As a farmer with winter coming and farm life slowing down, now is the perfect time to stay inside and get cozy with a good book. Books make great presents this holiday season either as a hostess gift or a stocking stuffer. Below are some of my personal favorite agriculture themed books that any farmer, gardener, or agrarian lover needs on their bookshelf.
Turn Here Sweet Corn
by: Atina Diffley
In telling her story of working the land, coaxing good food from the fertile soil, Atina Diffley reminds us of an ultimate truth: we live in relationships—with the earth, plants and animals, families and communities. A memoir of making these essential relationships work in the face of challenges as natural as weather and as unnatural as corporate politics, her book is a firsthand history of getting in at the “ground level” of organic farming. One of the first certified organic produce farms in the Midwest, the Diffleys’ Gardens of Eagan helped to usher in a new kind of green revolution in the heart of America’s farmland, supplying their roadside stand and a growing number of local food co-ops. This is a story of a world transformed—and reclaimed—one square acre at a time.
by: Gary Paul Nabhan,
Kurt Michael Friese, & Kraig Kraft
Chasing Chiles looks at both the future of place-based foods and the effects of climate change on agriculture through the lens of the chile pepper-from the farmers who cultivate this iconic crop to the cuisines and cultural traditions in which peppers play a huge role. Over a year-long journey, three pepper-loving gastronauts- an agroecologist, a chef, and an ethnobotanist- set out to find the real stories of America’s rarest heirloom chile varieties, and learn about the changing climate from farmers and other people who live by the pepper, and who, lately, have been adapting to shifting growing conditions and weather patterns. They put a face on an issue that has been made far too abstract for our own good.
The Market Gardener
by: Jean-Martin Fortier
Les Jardins de la Grelinette is a micro-farm located in eastern Quebec, just north of the American border. Growing on just 1.5 acres, owners Jean-Martin and Maude-Helène feed more than two hundred families through their thriving CSA and seasonal market stands and supply their signature mesclun salad mix to dozens of local establishments. The secret of their success is the low-tech, high-yield production methods they’ve developed by focusing on growing better rather than growing bigger, making their operation more lucrative and viable in the process.
You Can Go Home Again
by: Gene Logsdon
Gene Logsdon’s story embodies both the frustrations and longing so many of us feel as we search for our essential selves and a harmonious life. The measure of his courage — and contrariness — is that he has been successful. In You Can Go Home Again, he tells us what motivated him and what success has meant. For Logsdon, to create a home; is not to escape from the world, but to establish a nexus of people, all working together to produce a home-based economy as a bulwark of stability under the larger economy gone crazy with paper money. Home is a local community tied to other local communities.
The Good Life
by: Scott & Helen Nearing
Helen and Scott Nearing are the great-grandparents of the back-to-the-land movement, having abandoned the city in 1932 for a rural life based on self-reliance, good health, and a minimum of cash. The Nearings’ food and living philosophies have provided the guidelines for many who seek a simpler way of life.
The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook
by: Richard Wiswall
In The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, Richard Wiswall shares advice on how to make your vegetable production more efficient, better manage your employees and finances, and turn a profit. From his over twenty-seven years of experience at Cate Farm in Vermont, Wiswall knows firsthand the joys of starting and operating an organic farm—as well as the challenges of making a living from one. Farming offers fundamental satisfaction from producing food, working outdoors, being one’s own boss, and working intimately with nature. But, unfortunately, many farmers avoid learning about the business end of farming; because of this, they often work harder than they need to, or quit farming altogether because of frustrating—and often avoidable—losses.
This Life is in Your Hands
by: Melissa Coleman
In a work of power and beauty Melissa Coleman delivers a luminous, evocative childhood memoir exploring the hope and struggle behind her family’s search for a sustainable lifestyle. Coleman’s searing chronicle tells the true story of her upbringing on communes and sustainable farms along the rugged Maine coastline in the 1970’s, embedded within a moving, personal quest for truth that her experiences produced.
A Buzz in the Meadow
by: Dave Goulson
In A Buzz in the Meadow, Dave Goulson tells the tale of how he bought a derelict farm in the heart of rural France. Over the course of a decade, on thirty-three acres of meadow, he created a place for his beloved bumblebees to thrive. But other creatures now live there too, myriad insects of every kind, many of which Goulson had studied before in his career as a biologist. You’ll learn how a deathwatch beetle finds its mate and why butterflies have spots on their wings, and you’ll see how a real scientist actually conducts his experiments. But this book is also a wake-up call, urging us to cherish and protect life in all its forms. Goulson has that rare ability to persuade you to go out into your garden or local park and observe the natural world. The subtle glory that is life in all its forms is there to be discovered. And if we learn to value what we have, perhaps we will find a way to keep it.
You Can Farm
by: Joel Salatin
Have you ever desired, deep within your soul, to make a comfortable full-time living from a farming enterprise? Too often people dare not even vocalize this desire because it seems absurd. It’s like thinking the unthinkable. After all, the farm population is dwindling. It takes too much capital to start. The pay is too low. The working conditions are dusty, smelly and noisy: not the place to raise a family. This is all true, and more, for most farmers. But for farm entrepreneurs, the opportunities for a farm family business have never been greater. The aging farm population is creating cavernous niches begging to be filled by creative visionaries who will go in dynamic new directions. As the industrial agriculture complex crumbles and our culture clambers for clean food, the countryside beckons anew with profitable farming opportunities.
The Seed Underground
by: Janisse Ray
Farmers and gardeners a century ago had five times the possibilities of what to plant than farmers and gardeners do today; we are losing untold numbers of plant varieties to genetically modified industrial monocultures. Janisse Ray argues that if we are to secure the future of food, we first must understand where it all begins: the seed. The Seed Underground is a journey to the frontier of seed-saving. It is driven by stories, both the author’s own and those from people who are waging a lush and quiet revolution in thousands of gardens across America to preserve our traditional cornucopia of food by simply growing old varieties and eating them. The Seed Underground pays tribute to time-honored and threatened varieties, deconstructs the politics and genetics of seeds, and reveals the astonishing characters who grow, study, and save them.
by: Novella Carpenter
In Gone Feral, Novella Carpenter—who leads an untraditional life, not unlike her parents’, raising livestock and growing vegetables in the city—finds herself contemplating a family of her own. Before that can happen, she knows she has to return to the harsh wilds of Idaho to search for her parents’ broken past and to discover why her father chose a life of solitude. Gone Feral marks Carpenter’s transformative passage from daughter to mother, a wry and rough tale of life lived on the margins and redemption between generations.
How to Grow More Vegetables
by: John Jeavons
How to Grow More Vegetables demonstrates that small-scale, high-yield, all-organic gardening methods can yield bountiful crops over multiple growing cycles using minimal resources in a suburban environment. This concept that John Jeavons and the team at Ecology Action launched more than 40 years ago is the go-to reference for food growers at every level: from home gardeners dedicated to nurturing their backyard edibles in maximum harmony with nature’s cycles, to small-scale commercial producers interested in optimizing soil fertility and increasing plant productivity. Whether you hope to harvest your first tomatoes next summer or are planning to grow enough to feed your whole family in years to come, How to Grow More Vegetables is your indispensable sustainable garden guide.