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A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0865716230
ISBN-10: 0865716234
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Astyk (Depletion and Abundance) and Newton, both farmers and activists, think it's a "Big Lie" to argue that Americans aren't ready for "real and deep and radical change in our way of living." Now, they insist, is the perfect time for a nation of producers fulfilling "real needs rather than abstracted wants." With links to global warming and coming energy shortages (they also subscribe to the Peak Oil theory), the food crisis they foresee demands a shift from industrial farming to sustainable agriculture, from a supermarket and fast-food mentality to a "locavore" approach, and from an American diet dominated by meat to one rich in whole grains, potatoes, legumes, roots and vegetables. They finger factory farming as a major source of ecological damage and global economic disparity, likening the industry to Soviet collectives. The authors' radical plan calls for 50 to 100 million Americans to become subsistence farmers working their own small plots, resulting in 200 million relying solely on organic food grown nearby, and huge savings in resources and health care. Naturally, this is a decidedly Utopian vision with long odds against it, but Astyk and Newton offer a solid, thought-provoking challenge to conventional wisdom about Americans' lifestyle and capacity for change.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Although most Americans are used to a seemingly endless supply of industrially grown and imported food, many fail to realize that this abundance is neither sustainable nor reliable. Industrial agriculture depletes the soil, poisons the environment, relies on petroleum-based fertilizers, and is controlled by a handful of large corporations. Small-scale farmer Astyk (Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front) and Newton, a sustainable systems land planner, argue that it is both possible and necessary to stop the harm caused by industrial agriculture. They show how the food crisis is tied to the energy crisis, global warming, and resource depletion and conclude that worldwide food shortages are imminent. What the authors propose is a victory farm and garden movement, one similar to the World War II undertaking in which Americans grew their own produce in home gardens. They discuss the many advantages of growing one's own food and of cooking nutritious, flavorful meals from scratch. Their book includes informative discussions of other pertinent works as well as interviews with authors like Richard Heinberg and Bill McKibben. This outstanding and well-written compendium of insights and recommendations, of fervent idealism and practical solutions, is highly recommended.—Ilse Heidmann, Washington State Lib., Olympia
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers (May 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865716234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865716230
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #898,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sharon Astyk is a former academic who is a writer, subsistence farmer, parent, activist and prolific blogger (www.sharonastyk.com and http://henandharvest.com/). She farms in upstate New York with her husband and four children, raises livestock, and grows and preserves vegetables. She is the author of Depletion and Abundance, and co-author of A Nation of Farmers.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Although there were things I disagreed with in it, I really enjoyed Sharon Astyk's Depletion and Abundance, so I looked forward to getting this book. However, it has been a serious disappointment. If you have read anything at all about the food system or about shifting our economy away from centralization and corporatism to a focus on the local and the individual and the community, you will learn nothing at all from this book.

As I read along, this book struck me as jumbled and surprisingly lacking in a lot of ordinary spellchecking and editorial work, as if there were some rush to get it out. But I figured that at some point the authors were going to discuss how they thought we could indeed actually become a nation of farmers--how, exactly, could individuals be encouraged to take this up? Did they envision hordes of master gardeners going out and teaching the people? Did they see it as a result of government propaganda, like the Victory Gardens they mentioned? Did they believe people were just going to spontaneously get a gardening urge and succeed at it? Would it come only as the result of some great calamity, like in Havana? I didn't expect any completely spelled out program, but I had a right to expect, given the title, the presentation of some kind of idea of how we were supposed to get from where we are now to this bright and glorious day. I kept waiting, checking the number of pages left and thinking "They are not going to have much space to discuss their ideas of how to create this nation." Well, the authors' plan devolves into inheriting a big house in the country and homeschooling all the kids you pumped out before you were enlightened. That, and scolding.

Always, when you are talking about the end of the world nowadays, there has to be scolding and "so there!
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The authors have pulled together an amazing amount of information and crafted a powerful argument about the urgency of addressing food independence and sustainable lifestyles in America now. These folks are radicals in the best sense of the word - they demonstrate forcefully that radical changes are coming and that radical solutions are needed starting at the grassroots literally and figuratively. They are not crunchy granola eco-freaks, limousine liberals or mystics, but hardheaded pragmatists who lay out a convincing blueprint for the changes that are needed and how to get there. Their vision is of an independent future that shifts power and production from large international companies to individuals, families and communities. They admit that their vision may be unachievable, but explain in convincing detail why it is a future worth struggling for because out current course is unsustainable, immoral and unhealthy for individuals, societies, and the planet. I am not only rooting for them, but I am putting my money where my mouth is and buying 10 copies of this book to give away.
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Format: Paperback
Sharon Astyk's "Depletion & Abundance" set out the themes associated with the problems we face from climate change, peak oil and industrial agriculture. This book offers the solution - creating 100 million new farmers and 200 million new cooks using sustainable practices. As publisher of Sustainable Farmer (dotcom), I am witnessing the explosion of interest among people who understand the importance of becoming more self-sufficient in raising their own food. From urban gardens to the use of passive solar hoophouses to raise food year-round in cold climates, people are exploring new ways to grow food while reducing our carbon footprint. This book is both inspirational and instructional. I expect that we will look back on it as being as important as Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation.
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Format: Paperback
Astyk and Newton put out a call for 100 million new farmers in the US. They make a good case that all these farmers are really needed. In a time when joblessness is common, this book lays on the line exactly where the new jobs are going to be. Americans up to now have been reluctant to listen to the messages that reality is sending us: that energy is limited, that basing our transportation system on private automobiles was a mistake, and that an economy of perpetual growth is impossible. Astyk and Newton want to find a middle ground between the "business as usual" crowd, and those who see a catastrophic future such as James Kunstler in The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. Astyk and Newton want to take the present American suburbs and convert them for producing food. Yes, this will involve a smaller economy as measured by GDP. But a smaller GDP doesn't necessarily mean a low quality of life. (Keep in mind that there are plenty of nations out there with lower per capita incomes than in the US, but who are just as happy or happier than Americans.) Astyk and Newton's message is that we can make this transition. The central point is ensuring that people have access to land.

"A Nation of Farmers" doesn't focus as much as I would like on population issues. The book does mention that a managed population decline would make the transition easier. Their proposals for more education for women, greater access to medical care and contraception, and greater equity among people in general, are sensible.

Oddly enough, "A Nation of Farmers" has the best criticism of atheism that I have seen.
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