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Change Comes to Dinner: How Vertical Farmers, Urban Growers, and Other Innovators Are Revolutionizing How America Eats Paperback – May 8, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Katherine Gustafson is a troubadour for sustainable food, inviting us to jump into her rental car as she maps the inspiring alternative food system emerging across the United States. And here’s a pleasant surprise: we don’t spend any time in the privileged bubbles of Brooklyn or Berkeley; Gustafson’s expansive and hopeful portrait puts the rest of America back in the picture. Change Comes To Dinner shows us the outline of a sane food system: now it’s up to us to fill it in.” --Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine

“In her wildly successful cross-country search for alternatives to our industrialized food system, Katherine Gustafson comes up with a terrific new word: “hoperaking,” the gathering of inspiration (and the opposite of muckraking).    The people whose work she describes here should inspire anyone to get busy and start planting.” --Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at NYU and author of What to Eat

“The rise of the local food movement is the single most encouraging trend in America in the last decade--and Katherine Gustafson is reporting from the cutting edge. A deliciously important book!”  -- Bill McKibben, author of Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

"It would have been enough if Katie Gustafson had simply captured the inspiration and energy inherent to America's sustainable food revolution. But she does much more than that, writing with a keen eye for detail and wisely recognizing that good food writing isn't really about food: It's about the people behind it." --Ben Hewitt, author of The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food

"Essential, inspiring read for those interested in food production and politics and the complicated, essential roles both play in our social welfare.” -Booklist

“A highly worthwhile read … quality journalism to motivate the most apathetic of us to buy local, organic and seasonal.” –BookKvetch.com


“Gustafson has a knack for tracking down everyday people with big ideas. Ideas that could really change our future. Ideas that are already changing people’s lives ... leaving environmental gain as a potential perk to an already-winning system gives Gustafson’s argument a bulletproof quality. It also frees her to investigate under-examined issues, like dynamics between race, class, and access to healthy food. As for Gustafson’s hoperaking goal, mission accomplished.” –UTNE Reader

“Both inspiring and realistic, Gustafson’s book provides a hopeful assessment of the possibility of big changes in the U.S. food system. Recommended for general readers interested in eating healthy, questioning where their food comes from, or knowing more about the business of farming.” –Library Journal

About the Author

KATHERINE GUSTAFSON is an award-winning writer, journalist and editor whose articles and essays have been published in numerous print and online media. She has written about sustainable food for Yes! Magazine, The Huffington Post, Civil Eats, Change.org, and Tonic. She lives with her husband in the Washington, DC, area.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (May 8, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312577370
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312577377
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #987,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

KATHERINE GUSTAFSON is an award-winning writer, journalist and editor whose articles and essays have been published in numerous print and online media, including The Christian Science Monitor, The Huffington Post, Slate, and Johns Hopkins Magazine. Her first book, 'Change Comes to Dinner," about good news in sustainable food, was published in 2012 by Macmillan. She lives with her husband and daughter in the Washington, DC, area.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Journalist Katherine Gustafson spent a lot of time reporting on food and environmental issues. Unfortunately, she found that these issues tend to be depressing, and after a while people don’t want to hear about them any more—we all have a limited tolerance for bad news. So she set about looking for good news to counter the bad, or as she likes to say, “hoperaking” to counter the muckraking. Back and forth she went, examining businesses, farms, and initiatives that struggle to find a new way to bring healthy, organic (or close to it), well-treated food to those who want and need it. Some of those initiatives are as simple as forming distribution networks that bring products from a variety of scattered small farms to a nearby city where folks are happy to pay a little extra for such fresh food. One man repurposed a school bus for just such a use.

The tone of the book is highly narrative and conversational. We get to see not just the wonderful ideas that people have come up with, but also the day-to-day roadblocks that get in the way. There’s humor and frustration, wonderment and awe. It took me a little while to realize that what initially seemed like an over-the-top zeal on the author’s part was primarily a quirky and energetic sense of humor that I swiftly came to enjoy.

I think Ms. Gustafson’s Change Comes to Dinner: How Vertical Farmers, Urban Growers, and Other Innovators Are Revolutionizing How America Eats would be most useful to two groups of people. One, those already trying to make a change in how we grow, obtain, and eat our food. These folks might find further inspiration and hope, solutions to their problems in things that others have done, or advance warning of troubles they might run into up the road.
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Format: Paperback
Ingenuity is supposed to be one of those things that defines the "American Spirit". You know the story: work hard, come up with new solutions to old problems, get to know your neighbors and build something that works for folks in your area from the ground up. All too often, however, that notion of the American Spirit seems like just another myth hawked by Madison Avenue to put a palatable gloss on faceless megalithic corporations that tend to run large parts of our daily lives.

Authors like Michael Pollan have done a great job deconstructing our modern food production systems, showing the rot at it's core, illuminating the uncaring assembly line that has been gradually built up to control our food from seed to table. That information is incredibly valuable and opening people's eyes to the problem is absolutely worthwhile but once you've pulled back that curtain, you're left with a most disquieting question: Now what?

Gustafson's book jumps into the fray and sheds some light on the topic of what's next. We find out that the ingenuity at the heart of the mythical American Spirit (though she never calls it that) is, in fact, out there and at work. People are talking to each other and figuring out new ways (and resurrecting old ones) to get around monoculture-focused, mass-production oriented corporations and develop food production systems that are sustainable, more equitable and have a real sense of place about them.

Her interviews run the gamut from East Coast to West Coast, from Urban to Rural, from back yard urban vegetable patches to institutional-scale suppliers.
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Format: Paperback
I'm into "hoperaking" lately, having greatly enjoyed Katherine Gustafson's Change Comes to Dinner: How Vertical Farmers, Urban Growers, and Other Innovators are Revolutionizing How America Eats. Gustafson coins the word to describe her mission of traveling around the country finding hopeful stories of where food is going right. She ranges far and wide, exploring small-farmer co-ops in Montana, inner-city rooftop greenhouses, sunless hydroponic gardens in shipping containers, farming programs in prisons that reduce recidivism and feed into a catering business and school lunches! Gustafson covers some familiar food-writing ground, of course, in her journeys--a review of our dependence on a few species, our over-use of pesticides, soil erosion, etc., but she has much to say that was new to me. For one, she questions the foodie law of "local is automatically better." As Gustafson points out, "An apple in a load of millions shipped cross-country in an efficient eighteen-wheeler might well account for fewer carbon emissions than an apple in a single bushel driven thirty miles to a farmers' market in an old diesel farm truck." It just depends. However, what local food does provide in spades, she discovers, is a host of intangibles: community building; "bolstering local food economies"; job creation; greater responsiveness between market and consumer; increased food security through preservation of species variety.

The stories in Change Comes to Dinner are small, small Davids, in the face of Goliath agro-industry, but the sheer number of Davids Gustafson uncovers demonstrates how widespread is American interest in restoring connections to food, community and quality of life.
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