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Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate

4.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0865717749
ISBN-10: 0865717745
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Editorial Reviews

Review

As we start to change the weather, resilience will become a watchword for farmers, as this fine book demonstrates. It's strong advice--and it reinforces the essential truth, which is that we must keep climate from changing too much--because there's nothing even the best farmer can do to cope with a truly overheated planet.
--- Bill McKibben, author, Deep Economy



Organic Broadcaster November/December 2015


Audrey Arner, Moonstone Farm, Montevideo, Minn.


… Laura Lengnick’s Resilient Agriculture includes respectable up-to-date science, compelling testimonies, and cites the changing circumstances that ought to be affecting our decision-making as solar cell operators here on the planetary surface.


In some corners, the debate labors on whether climate change is sourced by human activities. Meanwhile, Lengnick has worked way down the row in considering how we agriculturalists can position ourselves, our thinking, our cropping patterns, varietal selections and livestock management to foster our adaptive capacities. All this will be necessary to not only more effectively sequester carbon in soils, but also to withstand the onslaughts of extreme weather episodes we will encounter with greater frequency.


In digging deeper, I probe for what big shifts in thought and action might carry us through the changing climate and all its related erratic precipitation, temperature fluctuations and violent storm events. There have been some great sources of inspiration, particularly among the permaculture community. Still, I find myself yearning for more substantiation for advocating for the kind of agriculture that I love. I knew I was going to eat up this new publication from New Society Publishers.


Drawing deeply from recent research and historical records, Lengnick explores five categories of agricultural endeavor: vegetables, fruits and nuts, grains and livestock from the perspectives of award-winning farmers throughout all regions of the agricultural United States. Most cite more extreme weather events as being more pronounced in the last decade or so; a few maintain that the weather has always fluctuated.


I appreciate her explanation of the earliest forms of agriculture: pastoralism, horticulture and sedentary agriculture and how each adapted to ecological resource limits. We are reminded that more food energy was produced than energy invested in production, and each resulted in an energy profit. I loved Lengnick’s succinct history of climate change, which was responsible for the last great ice melt 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. This led to changes in the ranges of plants and animals, changing the mix of available food species and causing plants and animals that could not adjust to the new climate conditions to disappear. Sedentary agriculture then reduced the profit in half for the labor calorie invested and made possible the human population explosion we continue to experience.


Her concise history of the rise of industrial agriculture and the U.S. food supply is rich in data. This serves as an important basis for laying out how we can better understand the situation at hand and what needs to be considered in making adaptations. In understanding agricultural exposure and how we might reduce it, I especially appreciated the need to understand the sensitivities of species, production systems, natural resources, management challenges, threats to built infrastructures and production costs.


Resilience is the adaptive capacity of the way we humans manage the ecosystem. The section on ecosystem processes (energy flow, the water cycle, the nutrient cycle, and community dynamics) draws right out of holistic management. As a devotee of Allan Savory, who clarified these processes for me and thousands of other land managers, I immediately flicked to the citations and appendix checking for an attribution to Savory or Holistic Management. I was disappointed that there was none and the adaptive management strategy involving goal setting, resource assessment, planning and implementation, monitoring progress towards goals and re-planning fell under the often-used terminology of “Whole Farm Planning.” Why not give credit where credit is due since other citations were so source specific?


Some historical mention is made of indigenous agriculture in the Americas, but I did not find any suggestion of how the practical knowledge of indigenous cultures can help us all adjust and survive in the face of major climate change. Let’s also remember that there will be psychological and spiritual needs ahead.


Lengnick interviewed a wide range of large- and small-scale farmers across production specialties and geography, including some often-quoted farm stars from the Upper Midwest like Gabe Brown from North Dakota, Richard DeWilde from Wisconsin, and Ron Rossman from Iowa. Long-time MOSES Organic Farming Conference presenter Elizabeth Henderson from Peacework Organic CSA in New York is quoted thusly: “You have to be so nimble these days.”


Lengnick gets down to bedrock in her wrap-up section, “New Times, New Tools: Managing for Resilience.” Her key qualities and considerations of resilient systems—some of which are more familiar to sustainable farmers than others—are worth deeply examining as we together move through the uncertain, disturbing and unexpected effects on food production.


As the leaves fall, and the cover crops are seeded, the livestock preparations for freeze-up are in place, Resilient Agriculture will make for provocative early winter brain food. Give it a read before you begin farm planning for the next growing season so that it can nourish your decision making.



Lengnick uses her wide-ranging scholarship to locate current food systems in time and space and asks farmers and ranchers who are creating new food systems that are more climate and community friendly to tell their stories of what they are doing, how they are doing it, and why. This book is accessible and compelling – a must read that builds hope for systemic change for a more sustainable future.
---Cornelia Butler Flora, Charles F Curtiss Professor Emeritus, Sociology and Agriculture and Life Science, Iowa State University; and Research Professor, Kansas State University



Resilient Agriculture obviously was written to help farmers cope with greater weather risks in the inherently risky world of farming. Industrial farmers must continue relying on the government. Sustainable farmers must learn to accommodate the vagaries of nature – including changes in climate. Stories of progressive farmers who have found ways of coping, which others eventually must learn, highlight this comprehensive review of agricultural resilience and sustainability.
---John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Missouri



… Laura Lengnick’s Resilient Agriculture includes respectable up-to-date science, compelling testimonies, and cites the changing circumstances that ought to be affecting our decision-making as solar cell operators here on the planetary surface.
In some corners, the debate labors on whether climate change is sourced by human activities. Meanwhile, Lengnick has worked way down the row in considering how we agriculturalists can position ourselves, our thinking, our cropping patterns, varietal selections and livestock management to foster our adaptive capacities. All this will be necessary to not only more effectively sequester carbon in soils, but also to withstand the onslaughts of extreme weather episodes we will encounter with greater frequency.
In digging deeper, I probe for what big shifts in thought and action might carry us through the changing climate and all its related erratic precipitation, temperature fluctuations and violent storm events. There have been some great sources of inspiration, particularly among the permaculture community. Still, I find myself yearning for more substantiation for advocating for the kind of agriculture that I love. I knew I was going to eat up this new publication from New Society Publishers.
Drawing deeply from recent research and historical records, Lengnick explores five categories of agricultural endeavor: vegetables, fruits and nuts, grains and livestock from the perspectives of award-winning farmers throughout all regions of the agricultural United States. Most cite more extreme weather events as being more pronounced in the last decade or so; a few maintain that the weather has always fluctuated.
I appreciate her explanation of the earliest forms of agriculture: pastoralism, horticulture and sedentary agriculture and how each adapted to ecological resource limits. We are reminded that more food energy was produced than energy invested in production, and each resulted in an energy profit. I loved Lengnick’s succinct history of climate change, which was responsible for the last great ice melt 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. This led to changes in the ranges of plants and animals, changing the mix of available food species and causing plants and animals that could not adjust to the new climate conditions to disappear. Sedentary agriculture then reduced the profit in half for the labor calorie invested and made possible the human population explosion we continue to experience.
Her concise history of the rise of industrial agriculture and the U.S. food supply is rich in data. This serves as an important basis for laying out how we can better understand the situation at hand and what needs to be considered in making adaptations. In understanding agricultural exposure and how we might reduce it, I especially appreciated the need to understand the sensitivities of species, production systems, natural resources, management challenges, threats to built infrastructures and production costs.
Resilience is the adaptive capacity of the way we humans manage the ecosystem. The section on ecosystem processes (energy flow, the water cycle, the nutrient cycle, and community dynamics) draws right out of holistic management. As a devotee of Allan Savory, who clarified these processes for me and thousands of other land managers, I immediately flicked to the citations and appendix checking for an attribution to Savory or Holistic Management. I was disappointed that there was none and the adaptive management strategy involving goal setting, resource assessment, planning and implementation, monitoring progress towards goals and re-planning fell under the often-used terminology of “Whole Farm Planning.” Why not give credit where credit is due since other citations were so source specific?
Some historical mention is made of indigenous agriculture in the Americas, but I did not find any suggestion of how the practical knowledge of indigenous cultures can help us all adjust and survive in the face of major climate change. Let’s also remember that there will be psychological and spiritual needs ahead.
Lengnick interviewed a wide range of large- and small-scale farmers across production specialties and geography, including some often-quoted farm stars from the Upper Midwest like Gabe Brown from North Dakota, Richard DeWilde from Wisconsin, and Ron Rossman from Iowa. Long-time MOSES Organic Farming Conference presenter Elizabeth Henderson from Peacework Organic CSA in New York is quoted thusly: “You have to be so nimble these days.”
Lengnick gets down to bedrock in her wrap-up section, “New Times, New Tools: Managing for Resilience.” Her key qualities and considerations of resilient systems—some of which are more familiar to sustainable farmers than others—are worth deeply examining as we together move through the uncertain, disturbing and unexpected effects on food production.
As the leaves fall, and the cover crops are seeded, the livestock preparations for freeze-up are in place, Resilient Agriculture will make for provocative early winter brain food. Give it a read before you begin farm planning for the next growing season so that it can nourish your decision making.
Audrey Arner and her husband, Richard Handeen, own and operate Moonstone Farm near Montevideo, Minn.



The challenges that climate change poses to agriculture loom large. In this timely and well-written book, Laura Lengnick combines the latest science with a search for solutions. She finds answers in the fields and pastures of some of the most innovative sustainable agriculturalists in the country. Our food future hinges on their experiential, local knowledge about how to manage for resilience. Without a doubt, I'll be using this important book in my teaching right away.
---Neva Hassanein, Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Montana; and author, Changing the Way America Farms: Knowledge and Community in the Sustainable Agriculture Movement



Farmers now need to design a resilient, regenerative agriculture for long-term economic returns. Laura Lengnick’s new book provides a comprehensive analysis on how to begin that journey. A must read for anyone interested in the future of farming.
---Frederick Kirschenmann, author, Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays From a Farmer Philosopher.

From the Back Cover

SUSTAINABLE CLIMATE-READY FOOD SYSTEMS TO FEED A WARMING WORLD


As we start to change the weather, resilience will become a watchword for farmers,as this fine book demonstrates. It’s strong advice—and it reinforces the essential truth, which is that we must keep climate from changing too much—because there’s nothing even the best farmer can do to cope with a truly overheated planet.
— BILL MCKIBBEN, author, Deep Economy


MANAGING CROPS and livestock in a changing climate creates unprecedented challenges for North American food producers. Resilient Agriculture explores the solutions in sustainable agriculture by blending the experiences of award- winning farmers and ranchers with a comprehensive review of the latest science on climate risk, adaptation and resilience to examine:
The opportunities and complexities created by rising temperatures, a lengthening growing season and increasing weather variability and extremes
The actions taken by sustainable producers to maintain production in more variable weather conditions
The innovations needed in North American agriculture and food systems
to cultivate a resilient food future.


The climate change challenge is real, and it is here now. The rich knowledge base contained in Resilient Agriculture serves as the cornerstone of an evolving, climateready food system that sustains land and community well into the 21st century. [Lengnick] asks farmers and ranchers who are creating new food systems that are more climate and community friendly to tell their stories of what they are doing, how they are doing it, and why.

Accessible and compelling— a must-read that builds hope for systemic change for a more sustainable future.
— CORNELIA BUTLER FLORA, Charles F Curtiss Professor Emeritus, Sociology and Agriculture and Life Science, Iowa State University; and Research Professor, Kansas State University


LAURA LENGNICK is a researcher, policymaker, activist, educator and farmer whose work explores the community-enhancing potential of sustainable agriculture and food systems. Laura contributed to the 3rd National Climate Assessment as a lead author of the USDA report Climate Change and Agriculture in the United States: Effects and Adaptation. After leading the academic program in sustainable agriculture at Warren Wilson College for more than a decade, Laura is now an affiliated researcher with the Local Food Research Center and a climate resilience planning consultant with Fernleaf Solutions, both located in Asheville, NC.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers (June 2, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865717745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865717749
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,873 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
== Super brief review ==
This book has some great content, but you must know where to find it. It suffers from poor writing / editing and makes for a frustrating read unless you confine yourself to chapters 5-8. I would give it more stars if only it were better-written.

== To start on a positive note ==
I learned a good deal from the interviews about how to run a sustainable / resilient farm. I think that when a lot of folks discuss sustainable agriculture, they're largely focused on preserving the health of the (farm) environment and of the farming community. The *economic* sustainability of a farm is a topic that sits on the sidelines and is less-often discussed. The interviews in this book have a definite focus towards economic sustainability and for that I'm very appreciative.

You'll learn how many different farmers have managed their economic risk, especially in the face of a changing and less-predictable climate,and see real examples of their successes over other more-industrial nearby farm operations. For instance, one farmer talks about the value of forging relationships at farmer's markets: if you're selling direct-to-consumer, you can use your personal relationships to convince your customers to try new cultivars of fruit / vegetables that they are unfamiliar with. This is a massive boon because it allows the farmer to plant crops that specifically leverage the climate idiosyncrasies of their land (e.g. apple cultivars that require less water if you live in a drought-prone region or tomato cultivars that have a shorter growing season if unpredictable rains make your fields too muddy to plant when you normally would). All of these interviews happen in chapters 5-8 and I definitely suggest that you read them.
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Format: Paperback
There are no t many verbatim directions in this book for anything, but there a lot of really good concepts and concrete examples of how one can make their own farm/ranch/homestead more resilient (and a really good explanation as to why you would want that).
As a preface: My wife and I are half-time homesteaders with a retired race-horse/manure machine, milk goats, a laying flock of 11 plus rooster, and organically maintained gardens and pasture.

For me and my lifestyle, this book provides a good reference of a scalable philosophy that I can apply to my own small operations. I feel like the next time I plan a garden or build a lean-to or chicken coop, I can go into it being quite a bit more knowledgeable about being more resilient; being able to bounce back when something unexpected or disastrous (living in hurricane alley currently) occurs. I also feel more confident in becoming more self-sufficient because of what these farmers/ranchers were able to successfully do on their own. And I feel like I have a much better start on where to look towards next with all the exciting and current project references mentioned in the book.

General Overview:
The book starts out with a historical overview on how agriculture got to where it is today- looking back 10,000 years.
Then it goes over important concepts for farmers and ranchers in today's agricultural markets and how to create systems of sustainable agriculture.
Chapters 5-8 walk through personable examples of experienced farmers and ranchers in the market and how they managed to confront and tackle climate, financial, and marketing challenges to date.
Chapter 9 puts it all together and provides an in-depth understanding of hoe fundamentals governing resiliency.
Chapter 10 recaps the current market, where all the different labels fit in (local, sustainable, organic, etc), and leaves you with some good thoughts to consider.
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Format: Paperback
Dr. Laura Lengnick connects the dots in our changing climate and offers practical advice on how we can adapt. After interviewing 25 farmers around thee state she has successful answers for whats working and how we can be reilient in challenging times.
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Am reading the book now, and am suitably impressed so far. I know the author and she is one smart cookie who has spent many years researching for this book. It is not a quick flyby night book. Very in depth with plenty of proof, backup, and graphs. True Science.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It helped me gain a deep understanding on how we develop agriculture for the future if we can limit global warming. In fact this can be past of the solution.
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