My Top 8 Books on Food & Farming

written by

MoSo Farm

posted on

July 9, 2024

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Are you like me and you get a thrill out of recommending a book to a friend?

My college major was English, but I had many opportunities to explore classes in other departments. I consistently found myself taking classes like “Religion and Food” or “Food and Agriculture in 21st Century America.” These courses fascinated me because of what food told me about cultures, history, religion, societal and personal health, politics, biology, and planetary well-being.

So in this newsletter, I bring to you two of my favorite things — agriculture and literature. Some of these books date back to those college courses, many I found as I debated moving home from MN to start a farm, and some are more recent reads. Reply to this email with one of your favorite food or farming books, so I can add them to my list!

Click the picture of each book below to get a copy for yourself. Or reach out to borrow one from me!

Warmly,
Molly

Letters to a Young Farmer

Many Authors

“Three dozen letters from writers, farmers, chefs, activists, and visionaries address the highs and lows of farming life and the complexities of the food system in this compilation by Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture.”

This book tops my list for its inspiring and real messages from other farmers and food system actors. I read these letters as I was moving home to Ohio and they gave me the confidence to start a farm knowing I was part of a bigger movement that had my back.

The Unsettling of America

Wendell Berry

“Wendell Berry argues that good farming is a cultural development and spiritual discipline. Today’s agribusiness, however, takes farming out of its cultural context and away from families. As a result, we as a nation are more estranged from the land—from the intimate knowledge, love, and care of it.”

This book tells the story of agriculture in our country — offering an important foundation of knowledge for anyone who eats. Although originally published in 1977, it is more relevant than ever. As Berry says, “this book has not had the happy fate of being proved wrong.”

Nourishment

Fred Provenza

“Provenza presents his thesis of the wisdom body, a wisdom that links flavor-feedback relationships at a cellular level with biochemically rich foods to meet the body’s nutritional and medicinal needs. Provenza…raises and answers thought-provoking questions about what we can learn from animals about nutritional wisdom.”

This book blew me away. While at first it appears to be a book about the science of animal behavior, very soon you realize its implications for your own health. Prepare to be reconnected to the power of your own body to know the foods it needs — without a dietician or multivitamin or prescribed diet.

Cows Save the Planet

Judith Schwartz

“Schwartz reveals that for many of these problems—climate change, desertification, biodiversity loss, droughts, floods, wildfires, rural poverty, malnutrition, and obesity—there are positive, alternative scenarios to the degradation and devastation we face. In each case, our ability to turn these crises into opportunities depends on how we treat the soil.”

This is one of the books I read while interning at Moonstone Farm in western MN during college. It’s a book about soil that will make you rethink the role of livestock in healing the earth.

Braiding Sweetgrass

Robin Wall Kimmerer

“Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices.”

This book reminded me of how to be in right relationship with the plants and animals that surround me. While not strictly a book about agriculture, I think of this book often — when giving thanks to the animal on my plate before eating a steak, when harvesting morels, or when hauling pigs to the butcher. This book teaches reciprocity.

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies

Seth Holmes

“Seth Holmes…trekked with his companions illegally through the desert into Arizona and was jailed with them before they were deported. He lived with indigenous families in the mountains of Oaxaca and in farm labor camps in the U.S., planted and harvested corn, picked strawberries, and accompanied sick workers to clinics and hospitals. This “embodied anthropology” deepens our theoretical understanding of how health equity is undermined by a normalization of migrant suffering…”

This book reveals the stories of the people who make industrial food production possible. And the abuse behind the food in our grocery stores. It’s a must read for anyone who wants to truly know how the US food system operates.

Weighing In

Julie Guthman

“Julie Guthman focuses the lens of obesity on the broader food system to understand why we produce cheap, over-processed food, as well as why we eat it. Guthman takes issue with the currently touted remedy to obesity―promoting food that is local, organic, and farm fresh. While such fare may be tastier and grown in more ecologically sustainable ways, this approach can also reinforce class and race inequalities and neglect other possible explanations for the rise in obesity, including environmental toxins.”

An academic read that challenges popularly accepted health wisdom by analyzing the farm policies that are implicated in obesity.

Every Farm A Factory

Deborah Fitzgerald

“During the early decades of the twentieth century, agricultural practice in America was transformed from a pre-industrial to an industrial activity. In this book Deborah Fitzgerald argues that farms became modernized in the 1920s because they adopted not only new machinery but also the financial, cultural, and ideological apparatus of industrialism.”

Another great foundational read for the history and evolution of farming in this country. This book shows how the factory became a model for corporate farming that persists today.

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