and effectively save the world—all through the choices you make in how and what to eat.


The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love
Kristin Kimball

From a “graceful, luminous writer with an eye for detail,” this riveting memoir explores a year on a sustainable farm—and the real world epitome of Michael Pollan’s food philosophy.

"This book is the story of the two love affairs that interrupted the trajectory of my life: one with farming—that dirty, concupiscent art—and the other with a complicated and exasperating farmer."

Single, thirtysomething, working as a writer in New York City, Kristin Kimball was living life as an adventure. But she was beginning to feel a sense of longing for a family and for home. When she interviewed a dynamic young farmer, her world changed. Kristin knew nothing about growing vegetables, let alone raising pigs and cattle and driving horses. But on an impulse, smitten, if not yet in love, she shed her city self and moved to five hundred acres near Lake Champlain to start a new farm with him. The Dirty Life is the captivating chronicle of their first year on Essex Farm, from the cold North Country winter through the following harvest season—complete with their wedding in the loft of the barn. 

Kimball and her husband had a plan: to grow everything needed to feed a community. It was an ambitious idea, a bit romantic, and it worked. Every Friday evening, all year round, a hundred people travel to Essex Farm to pick up their weekly share of the "whole diet"—beef, pork, chicken, milk, eggs, maple syrup, grains, flours, dried beans, herbs, fruits, and forty different vegetables—produced by the farm. The work is done by draft horses instead of tractors, and the fertility comes from compost. Kimball’s vivid descriptions of landscape, food, cooking—and marriage—are irresistible. 

"As much as you transform the land by farming," she writes, "farming transforms you." In her old life, Kimball would stay out until four a.m., wear heels, and carry a handbag. Now she wakes up at four, wears Carhartts, and carries a pocket knife. At Essex Farm, she discovers the wrenching pleasures of physical work, learns that good food is at the center of a good life, falls deeply in love, and finally finds the engagement and commitment she craved in the form of a man, a small town, and a beautiful piece of land.



Through the Pacific Northwest forests and along the rugged coastal shores of California, Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild is a memoir of exploration and survival.
Dawn Again takes readers along on Doniga's journey: the wilderness immersion school where Indigenous elders and wildlife trackers were among her teachers, hitchhiking across the pacific northwest, the moment she first connected with a deer using owl eyes and fox walking techniques, and to Alaska where she fell in love with tracking white wolves and the rigor of wilderness survival.

With chapters on food, permaculture, and more, Dawn Again dives into Doniga's real-life experiences while equipping readers with practical knowledge. When Doniga tracks mountain lions with Erik, a rancher, she finds herself falling in love with more than just nature. She settles down on a cattle ranch on the California coast to start a family, and has to learn how to apply the deep, unshakeable lessons of the wild to her everyday life.
Wild foods are increasingly popular, as evidenced by the number of new books about identifying plants and foraging ingredients, as well as those written by chefs about culinary creations that incorporate wild ingredients (Noma, Faviken, Quay, Manreza, et al.). The New Wildcrafted Cuisine, however, goes well beyond both of these genres to deeply explore the flavors of local terroir, combining the research and knowledge of plants and landscape that chefs often lack with the fascinating and innovative techniques of a master food preserver and self-described “culinary alchemist.”
Author Pascal Baudar views his home terrain of southern California (mountain, desert, chaparral, and seashore) as a culinary playground, full of wild plants and other edible and delicious foods (even insects) that once were gathered and used by native peoples but that have only recently begun to be re-explored and appreciated.
For instance, he uses various barks to make smoked vinegars, and combines ants, plants, and insect sugar to brew primitive beers. Stems of aromatic plants are used to make skewers. Selected rocks become grinding stones, griddles, or plates. Even fallen leaves and other natural materials from the forest floor can be utilized to impart a truly local flavor to meats and vegetables, one that captures and expresses the essence of season and place.
This beautifully photographed book offers up dozens of creative recipes and instructions for preparing a pantry full of preserved foods, including Pickled Acorns, White Sage-Lime Cider, Wild Kimchi Spice, Currant Capers, Infused Salts with Wild Herbs, Pine Needles Vinegar, and many more. And though the author’s own palette of wild foods are mostly common to southern California, readers everywhere can apply Baudar’s deep foraging wisdom and experience to explore their own bioregions and find an astonishing array of plants and other materials that can be used in their own kitchens.
The New Wildcrafted Cuisine is an extraordinary book by a passionate and committed student of nature, one that will inspire both chefs and adventurous eaters to get creative with their own local landscapes.

(See his second book below to read more!)


The art of brewing doesn’t stop at the usual ingredients: barley, hops, yeast, and water. In fact, the origins of brewing involve a whole galaxy of wild and cultivated plants, fruits, berries, and other natural materials, which were once used to make a whole spectrum of creative, fermented drinks.
Now fermentation fans and home brewers can rediscover these “primitive” drinks and their unique flavors in The Wildcrafting Brewer. Wild-plant expert and forager Pascal Baudar’s first book, The New Wildcrafted Cuisine, opened up a whole new world of possibilities for readers wishing to explore and capture the flavors of their local terroir. The Wildcrafting Brewer does the same for fermented drinks. Baudar reveals both the underlying philosophy and the practical techniques for making your own delicious concoctions, from simple wild sodas, to non-grape-based “country wines,” to primitive herbal beers, meads, and traditional ethnic ferments like tiswin and kvass.
The book opens with a retrospective of plant-based brewing and ancient beers. The author then goes on to describe both hot and cold brewing methods and provides lots of interesting recipes; mugwort beer, horehound beer, and manzanita cider are just a few of the many drinks represented. Baudar is quick to point out that these recipes serve mainly as a touchstone for readers, who can then use the information and techniques he provides to create their own brews, using their own local ingredients.
The Wildcrafting Brewer will attract herbalists, foragers, natural-foodies, and chefs alike with the author’s playful and relaxed philosophy. Readers will find themselves surprised by how easy making your own natural drinks can be, and will be inspired, again, by the abundance of nature all around them.
 

Letters to a Young Farmer is both a compelling history and a vital road map—a reckoning of how we eat and farm; how the two can come together to build a more sustainable future; and why now, more than ever before, we need farmers.
In Letters to a Young Farmer, the first book from Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, some of the most influential farmers, writers and leaders of our time share their wisdom and insight in an anthology of 36 essays and letters. Barbara Kingsolver speaks to the tribe of farmers—some born to it, many self-selected—with love, admiration, and regret. Bill McKibben connects the early human quest for beer to the modern challenge of farming in a rapidly changing climate. Michael Pollan bridges the chasm between agriculture and nature. Dan BarberTemple GrandinWendell BerryRick Bayless, Marion Nestle and more offer advice and inspiration. See a full list of contributors here.

 

Eat Less Water
Florencia Ramirez

Experts predict two-thirds of people living on this planet in 2030 will experience water scarcity, a situation expected to result in the deaths of millions and an unprecedented rise in military conflicts. Can we as individuals hope to have any effect on the global scale of water misuse?
Yes, we can make a significant difference―with our food choices―learned author and activist Florencia Ramirez as she traveled across the nation to interview farmers and food producers. Tracing Ramirez’s tour of American water sustainable farms―from rice paddies in Cajun Louisiana to a Hawaiian coffee farm to a Boston chocolate factory and beyond―Eat Less Water tells the story of water served on our plates: an eye-opening account of the under-appreciated environmental threat of water scarcity, a useful cookbook with water-sustainable recipes accompanying each chapter, and a fascinating personal narrative that will teach the reader how they, too, can eat less water.
 

Dan Barber, an award-winning chef, moves beyond “farm-to-table” to offer a revolutionary new way of eating. After more than a decade spent investigating farming communities around the world in pursuit of singular flavor, Barber finally concluded that–for the sake of our food, our health and the future of the land—America’s cuisine required a radical transformation.
Drawing on the wisdom and experience of chefs, farmers and seed breeders around the world, Barber proposes a new definition for ethical and delicious eating.
Barber charts a bright path forward for eaters and chefs alike, daring everyone to imagine a future for our national cuisine that is as sustainable as it is delicious.


An enlightening narrative history—an entertaining fusion of Tom Wolfe and Michael Pollan—that traces the colorful origins of once unconventional foods and the diverse fringe movements, charismatic gurus, and counterculture elements that brought them to the mainstream and created a distinctly American cuisine.
Food writer Jonathan Kauffman journeys back more than half a century—to the 1960s and 1970s—to tell the story of how a coterie of unusual men and women embraced an alternative lifestyle that would ultimately change how modern Americans eat. Impeccably researched, Hippie Food chronicles how the longhairs, revolutionaries, and back-to-the-landers rejected the square establishment of President Richard Nixon’s America and turned to a more idealistic and wholesome communal way of life and food.
From the mystical rock-and-roll cult known as the Source Family and its legendary vegetarian restaurant in Hollywood to the Diggers’ brown bread in the Summer of Love to the rise of the co-op and the origins of the organic food craze, Kauffman reveals how today’s quotidian whole-foods staples—including sprouts, tofu, yogurt, brown rice, and whole-grain bread—were introduced and eventually became part of our diets. From coast to coast, through Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Vermont, Kauffman tracks hippie food’s journey from niche oddity to a cuisine that hit every corner of this country.
A slick mix of gonzo playfulness, evocative detail, skillful pacing, and elegant writing, Hippie Food is a lively, engaging, and informative read that deepens our understanding of our culture and our lives today.
 

Land Justice: Re-imagining Land, Food, and the Commons
contributions by Justine M. Williams & Eric Holt-Gim
énez


In recent decades, the various strands of the food movement have made enormous strides in calling attention the many shortcomings and injustices of our food and agricultural system. Farmers, activists, scholars, and everyday citizens have also worked creatively to rebuild local food economies, advocate for food justice, and promote more sustainable, agroecological farming practices. However, the movement for fairer, healthier, and more autonomous food is continually blocked by one obstacle: land access. As long as land remains unaffordable and inaccessible to most people, we cannot truly transform the food system.
The term land-grabbing is most commonly used to refer to the large-scale acquisition of agricultural land in Asian, African, or Latin American countries by foreign investors. However, land has and continues to be “grabbed” in North America, as well, through discrimination, real estate speculation, gentrification, financialization, extractive energy production, and tourism. This edited volume, with chapters from a wide range of activists and scholars, explores the history of land theft, dispossession, and consolidation in the United States. It also looks at alternative ways forward toward democratized, land justice, based on redistributive policies and cooperative ownership models.

With prefaces from leaders in the food justice and family farming movements, the book opens with a look at the legacies of white-settler colonialism in the southwestern United States. From there, it moves into a collectively-authored section on Black Agrarianism, which details the long history of land dispossession among Black farmers in the southeastern US, as well as the creative acts of resistance they have used to acquire land and collectively farm it. The next section, on gender, explores structural and cultural discrimination against women landowners in the Midwest and also role of “womanism” in land-based struggles. Next, a section on the cross-border implications of land enclosures and consolidations includes a consideration of what land justice could mean for farm workers in the US, followed by an essay on the challenges facing young and aspiring farmers. Finally, the book explores the urban dimensions of land justice and their implications for locally-autonomous food systems, and lessons from previous struggles for democratized land access.

Ultimately, the book makes the case that to move forward to a more equitable, just, sustainable, and sovereign agriculture system, the various strands of the food movement must come together for land justice.

The Rise of Women Farmers and Sustainable Agriculture 
Carolyn Sachs, Mary Barbercheck, Kathryn Braiser & Nancy Ellen Kiernan

A profound shift is occurring among women working in agriculture—they are increasingly seeing themselves as farmers, not only as the wives or daughters of farmers. The authors draw on more than a decade of research to document and analyze the reasons for the transformation. As their sense of identity changes, many female farmers are challenging the sexism they face in their chosen profession. In this book, farm women in the northeastern United States describe how they got into farming and became successful entrepreneurs despite the barriers they encountered in agricultural institutions, farming communities, and even their own families. Their strategies for obtaining land and labor and developing successful businesses offer models for other aspiring farmers.
Pulling down the barriers that women face requires organizations and institutions to become informed by what the authors call a feminist agrifood systems theory (FAST). This framework values women’s ways of knowing and working in agriculture: emphasizing personal, economic, and environmental sustainability, creating connections through the food system, and developing networks that emphasize collaboration and peer-to-peer education. The creation and growth of a specific organization, the Pennsylvania Women’s Agricultural Network, offers a blueprint for others seeking to incorporate a feminist agrifood systems approach into agricultural programming. The theory has the potential to shift how farmers, agricultural professionals, and anyone else interested in farming think about gender and sustainability, as well as to change how feminist scholars and theorists think about agriculture. 
 

The Hidden Half of Nature: The Microbial Roots of Life and Health
David R. Montgomery & Anne 
Biklé

A riveting exploration of how microbes are transforming the way we see nature and ourselves—and could revolutionize agriculture and medicine.
Prepare to set aside what you think you know about yourself and microbes. Good health—for people and for plants—depends on Earth’s smallest creatures. The Hidden Half of Nature tells the story of our tangled relationship with microbes and their potential to revolutionize agriculture and medicine, from garden to gut.
When David R. Montgomery and Anne Biklé decide to restore life into their barren yard by creating a garden, dead dirt threatens their dream. As a cure, they feed their soil a steady diet of organic matter. The results impress them. In short order, the much-maligned microbes transform their bleak yard into a flourishing Eden. Beneath their feet, beneficial microbes and plant roots continuously exchange a vast array of essential compounds. The authors soon learn that this miniaturized commerce is central to botanical life’s master strategy for defense and health.
They are abruptly plunged further into investigating microbes when Biklé is diagnosed with cancer. Here, they discover an unsettling truth. An armada of bacteria (our microbiome) sails the seas of our gut, enabling our immune system to sort microbial friends from foes. But when our gut microbiome goes awry, our health can go with it. The authors also discover startling insights into the similarities between plant roots and the human gut. We are not what we eat. We are all—for better or worse—the product of what our microbes eat.
This leads to a radical reconceptualization of our relationship to the natural world: by cultivating beneficial microbes, we can rebuild soil fertility and help turn back the modern plague of chronic diseases. The Hidden Half of Naturereveals how to transform agriculture and medicine—by merging the mind of an ecologist with the care of a gardener and the skill of a doctor.


Farmacology
Daphne Miller M.D.

In Farmacology, practicing family physician and renowned nutrition explorer Daphne Miller brings us beyond the simple concept of "food as medicine" and introduces us to the critical idea that it's the farm where that food is grown that offers us the real medicine.
By venturing out of her clinic and spending time on seven family farms, Miller uncovers all the aspects of farming—from seed choice to soil management—that have a direct and powerful impact on our health. Bridging the traditional divide between agriculture and medicine, Miller shares lessons learned from inspiring farmers and biomedical researchers and artfully weaves their insights and discoveries, along with stories from her patients, into the narrative. The result is a compelling new vision for sustainable healing and a treasure trove of farm-to-body lessons that have immense value in our daily lives.
In Farmacology you will meet:
  • a vegetable farmer in Washington State who shows us how the principles he uses to rejuvenate his soil apply just as well to our own bodies. Here we also discover the direct links between healthy soil and healthy humans.
  • a beef farmer in Missouri who shows how a holistic cattle-grazing method can grow resilient calves and resilient children.
  • an egg farmer in Arkansas who introduces us to the counterintuitive idea that stress can keep us productive and healthy. We discover why the stressors associated with a pasture-based farming system are beneficial to animals and humans while the duress of factory farming can make us ill.
  • a vintner in Sonoma, California, who reveals the principles of Integrated Pest Management and helps us understand how this gentler approach to controlling unwanted bugs and weeds might be used to treat invasive cancers in humans.
  • a farmer in the Bronx who shows us how a network of gardens offers health benefits that extend far beyond the nutrient value of the fruits and vegetables grown in the raised beds. For example, did you know that urban farming can lower the incidence of alcoholism and crime?
  • finally, an aromatic herb farmer in Washington State who teaches us about the secret chemical messages we exchange with plants—messages that can affect our mood and even keep us looking youthful.
In each chapter, Farmacology reveals the surprising ways that the ecology of our body and the ecology of our farms are intimately linked. This is a paradigm-changing adventure that has huge implications for our personal health and the health of the planet.

Only a farmer could delve so deeply into the origins of food, and only a writer of Wendell Berry’s caliber could convey it with such conviction and eloquence. A progenitor of the slow food movement, Wendell Berry reminds us all to take the time to understand the basics of what we ingest. “Eating is an agriculture act,” he writes. Indeed, we are all players in the food economy. For the last five decades, Berry has embodied mindful eating through his land practices and his writing. In recognition of that influence, Michael Pollan here offers an introduction to this wonderful collection that is essential reading for anyone who cares about what they eat.
Drawn from over thirty years of work, this collection joins bestsellers The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Pollan, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, as essential reading for anyone who cares about what they eat. The essays address such concerns as: How does organic measure up against locally grown? What are the differences between small and large farms, and how does that affect what you put on your dinner table? What can you do to support sustainable agriculture?

 

May 31, 2018 by Lindsey Smith
Tags: Live Slow

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