Eat Those Words: A Reading List to Cook Up a New Food System

Kriss Marion, Circle M Farm (Blanchardville, Wisconsin)Confess: You’re a closet cookbook junkie, too. I admit, my foodie reading gut tends to lean toward literature that involved ingredient lists, serving sizes and centerfolds of juicy eggplants. But I’m on a mission to diversify my diet, still under the umbrella of my passion for food – but stirring things up with perspectives on the bigger picture of our food system and the role we as individual eaters can play in advocates for change.

Warning: Reading such literature can prompt you to quit your day job, follow new dreams and move to a farm in southwestern Wisconsin – or other paths of change that may not currently be in your big picture life plan. That’s exactly what happened to my fellow farmer friend, Kriss Marion, who traded the Chicago scene in 2005 to launch Circle M Farm in Blanchardville, Wisconsin, running a CSA (community supported agriculture) and a fiber business. “People often ask me how it happened that we uprooted our city family and came to be market farming in southwest Wisconsin,” explains Marion. “The answer, plain and simple, is books.”

Marion chronicles this testament for books as a change agent in her farm blog post, “The Dangers of Book Reading,”. Admittedly a lifelong voracious reader, Marion credits a friend introducing her to the work of James Herriott back in her Chicago days as the first step in her rural transition. Kindred spirits to my own journey chronicled in Rural Renaissance, Marion and I evolved from city to farm chicks for a variety of reasons, but grounded in a desire to live closer to the land, grow healthy food for our own families and others and feel like we’re living a daily livelihood reflective of doing our part to leave this world a better place.

Add a dash of new perspectives to your reading list and see what ideas surface. Marion’s favorite three authors provide an ample starter list:

* James Herriott
By drawing readers into his world of being a veterinarian in the 1940s and 50s in rural England, Herriott inspired many to follow their animal-loving dreams by living in the country. His semi-autographical books, often referred to collectively as “All Creatures Great and Small,” based on a series of short stories describing his life and passion for the land and all creatures that call it home.

“I hope to make people realize how totally helpless animals are, how dependent on us, trusting as a child must that we will be kind and take care of their needs.” James Herriott

* Wendell Berry
Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry penned over 25 books rooted in the idea that one’s work and daily livelihood should be strongly rooted to a sense of place, a connection to and respect for the land surrounding you.

“When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be — I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” Wendell Berry

* Gene Logsdon
Writing from his farm in Ohio, Gene Logsdon blends the practical with the inspirational, eloquently exemplifying how a love for the land and raising our own food in a healthy manner go hand in hand.

“If gardening has taught me anything, it’s that we can’t separate ourselves from wild nature … We live in union with a wilderness fundamentally beyond our control or we don’t live at all.” Gene Logsdon

Please share some of your favorite authors and recommended books to cook up new perspectives.

Related Posts:
See Jane Grow: Women Farmers Sow Seeds of Hope
The Simplicity of Ecopreneuring
Green Diva’s Guide to Delicious Living: Community Supported Agriculture

Photo Credit: Lisa Kivirist

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6 thoughts on “Eat Those Words: A Reading List to Cook Up a New Food System”

  1. Thank you so much for this list of authors! As an avid reader looking for books on just these topics, this is a timely and much-appreciated post.

  2. and let’s not forget Helen and Scott Nearing: “The Good Life” at once philosophical and very practical.

    Also M.G. Kains “Five Acres and Independence” had been dreaming years before we moved to the country.

    So did Eliot Colemans’ “Four Season Gardening” and “Maine Farm” by Stanley Joseph (a sumptuously illustrated books taht reallly really made me dream).

    All those books still inspire me as we improve our homestead and make a new life in the country.

  3. I love Gary Paul Nabhan’s “Coming Home to Eat” about eating solely within his foodshed (the trials and the celebrations). All his books are wonderful.

    I also liked the book “Family Farming: A New Economic Vision” by Marty Strange. It has a lot of facts and numbers, but is still an interesting read from the late 80s.

    Check out “The Essential Agrarian Reader” edited by Norman Wirzba for a great collection of essays on what it means to hold to an agrarian vision.

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