Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers In the Age of Agribusiness by Lisa M. Hamilton is a must-read for anyone interested in farms, farmers, agriculture, how our food is grown, or just likes to read a good old-fashioned story or two.
Three Farmers, Three Stories
When so much in the media about food and agriculture points fingers, makes speeches, and casts blame, Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness
avoids politics for the sake of conveying the daily life and driving vision of three farmers - a dairy farmer in Texas, a rancher in New Mexico, and a family of grain farmers in North Dakota - who have decided to opt out of agribusiness and run their farms and ranches according to their own principles. They have their own reasons and individual histories with the land they work, but they all share the most important reason: They just think it's the right thing to do.
"Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness" is a misleading subtitle. It implies that Deeply Rooted will cover agriculture policy and come out swinging against agribusiness. While Lisa M. Hamilton is that rarest of fans - one of farmers – and clearly favors small, diverse, organic and sustainable farms, her interests are not in politics and policy, they are in farms and farmers. Rather than attacking agribusiness and its sundry and well-documented problems, Hamilton concentrates on the ways that more sustainable farms can work, complete with their trials and limitations. She tells the stories of these three farmers with compassion, insight, and humor.
Stories, Not Politics
This approach makes Deeply Rooted
a must-read not only for anyone interested in food or farming, but also for those who like reading a good story well told. Hamilton's detailed, often poetic descriptions of these farmers and their communities don't pull any punches. The difficulties faced by small farmers go beyond economic challenges, and Hamilton explores the many choices these farmers make – and why they make them – in order to farm and live the way they believe in. Some of them are estranged from the very communities they would like to build because of their practices, one works on land his family used to own in hopes of acquiring his own operation someday.
Hamilton's ability to report honestly about farms shines through during a brief detour she makes away from alternative farmers to profile a conventional dairy farm. What she finds is a family farm whose owners have made decisions in order to keep their business economically viable. That single profile gives readers a clear sense of why we find ourselves with the agricultural system we have, and it's not because conventional or agribusiness farmers don't care about their land or about the future of agriculture. In fact, as this large dairy operation shows, it is often quite the opposite.
With small stories told in-depth Deeply Rooted animates the often dry issues of agriculture. By telling those stories fully it also forces readers interested in local foods to re-think what our agricultural and food system could - or should- look like.
For more on how farms connect to local foods: Q & A with Lisa M. Hamilton.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy