From the Farm to the Table: What All Americans Need to Know about Agriculture

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As with other areas of human industry, it has been assumed that technological progress would improve all aspects of agriculture. Technology would increase both efficiency and yield, or so we thought. The directions taken by technology may have worked for a while, but the same technologies that give us an advantage also create disadvantages. It's now a common story in rural America: pesticides, fertilizers, "big iron" combines, and other costly advancements may increase speed but also reduce efficiency, while farmers endure debt, dangerous working conditions, and long hours to pay for the technology. Land, livelihood, and lives are lost in an effort to keep up and break even. There is more to this story that affects both the food we eat and our provisions for the future. Too many Americans eat the food on their plates with little thought to its origin and in blind faith that government regulations will protect them from danger. While many Americans might have grown up in farming families, there are fewer family-owned farms with each passing generation. Americans are becoming disconnected from understanding the sources and content of their food. The farmers interviewed in From the Farm to the Table can help reestablish that connection. Gary Holthaus illuminates the state of American agriculture today, particularly the impact of globalization, through the stories of farmers who balance traditional practices with innovative methods to meet market demands. Holthaus demonstrates how the vitality of America's communities is bound to the successes and failures of its farmers. In From the Farm to the Table, farmers explain how their lives and communities have changed as they work to create healthy soil, healthy animals, and healthy food in a context of often inappropriate federal policy, growing competition from abroad, public misconceptions regarding government subsidies, the dangers of environmental damage and genetically modified crops, and the myths of modern economics. Rather than predicting doom and despair for small American growers, Holthaus shows their hope and the practical solutions they utilize. As these farmers tell their stories, "organic" and "sustainable" farming become real and meaningful. As they share their work and their lives, they reveal how those concepts affect the food we eat and the land on which it's grown, and how vital farming is to the American economy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"When farmers tell their story, there is no end to learning…. A solid piece of work in the mosaic of the farming history of our country." —Claus Sproll, Lilipoh" —
Library Journal
Writer, editor, and poet Holthaus (Wide Skies: Finding a Home in the West), whose published works focus on questions of humankind's place in the landscape, turns his attention to sustainable agriculture in this exploration of the challenges and opportunities of developing an agriculture that will provide food for generations to come. Sponsored by the Minnesota-based Experiment in Rural Cooperation, Holthaus's book tells the story of modern agriculture through engaging interviews with men and women who make a living farming in southeastern Minnesota. In a tone reminiscent of Wendell Berry's A Place on Earth, he examines the far-reaching effects of genetically modified organisms, free-trade agreements that nurture "transnational corporate profit," dependence on fossil fuel-derived chemicals, and the toll all this has taken on the land and farmers. This heavily footnoted volume, one of the first in the new "Culture of the Land" series, will assist those engaged in agricultural policy research. Recommended for academic agriculture collections.
—Sara Rutter
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813124193
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006
  • Series: Culture of the Land
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Holthaus is the author of several books, including Wide Skies: Finding a Home in the West, Circling Back, and Unexpected Manna.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction xv

Part I In the Beginning

Chapter 1 Fundamentals 3

Chapter 2 Histories 10

Part II Farmers Talking about Farming

Chapter 3 Two Views, One Farm: Vance and Bonnie Haugen 29

Chapter 4 Farming Is a Spiritual Responsibility: Mike Rupprecht 60

Chapter 5 Timelines: Ron Scherbring 64

Chapter 6 The Absolute Last Thing I Ever Dreamed I'd Be Doing: Lonny and Sandy Dietz 76

Chapter 7 I Felt It Was Just the Right Thing to Do: Dennis Rabe 81

Part III Farming in America: Who Cares?

Chapter 8 They Say Eating Is a Moral Issue: Bill McMillin 109

Chapter 9 Farming Connects Us All 118

Part IV It all Works Together, or it Doesn't Work at All

Chapter 10 Agriculture and Community Culture 173

Chapter 11 Farming in Developing Countries 201

Chapter 12 The WTO, NAFTA, CAFTA, and the FTAA 205

Part V Alternative Visions, Hopeful Futures

Chapter 13 Healthy Food, Healthy Economics 247

Chapter 14 Alternatives for Agriculture and the Whole Culture 262

Part VI An Ecology of Hope

Chapter 15 Ours for a Short Time: Peggy Thomas 277

Chapter 16 An Ecology of Hope 281

Notes 309

Sources and Resources 326

Index 351

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