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Dirt, soil, call it what you want--it's everywhere we go. It is the root of our existence, supporting our feet, our farms, our cities. This fascinating yet disquieting book finds, however, that we are running out of dirt, and it's no laughing matter. An engaging natural and cultural history of soil that sweeps from ancient civilizations to modern times, "Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations "explores the compelling idea that we are--and have long been--using up Earth's soil. Once bare of protective vegetation and exposed to wind and rain, cultivated soils erode bit by bit, slowly enough to be ignored in a single lifetime but fast enough over centuries to limit the lifespan of civilizations. A rich mix of history, archaeology and geology, "Dirt "traces the role of soil use and abuse in the history of Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, China, European colonialism, Central America, and the American push westward. We see how soil has shaped us and we have shaped soil--as society after society has risen, prospered, and plowed through a natural endowment of fertile dirt. David R. Montgomery sees in the recent rise of organic and no-till farming the hope for a new agricultural revolution that might help us avoid the fate of previous civilizations.
By now most of us are aware of the threats looming in the food world. The best-selling "Fast Food Nation" and other recent books have alerted us to such dangers as genetically modified organisms, food-borne diseases, and industrial farming. Now it is time for answers, and "Slow Food Nation" steps up to the challenge. Here the charismatic leader of the Slow Food movement, Carlo Petrini, outlines many different routes by which we may take back control of our food. The three central principles of the Slow Food plan are these: food must be sustainably produced in ways that are sensitive to the environment, those who produce the food must be fairly treated, and the food must be healthful and delicious. In his travels around the world as ambassador for Slow Food, Petrini has witnessed firsthand the many ways that native peoples are feeding themselves without making use of the harmful methods of the industrial complex. He relates the wisdom to be gleaned from local cultures in such varied places as Mongolia, Chiapas, Sri Lanka, and Puglia. Amidst our crisis, it is critical that Americans look for insight from other cultures around the world and begin to build a new and better way of eating in our communities here.
Going organic may be a clear way of getting back to basics—and getting away from the havoc chemicals can wreak on our health and our environment—but the basics themselves may not be so clear. How to begin? What kind of fertilizer and feed are allowed? Is there natural pest management? What does certification entail? And is this the way to go? This book covers the basics and then some. Whether you’re thinking of starting an organic farm or making the transition to organics, whether you’re growing crops or raising animals, you’ll find everything you need to know in these pages—from getting started to developing a marketing strategy. A list of resources also points the way to other books, websites, and organizations focusing on every aspect of organic farming, including state standards and more information.
Francis Thicke, PhD, is a scientist, an expert on sustainable agriculture, and a practicing dairy farmer. He is widely consulted for his clear explanations of the economic and ecological forces that are changing the way we produce food in the modern world. This book draws from his background as an organic dairy farmer, and as a soil scientist who has served at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. as National Program Leader for Soil Science. This introductory book addresses topics from industrial farming (including CAFOs - Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) to the ongoing conflicts between factory farms and family farms, to how family farms can be profitable after peak oil. He also examines industrial agriculture and nature's own ecological methods, and shows how, in his own dairy operation, new sustainable approaches can be less costly, more productive, and return more profits to farmers. Dr. Thicke is an advocate for the systematic improvement of agricultural technology and farming methods, and for the effective use of sustainable, renewable sources of energy to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. His insights have proven increasingly relevant in the development of new public policy for Iowa, with profound implications for the United States as a whole.