AFT’s Holiday Book Guide
With the holiday season and weather coming around, it’s the perfect time to gift a new book for curling up and reading. And here at AFT, we know that we can’t raise awareness about farmers, farming, and farmland on our own; we need an active, growing community of knowledgeable citizen activists.
So, we’re sharing some of our favorite books on food, farming, and climate for all ages. Give one, or all, of them a read, gift one to your loved one, but most importantly spark up a conversation with someone about what you learned.
For Your Future Farmers
Tractor Mac: Autumn is Here by Billy Steers
Tractor Mac and the rest of his friends help Fergus the calf realize that there are plenty of fun things about autumn, even if it means the cornstalks are cut, the trees lose their leaves, and his bird friends migrate away, as he learns to appreciate what makes each season special.
Right This Very Minute: A table-to-farm book about food and farming by Lisl Detlefsen
If you’re hungry right this very minute, then you need a farmer! This book inspires readers to question where the food on their plate comes from.
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner
Explore the hidden world and many lives of a garden through the course of a year including the wonders that lie hidden between stalks, under the shade of leaves, and down in the dirt.
What We Read This Year
Elephant in the Cornfield by Chris Clayton
Progressive Farmer reporter Chris Clayton writes on the conflict in rural America over climate change, farming, and the increasing pressures on food production. Clayton’s reporting highlights the critical role of agriculture in the nation’s struggle to enact plans for mitigating greenhouse gases and adapting to the changing climate.
Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers by Lisa Kivirist
Lisa Kivirist blends career advice with sustainable agriculture practices viewed through a gender lens, providing a wealth of information for women farming entrepreneurs. The book covers everything from business planning to tool use and ergonomics to integrating children and family in farm and field operations. “Soil Sisters” also contains case studies, inspirational ideas, and savvy advice from successful women farmers and advocates.
Leah Penniman, activist, farmer, and cofounder of Soul Fire Farm, is carrying on the legacy of her ancestral grandmothers, who “braided seeds in their hair before boarding transatlantic slave ships, believing against odds in a future of sovereignty on land.” She is part of a global network of farmers working to increase farmland stewardship by people of color, restore Afro-indigenous farming practices, and end food apartheid. In “Farming While Black,” Penniman explains how some of our most cherished sustainable farming practices have roots in African wisdom, and yet discrimination and violence against African-American farmers has led to their decline from 14% of all growers in 1920 to less than 2% today. Further, Black communities suffer disproportionately from illnesses related to lack of access to fresh food and healthy natural ecosystems.
Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production by Nicolette Hahn Niman
A vegetarian and former environmental lawyer turned rancher, Nicolette Hahn Niman argues that cattle are not inherently bad for the Earth or our own nutritional health. She writes how properly–managed livestock play an essential role in ecosystems, specifically in maintaining grassland 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.
Gabe Brown started working alongside his father-in-law on the family farm in North Dakota when a series of weather-related crop disasters put Brown and his wife, Shelly, in desperate financial straits. Gabe and Shelly began making bold changes to their farm ― experimenting with new practices Gabe learned about from reading and talking with innovative researchers and ranchers. As they struggled to keep the farm viable, they found themselves on an amazing journey into regenerative agriculture.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Drawing from her background as a botanist and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer explains how other living beings offer gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. Her central argument is that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world.
Grain by Grain by Liz Carlisle
Farmer Bob Quinn and cowriter Liz Carlisle follow Quinn’s journey from finishing a PhD in plant biochemistry to returning to his family’s farm in Montana where he experimented with organic wheat to ultimately starting a multimillion-dollar heirloom grain company, Kamut International. Grain by Grain shows that we don’t have to accept stagnating rural communities, degraded soil, or poor health and that, “the only way forward is a paradigm shift – toward a fuller notion of value that puts the long-term well being of people, communities, and the land before the short-term goal of solely maximizing profits and efficiencies.”
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
Part memoir, part investigative, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” follows the author, Barbara Kingsolver, and her family as they abandon their city life in Tuscon to live a rural life on their Virginia farm — vowing that, for one year, they will only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it.
This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family by Ted Genoways
“This Blessed Earth” investigates the lives of Midwest farmers for anyone who hasn’t (or has) spent time learning firsthand the difficulties and decisions farmers go through. Genoways follows Rick Hammond who has raised cattle and crops on his wife’s fifth-generation homestead in York County, Nebraska, for 40 years in hopes of passing it on to their four children. But as the handoff nears, their small family farm―and their entire way of life―are under siege.
Arax, who comes from a family of farmers in California’s Central Valley, writes about the land and the people who have worked it, and Californians’ history of pushing the water supply past its limit.
Milk Money: Cash, Cows, and the Death of the American Dairy Farm by Kirk Kardashian
Kardashian asks whether it is right that family farmers in America should toil so hard, produce a food so wholesome and so popular, and still lose money. His investigation, inspired by a neighboring Vermont dairy farming family, uncovers the hidden forces behind dairy farm consolidation and explains why milk has proven so tricky to stabilize.
One Woman Farm by Jenna Woginrich
In this memoir full of illustrations and snippets of poetry, Jenna Woginrich reflects on the unique emotions and experiences discovered through a year of agricultural life.
The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Daniel Barber
Chef Dan Barber, recently showcased on Netflix’s Chef’s Table, offers a different way of thinking about food that will heal the land and taste good, too. Barber writes about the cooking of our past and the misguided dining of our present to point to a future “third plate”: a new form of American eating where good farming and good food intersect.
This is more than a cookbook, but also a snapshot of a place and its history. The recipes have been handed down and developed from people in Montgomery County and communicates the importance of stewardship. It is a record of the people, places, and flavors of the Ag Reserve.
Conservancy: the Land Trust Movement in America by Richard Brewer
Written for land trust members, volunteers, supporters, and anyone concerned about land use, especially in regard to the environment, Brewer combines a historical overview of the land trust movement with more specific information on the different kinds of land trusts that exist and the problems they face. One of AFT’s founders, Pat Noonan, is quoted in the book, “The greatest challenge facing us, then and today, is to create an agriculture that is in harmony with the environment. One that feeds us without harming other human and natural life support systems. One that is sustainable, both economically and ecologically.”