Wildly Suc­cess­ful Farm­ing

Sus­tain­abil­ity and the New Agri­cul­tural Land Ethic

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews | Climate Change -

Brian Devore, Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin Press (OC­TO­BER) Hard­cover $26.95 (224pp) 978-0-299-31880-2

A fas­ci­nat­ing, up-close look at eco­log­i­cally sensitive Mid­west­ern farm­ers, Brian Devore’s Wildly Suc­cess­ful Farm­ing fea­tures in­trigu­ing ob­ser­va­tions—such as that in­di­vid­u­als trained in nat­u­ral re­sources fields like con­ser­va­tion and eco­log­i­cal sci­ence are in­creas­ingly turn­ing to farm­ing. It is a move­ment Devore du­ti­fully doc­u­ments in a book filled with sto­ries of “eco­log­i­cal agrar­i­ans”—farm­ers who en­gage in farm­ing that re­spects the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

Each of these sto­ries demon­strates a kind of en­light­ened re­al­iza­tion that a work­ing farm can be eco­nom­i­cally vi­able while in­cor­po­rat­ing the ideals of healthy ecosys­tems and pro­tected wildlife habi­tats. Loretta and Martin Jaus, for ex­am­ple, re­served eleven acres of fer­tile farm­land as an avian habi­tat, but they still man­age to com­mand pre­mium prices for their milk be­cause their cows graze on cer­ti­fied or­ganic land. Mean­while, Todd Mc­peak and Penny Meeker use the num­ber of leop­ard frogs on their farm as a sig­nal of the health of their soil. These and other com­pelling sto­ries are re­lated through the voices of the farm­ers them­selves.

While the sto­ries are en­gag­ing, they also dra­ma­tize how farm­lands and wild lands can co­ex­ist. The book weaves a nar­ra­tive about these smaller, in­de­pen­dently owned farms with some crit­i­cally im­por­tant points ex­pressed by the au­thor. Devore notes, for in­stance, that “bal­anc­ing eco­log­i­cal health with fi­nan­cially vi­able farm­ing” can only be at­tained with the help of a sup­port­ive pub­lic pol­icy. In ad­di­tion, he writes, “any farm­ing prac­tice that can pre­vent soil from blow­ing or wash­ing away … is go­ing to have a ma­jor pos­i­tive im­pact on our cli­mate.”

Devore’s valu­able in­sights broaden the book’s scope be­yond sto­ry­telling to ad­dress fun­da­men­tal is­sues like re­spon­si­ble agri­cul­ture and cli­mate change. Wildly Suc­cess­ful Farm­ing is a book with a vi­tal mes­sage.

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