Sowing Seeds in the Desert by Masanobu Fukuoka

Fukuoka tells us greening the desert is the only way we’ll achieve sustainable agriculture.

Most of you are probably familiar with The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming, which was Masanobu Fukuoka’s 1978 international best seller on natural farming.

Now he gives us Sowing Seeds in the Desert: Natural Farming, Global Restoration, and Ultimate Food Security. An intriguing and ambitious name, to be sure.

As the title implies, his premise is that we’ll need to ultimately cultivate food in the world’s vast deserts in order to achieve food security. This theory was honed over decades of international travel following his first book.

My favorite thing about this book? It proposes an actual solution, rather than simply discussing (or worse – complaining about) the problem. Whether it is truly the only long-term solution, I can’t say, but I’m glad to have a proposal. If we continue to approach the problem of unsustainable agriculture in this way we might actually get somewhere.


06 2012

Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck

A terrific book for those who want a healthy mom and baby.

We’re back! Sorry for the silence on the site. Erin and I relocated across the country (we’re enjoying Western Michigan nowadays) and were very busy with all that entails. Simply put, life got in the way, but we’re planning to get on track with books. I should note that going forward we might stray from the normal genre of books we normally post about. Quite frankly, we haven’t found as many in the sustainable agriculture genre worth bragging about lately, plus our interests might be morphing a little bit.

On another note, we could use some help sourcing and reviewing books. If you’re interested, contact us.

And now, a book!

I’ll just come out and say it: I’m a fan of Nina Planck. You might recall my review of her first book, Real Food, and now I’m featuring her follow up aimed at mothers and young (or unborn) babies.In Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two and Baby’s First Foods, Planck takes us from preconception through introducing first foods using her common sense, no-science-required approach. In reality, she does bring in some science, but she does such a wonderful job of making the science available without making it necessary. Truly, anyone can read this book.

It is important to note that Planck’s food recommendations are not those of your standard dietitian or obstetrician. Fortunately for me, I am not your standard dietitian, and the result is that I echo her recommendations to anyone that will listen.

So what does she recommend? For foods introduced to the baby for the first time, Planck suggests meat, liver, fish or roe, egg yolk, banana and avocado. This definitely stands in stark contrast to most standard medical care, which will suggest first introducing iron-fortified cereal, followed by fruit, then vegetable, then meat. The fact that iron-fortified, heavily processed cereal is a very recent food to humans should be enough to suggest it might not be a great first food for your baby. Indeed prior generations, perhaps your grandparents or great-grandparents, would have told you Planck’s recommendations are no big surprise, and they probably would have been appalled at the idea of feeding a young child a processed food instead of meat or vegetable. Quite frankly, the thought still appalls me today.

In addition to these non-mainstream recommendations, Planck discusses how to use diet to promote fertility, healthy pregnancy and lactation. She also discusses the ups and downs of her personal pregnancy story. This story alone is worth the read for would be mothers anticipating a natural birth. The book is a terrific read for anyone pregnant or contemplating trying, and also for anyone generally interested in human health and nutrition.

On Amazon or at your local library.



05 2012

Deeply Rooted by Lisa Hamilton

Author and photographer Lisa Hamilton features three farmers who decide eschew conventional agriculture for methods they (and we) view as healthier for people and the planet. The value of this book is in the more realistic evaluation of forgoing conventional practices. Namely, running an organic farm, or simply refusing to use conventional pesticides, makes life more difficult in a lot of ways. Growing a diverse crop and listening to the land is hard work and for the farmers featured here things are not as rosy as we might idealize. Hamilton focuses on the people, the farmers, and this is an important distinction if we are to foster more farmers like these brave souls.

On Amazon or at your local library.


01 2012

Grow the Good Life by Michele Owens

The New York Times called Michele Owens’ Grow The Good Life (2011) “breezy, cantankerous and funny.” That description alone should peak anyone’s interest, but here’s a bit more about the book.

Owens has been gardening for more than two decades and is a contributor to the popular blog Garden Rant. Her book is a memoir of sorts that discusses the many joys of vegetable gardening. Growing your own food can be good for the earth, good for you physical and mental health, and good for your pocketbook. Owens shows that the benefits are many. Her book might be just what you need to go from contemplating gardening to getting your hands dirty.

On Amazon or at your local library.


01 2012

Last Second Christmas Gifts – It’s Not Too Late!

I know there is still someone left on your list, so here are a few book suggestions that you can order from Amazon and still get it under the tree on time. You might have to rush the shipping, but that’s better than being late!

Send gift straight from Amazon!

How about Joel Salatin’s newest work? He’s the face of sustainable agriculture and his books are always worth a read! Better yet, they are perfect gifts to introduce someone to sustainable agriculture without being overwhelming.

In case you forgot, Salatin was featured by Michael Pollan in his wonderful book The Omnivore’s Dilemma. In this book he takes a look at modern life as compared to our simpler, agrarian roots. He has a strong opinion, but I always find myself interested in what he has to say.


Speaking of Michael Pollan, what could be a better gift than his original and inspiring book, or the brand new young reader’s edition. I picked this out as a perfect gift for my young niece.

In the book, Pollan traces four different meals from farm (or factory) to plate. He includes meals from McDonald’s, conventional farms, large-scale organic farms and the aforementioned Joel Salatin’s sustainable farm in Virginia.

Its the perfect starting point for your friend who’s just getting interested in her food and it is a great reminder for your CSA-subscribing friend. This book should be required reading for everyone.

And for your history-buff, food-loving friend, a copy of Twain’s Feast is the perfect stocking stuffer. In one of my favorite books I’ve reviewed, Beahrs follows Twain along his life’s journey and tells of the foods he would have encountered. Its a far cry from today where we can eat anything at any season and encounter tens of thousands of packaged, processed foods each time we visit the grocery store. Here’s my full review.

If I didn’t include that perfect gift, just keep digging though our archives. I promise you’ll find it!
What books are you giving for Christmas?


12 2011

Barnheart by Jenna Woginrich

Find this book on Amazon or at your local library!

Many of you may already know Jenna Woginrich. She is the author of Made from Scratch, which we’ve reviewed, and Chick Days, a guide to raising chickens. She also has an immense following on her blog Cold Antler Farm, where she writes about her daily farming experiences. Now Jenna has a new book out. Barnheart is a memoir about Jenna’s experiences trying to make it as a small farmer in rural New York. She discusses trials, tribulations and the joys that come with owning livestock and trying to live a sustainable life. Jenna’s voice is always entertaining and insightful. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on her newest book.

On Amazon or at your local library.


12 2011

The Heirloom Life Gardener by Jere and Emilee Gettle

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has been a leader in selling rare seed varieties for years. And now the founders of Baker Creek, Jere and Emilee Gettle, have published a guide for growing 50 different heirloom vegetables. The Heirloom Life Gardener (Oct. 2011) includes advice on planting, growing, eating and seed saving–and I’m sure much more! The Gettle’s play a crucial role in supporting sustainable agriculture with their seed saving business. Now they’re helping even more by sharing their wealth of knowledge about how to cultivate these foods.

Read an excerpt of the book on NPR.

Find it on Amazon or at your local library!


11 2011

Food Rules by Michael Pollan-Illustrated

Find it on Amazon!

I just learned that an illustrated version of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules: An Eater’s Manifesto is available! The talented Maria Kalman contributed the illustrations to an updated version of Pollan’s popular food guide. Learn more about the collaboration on Michael Pollan’s website.


11 2011

Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook

Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook

If one food is ubiquitous to the local food movement, it is the tomato. As we are in the harvest season, many of you are probably canning some this weekend! We’ve all come to realize that the fruit is incredibly delicious when picked ripe off the vine, but we’ve also learned that it doesn’t travel well. We know that most supermarket tomatoes won’t be any good and that purchasing them outside of the summer months is a joke (hydroponics being a possible exception).

In Tomatoland, Barry Estabrook shows readers that there is a lot more to discuss when it comes to the tomato. For example, most tomatoes available in America, especially in winter, were grown in Florida using obscene amounts of pesticides and fertilizers and picked by laborers under slave conditions. In fact, lawsuits are currently in play utilizing 150 year old laws banning slavery. Yes, tomato growing corporations in Florida are being sued for slavery right now.

Readers interested in the tomato specifically, or more generally in the industrial food system, how it evolved and how to improve it, will find Tomatoland a good read.

Find it on Amazon or at your local library!


10 2011

Barns, Sheds and Outbuildings by Byron Halsted

This reference was originally published in 1881, but it is still a rich and relevant source of information. I stumbled upon the text and only began reading it because of my infatuation with barns. I quickly realized that I’d found a resource that many small-scale or hobby farmers would surely enjoy.

Barns, Sheds & Outbuildings: Placements, Design & Construction (1994) contains 257 illustrations of various barns, sheds and outbuildings. A lengthy description accompanies each building featured. The descriptions explain in more detail the structure and purpose of the building. For example, “Mr. David Lyman’s Barn” was a multipurpose barn, which housed a multitude of farm animals and equipment and provided food storage. His barn was well equipped to serve many purposes. Other barns featured are only for cattle or pigs. Spaces for poultry, ducks, grains, ice, meat preservation and other purposes are all featured.

For those of us who are trying to live a simpler lifestyle by growing our food and raising our own livestock, you’ll surely learn something about farming and it’s accompanying buildings in this book.

Find it on Amazon or at your local library!


09 2011