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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.
Gary Holthaus is the author of several books, including Wide Skies: Finding a Home in the West, Circling Back, and Unexpected Manna.
"With much love, dedication, and diligence, and through interviews with farmers in Minnesota, Holthaus tells the story of today's agriculture... it is not a pretty picture... This book serves an as eye-opener. Highly recommended." --Choice
"[Holthaus's] book is a comprehensive look at the context of agriculture today and is valuable for urban readers as well as rural people who want to know where their food comes from and how it is produced." --Dickey County Leader
"Rural America is not somehow 'behind us,' a part of a past that is no longer central to our lives. For all of us, Holthaus shows, the thinking of rural people is relevant to the well-being of the nation and far more complex than we have realized. This book provides fresh insight into what is going on in the rural countryside and what farmers themselves have thought about those changes." --Donald Worster, author of Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas
"Farmers all over the world have begun to choose a new path." --Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow for the Leopold Center for Sustainable A
"His selected interviewees are all compelling studies." --Harvard Book Review
"Holthaus is a world-class listener, so much so that he is able to bring us farm stories that enlighten and enrich our sphere of knowledge and understanding of agriculture and all that it encompasses." --Helene Murray, Executive Director, Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture
"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... Recommended for academic agriculture collections."--Library Journal
"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
The University Press of Kentucky
Place of Publication
Agriculture, Farmers, Sustainable agriculture, United States
Holthaus, Gary, "From the Farm to the Table: What All Americans Need to Know about Agriculture" (2007). Environmental Sciences. Book 4.