From Soil to Stomach, and the contents therein…
While working at the farm, I’ve listened to a handful of books that link up well together and wanted to share here.
Hands down, the best book on growing under cover I’ve read, “The winter harvest” comes from the man who pioneered, small, intensive agriculture in America with great historical context of how growers around Paris in the 19th century created one of the most productive, intensive, urban agriculture systems in the world. Incredibly detailed with everything you need to have on your radar from techniques to philosophy. It’s a fantastic, concise, well written book.
“The Winter Harvest” –Coleman
Natural Ecosystems have multiple feedback loops and in most cases, are self-supporting. Figuring out how to incorporate farming into a natural system, instead of against it, can result in productive agricultural systems where a great deal of the work is taken care of for us by the natural system. “Teaming with Microbes” reminds us that a vast portion of that ecosystem, with billions of organisms per teaspoon we can’t even see, are there to aid the gardener by closing the loop and finding balance between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ critters, from the microscopic to insects and by extension in my practical experience, all the way up to the interaction between voles and snakes/bobcats. If you don’t have enough voles, you won’t have predators around to control them for you. The same thing is true on the microscopic level. Everything has a place, and finding our place in nature is critical for a balanced, productive, sustainable, farm.
“Teaming with Microbes” –Lowenfels/Lewis
The most salient image from “One Size Fits None” is that of dead cattle on the side of the road after a cattle truck highway accident which no wild animals would eat, as they came from feedlots… Just down the road, the grass fed animals who die on the range are reduced to bones by scavengers in under two weeks.
“One Size Fits None” –Anderson
“The Hidden Half of Nature” takes us into the soil and into our guts and ties together/reveals many of the political wranglings that have contributed to the massively broken and unhealthy food system in the USA, as well as a fantastic review of the science and scientists who discovered microbes. This really got my science nerd side going.
“The Hidden Half of Nature” –Montgomery/Bikle
Nicole Masters, with her fantastic New Zealand Accent, takes us on her own personal journey to health after pesticide poisoning as a child (which took a decade to diagnose) but primarily talks about soil, and the remarkable neglect of the life that it can sustain. She lays out, as plane as day, that biocides (any chemical intended to destroy life, I. E. pesticides, herbicides, fungicides) do just that–destroy life, perpetuating a dependent, downward spiral of costly chemical inputs that deplete the natural landscape and farmer’s bank accounts. Why exactly would we choose this path when we now have the science to prove, which she expertly explains in no-nonsence language, that farms and ranches are healthier and more productive when we work with nature instead of against it? A fantastic read (I listened to it twice!).
“For the Love of Soil” –Masters
Though I read this next book at least a year ago now, it’s ease of reading (well listening as I used an audio book version while hoeing at the farm) and scientific referenced examples still sticks with me. A book to eliminate the ‘germophobe’ in you.
“I Contain Multitudes:The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life” –Young
Though not quite as much of a delight to listen to as Nicole Master’s book above, Gabe Brown’s determination, practical approach, and no-nonsense revelatory process as he discovered, then transitioned from ‘conventional’ to regenerative agriculture is nothing short of inspirational. Gabe’s documentation of the operational processes on his farm, including the hardships and the blessings, is something every farmer can appreciate and learn from, regardless of your context.
“Dirt to Soil, One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture” –Brown
Discovery of inter-species plant support systems took a long time to get on the radar, and it took a female perspective to get it through our heads–inspite of a great deal of mysognystic resistance, but Simard made it happen. This book, a journey into the masculine world of dominance and control in the forest industry in Canada, and one womans recognition of a new perspective is a breath of fresh air.
“Finding the Mother Tree” –Simard
Kimmerer brings together new perspectives, reflection on language, breaking down the scientific, reductionist paradigm, and acknowledgement of how a colonial mindset has left us with a legacy of degrations rife with opportunities for regeneration–both personally and in the material world. This book is a ‘must read’.
“Braiding Sweetgrass” –Kimmerer
And finally, a non-judgmental, non-dogmatic, fact based book on nutrition that ties into the related themes mentioned in all three books above regarding the detrimental consequences of politics and greed on our food system and how we can make choices that combat that systems negative grip on our health. Dr Greger’s sometimes over-enthusiastic delivery of his own work in audio format leaves no doubt in my mind that we can radically improve our health through our own food choices (spoiler alert: eat plants–brightly colored and spicy ones–fresh, organic , whole, un-refined plants, lots of them!).
“How Not to Die” –Greger