"When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers therefore are the founders of human civilization."
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 Reviews & Resources – Fall 2013 Minimize

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Food Rights
Eco Barons - The New Heroes of Environmental Activism
Fresh from Maine: Recipes and Stories from the State's Best Chefs, 2nd Edition
Plowing with Pigs and Other Creative, Low-Budget Homesteading Solutions
The Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners

The Resilient Farm and Homestead
University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Enterprise Budgets
The Mobile Poultry Slaughterhouse

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle over Who Decides What We Eat
By David E. Gumpert
Chelsea Green, 2013
261 pages, paper, $19.95

This gripping history of the raw food movement reads like a suspenseful whodunit. Gumpert introduces us to its pioneers, a varied roster of eccentric characters, not all of them as savory as the rich assortment of foods they attempted to purvey. I use the word "purvey" advisedly, as many of them, having spent much energy in attempts to obfuscate the exact nature of their commerce, seeking to evade an increasingly overzealous corps of food police trying to shut their operations down, would object to that term.

Though he strained to remain objective, Gumpert's sympathies are clear. That his preface is by noted farmer-libertarian Joel Salatin, his endorsements from Sally Fallon Morell, whose Weston Price Foundation played a huge role in stimulating demand for raw milk, and Linda Faillace, the Vermont sheep farmer victimized by egregious governmental over-reaction, is telling.

Gumpert believes in the right to buy whatever food we want directly from farmers and producers free from regulation by permits and inspections. And he narrates a pattern of concerted attacks by regulators to curtail consensual exchanges of food products. His histories detail, if not an outright conspiracy, at least a close pattern of cooperation between state and federal agencies to shut down non-complying farms and economic arrangements, in the name of food safety.

But are the true motives for this crackdown so pure? Gumpert argues that the real motivation is to protect our mass-produced industrial food system from the economic consequences of a resurgent direct-food movement stemming from the desire to find better, more nutritious alternatives than those offered by Big Ag.

To one who came of age in the ‘60s, a pattern of government repression directed against small farmers evinced no surprise. But for naive farmers such as Faillace, Indiana Amishman David Hochstetler and Minnesota egg farmer Alvin Schlangen, to be treated like criminals was a great shock. Unsurprisingly, such heavy-handedness gives rise to counter-play, such as the growing local food sovereignty movement that asserts that state or federal regulation has no place in agriculture.

These issues are more complex than Gumpert and other food sovereignty advocates acknowledge. When half the population engaged in food production, such knowledge was widespread and perhaps the FDA was not needed. Today, when food production is alien to most people, a system without regulation arguably leaves most consumers at the mercy of caveat emptor. Some of the unregulated networks described by Gumpert, such as the San Francisco Underground Market, Grassfed on the Hill in Maryland and the Rawsome Club in L.A., served thousands of families. Does government have no legitimate health concerns even with such large enterprises?

Is there a middle ground? On the eve of beginning enforcement of the Food Safety Modernization Act, no question is more timely. Despite enactment of the Tester Amendment, Natural Farmer editor Jack Kittredge warns that the costs to comply with the FDA's proposed rules will be sufficient to slow or even reverse the momentum of our movement.

– CR Lawn


Eco Barons - The New Heroes of Environmental Activism
By Edward Hume
ECCO, 2010
384 pages, paperback; $14.99

Prize-winning author Edward Hume writes masterful, often poetic descriptions of the lands that “eco barons” are trying to save from development and of the barons’ struggles against corporate greed and public opinion. These eco barons “seek to show, in deeds and words, that it is possible to strike a better balance between consumption and conservation.”
Doug Thompkins, for example, was described in the Sydney Morning Herald as “the de facto dean of this new class of eco barons, who has spent the past decade and $U.S. 200 million spearheading a new movement called Wildlands Philanthropy.” Cofounder of the Esprit clothing line, Thompkins was influenced by Yvon Chouinard, creator of Patagonia, to promote healthy lifestyles, and by deep ecologist Arne Naess, who argued that humans have no right to destroy nature except to meet vital needs.
After a flight over British Columbia, where Thompkins saw mile after mile of clear-cut forest beneath him, his zeal for the fashion business began to fade. He wrote, “I had realized that the production and promotion of consumer products not vital to anyone’s needs were as much a part of the eco-social crisis as anything. I was, simply, contributing to the problem itself.”
With money from the sale of Esprit, Thompkins bought land in the Patagonia section of Chile – and lodged a formal complaint about salmon farms polluting his property and the surrounding ocean. Despite being an ecological disaster, salmon farming was a crown jewel of the Chilean economy, so the press, the government and local residents went after the wealthy American who had become Chile’s second largest landowner. He was called a threat to national security and received death threats.
Thompkins said, “This is what nearly always happens to eco-philanthropists – it’s been the same for the past 100 years.” He noted that when he used his money and clout to ship American jobs overseas with his Esprit fashions, expending huge amounts of energy and resources creating and selling products nobody needed, he was lauded as a visionary entrepreneur.
By 2005, however, the Thompkinses, had acquired more than 2 million acres for conservation, and with a new Chilean president in place, Pumalin Park was granted the status of a nature sanctuary.
Roxanne Quimby has faced similar challenges in Maine and still hasn’t succeeded in establishing a national park. Quimby’s fortune originated at the Common Ground Country Fair, where, writes Hume, she “had spent many a weekend in years past hawking her wares at this annual gathering to promote organic farming – her homegrown honey, beeswax candles, lip balm in quaint small tins she had painstakingly prepared on an old wood stove” in a log cabin with no electricity, water or phone. She would work her small booth all day at the Fair, then spend the night in her truck because she couldn’t afford a motel.”
Burt’s Bees grew to a $60 million-a-year enterprise.

Hume writes about other eco barons – not all rich – including Andy Frank, who invented the plug-in hybrid car; Carole Allen, who received death threats for advocating for endangered sea turtles; Peter Galvin and Kieran Suckling, who founded the Center for Biological Diversity and got the Bush Administration to acknowledge global warming; Terry Tamminen, once a Malibu pool cleaner, who formulated California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s climate change law; and others.

– Joyce White, Stoneham, Maine


Fresh from Maine: Recipes and Stories from the State's Best Chefs, 2nd Edition
By Michael S. Sanders, photography by Russell French
Table Arts Media, 2012
188 pages, hardcover, $32.50

In their Fresh from Maine books (the first edition was published in 2010; the 2012 edition expands on the first edition), Michael Sanders and Russell French connect readers with our state’s wonderful chefs who are bringing local and, often, organic foods to our plates. In the process, they graciously acknowledge MOFGA and the many organic growers who have helped move the local, organic food movement along.

Fresh from Maine is more than a cookbook. Each chef is profiled, so we get to know about their influences, philosophies and favorite foods. Josh Mather of Joshua’s Restaurant in Wells, for example, learned about the inner workings of restaurant kitchens when, as a kid, he went with his father, Mort (a founder and one of the early presidents of MOFGA), to deliver their fresh farm products. His mother, Barbara, long wrote a recipe column for The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener. Now, in Fresh from Maine, we get to enjoy Josh’s recipe for Roasted Pepper Shrimp Sauté – and Barbara Mather’s Sinfully Good Fudge Pie.

Chef Sam Hayward, a MOFGA board member and owner of Fore Street Restaurant in Portland, talks about how his cooking has devolved rather than evolved “to incredibly simple preparations and presentations which to me were no less beautiful, but much more about the food itself than about the ideas I imposed on food.” The photo of Hayward’s Goat Cheesecake With Fresh Cranberry Sauce embellishes the recipe beautifully, showing how the home cook can try to serve as elegant a dish as one might get at Fore Street.

The chef profiles, recipes and food photos will inspire you to do your best with the Maine organic foods you grow yourself or buy from local farmers. Enjoy!

– Jean English


Plowing with Pigs and Other Creative, Low-Budget Homesteading Solutions
By Oscar H. Will III and Caren K. Will
New Society Publishers, 2013
272 pages, paperback, $24.95

The Planet Whizbang Idea Book for Gardeners
By Herrick Kimball
Planet Whizbang, 2013
124 pages, paperback, $21.95

These two books will help with your farm or garden, whether you’re making a grape trellis or a wheel hoe (Kimball), or building fences, making hand-made hay or using pigs to clear land and even remove stumps (the Wills).

Kimball, a New York homesteader, is best known for his homemade “Whizbang” chicken plucker. He’s been coming up with whizbang (meaning “conspicuous for speed, excellence, or startling effect”) ideas ever since, many promoted at www.planetwhizbang.com. His new Idea Book is a fun read, whether you need a garden tote or a plant cloche or not. The construction diagrams are excellent.

The Wills’ book has three chapters on animals (fowl, pigs, ruminants); three on using woodlot and fencerow plants to make fences (including living barriers for livestock) and other structures and goods; three on “gym membership that pays” (raising row crops, grains and hay by hand); and three on the homestead as a production center (cooking from scratch, upgrading a kitchen to make it comfortable and convenient, and starting a home-based food business. These last three chapters have some tempting recipes.

– Jean English


The Resilient Farm and Homestead, An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach
By Ben Falk
Chelsea Green, 2013
320 pages, paperback, $26 from Chelsea Green

Many who have been part of the “back to the land” movement over the last 50 years have found their dreams of “self sufficiency” challenged by the realities of maintaining a productive farm or homestead without a steady stream of increasingly expensive inputs from off-site. Climate instability and resource depletion will only complicate things further for those wishing to build a resilient lifestyle on the land.

Some of us have found hope in the promise of permaculture design but have been thwarted by the lack of well-researched and documented examples that apply to our northern temperate climate. Enter Ben Falk and his new book, The Resilient Farm and Homestead. In it, Falk chronicles the transformation of a typical worn out Vermont hillside farm into a permaculture-inspired experimental oasis of biological diversity and ecological resilience on the human scale. His approach is to regenerate the land while developing robust and redundant systems to supply perennial needs while reducing inputs of both labor and materials over time.

A trained landscape architect and practicing permaculture designer, Falk not only writes passionately about his philosophy and the broad range of experiments he and his colleagues develop on the landscape but brings them to life through finely crafted drawings and photographs in a way that makes them accessible to those not necessarily steeped in permaculture terminology.

Much of the research Falk has undertaken at his Whole Systems Research Farm is based on his travels around the world to study enduring agricultural systems in areas with similar landscapes and climates to northern New England. One such trip found him in northern Japan, where he realized that paddy rice could be a viable crop for his farm and our bioregion. His experiments have yielded good results, and a photograph of the paddies graces the cover of the book.

Falk also profiles dozens of other crops, especially perennial food plants, with the emphasis on nutrient density and the ability of food to act as medicine. He builds on the work of many permaculturists before him, including the recent work of David Jacke and Eric Toensmeier. In functioning “guilds,” small fruits such as elder and seaberry take their place alongside various edible fungi, tree fruits and nuts, groundcovers and herbaceous perennials to provide extreme nutrition, build soil and create beneficial habitat. Falk also provides much information on integrating sheep, goats and foul into the system to generate fertility. He makes clear the connection between healing the land and healing ourselves.

Falk’s chapter on “The Design Process and Site Establishment,” with its illumination of the permaculturist’s mantra of “observation before action,” might be the most valuable section of the book. Also discussed are water and earthworks (Falk sees the vast potential of New England as a terraced landscape), fertility harvesting and cycling, and fuel and shelter.

While I question Falk’s love affair with the gas chainsaw for bucking up firewood (I prefer an electric) and fear he mischaracterizes my beloved yacon as a replacement for the potato, this is a great book and must-read for anyone serious about reclaiming our beleaguered agricultural landscape and creating an enduring legacy of human-scale development.

– Scott Vlaun, Moose Pond Arts+Ecology, Otisfield, Maine


The University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension has updated several field crop, vegetable and pasture crop enterprise budgets for 2013. Find them under the “Enterprise Budgets” heading on the left sidebar at www.uwex.edu/ces/farmteam/.


The Mobile Poultry Slaughterhouse
By Ali Berlow
Storey, 2012
144 pages, paperback, $14.95

This manual for building a humane mobile chicken-processing unit tells how to assess the local food environment to understand the landscape of farmers, markets, grocers, restaurants, backyard growers, consumers and collaborators; use funding structures and create a business model; get proper equipment to humanely slaughter and process chickens; train a processing crew; and educate and market to engage the community, including regulators and policymakers. The book includes recipes, sample community surveys, farmer checklists and step-by-step slaughtering instructions. (Adapted from a National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition review.)



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