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Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman: Conservation Heroes of the American Heartland

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  291 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Many of the men and women doing today’s most consequential environmental work—restoring America’s grasslands, wildlife, soil, rivers, wetlands, and oceans—would not call themselves environmentalists; they would be too uneasy with the connotations of that word. What drives them is their deep love of the land: the iconic terrain where explorers and cowboys, pioneers and rive ...more
Hardcover, 394 pages
Published September 6th 2016 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 2016)
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Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm really glad I saw this author speak and that I read her book (Rancher Farmer Fisherman) at this time. She went to the red states, interviewed large-scale farmers (not small-scale organic farmers) and found that they were just as concerned with conservation as people in the blue states. She found common ground in what from the outside looked like a completely divided country. Her book was a reminder that we can all work together for a common good -- something that I really need right now!

Rick Jackofsky
(Aristocratic) Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman

First off, let me say I have tremendous respect for all the “rancher, farmer, fisherman” business people profiled in this book, but I wouldn’t call any of them environmentalists or heroes of conservation. Sturdy pioneers who are doing their best to lessen the environmental impact of their operations, yes, but guardians off the natural world; no.

This book is well written and a wonderful homage to some big commercial land users who are willing to do whateve
Martin Rowe
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
The glass is more than half-full in this well-written, evocative, deeply embedded, and admiring set of profiles: of a rancher in Montana, a wheat and soybean farmer in Kansas, a haulage company owner on the Mississippi, a shrimper advocate in Louisiana, and a fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico. Horn's book concentrates on these individuals' lives, celebrating their (American) virtues of self-reliance, grit, bedrock honesty, and indefatigable commitment to their community and the biome that they uti ...more
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
the 3 situations Horn picked are all very conservative people who survive by living off the land. She shows in detail how devoted they are to finding and implementing the most sustainable practices while not embracing the language of environmental activists. The lessons here, for me, are how do we break boundaries of perceived community to support one another moving toward the most successful: ranching, farming, and fishing techniques. This is critically important during the administration of Pr ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book that took an in-depth look at a rancher in Montana, a farmer in Kansas, a riverman on the Missouri/Mississippi rivers, a shrimper in Louisianna, and a fisherman in the Gulf.

This sentence just barely begins to explain what the author spent years investigating; her book gives a broad and yet detailed sense of how each area has its own battles and issues, each of which affects the others in the story. And it tells how often feuding groups have to come together for the be
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: conservation
This book is a compendium of reasonable people. It highlights five such people whose livelihoods are all inextricably tied to the land (and who all happen to be connected by the Mississippi river system). These people did not start out as conservationists, yet they have all come to the conclusion that to nurture the land they rely on is the way to survival.

It is extremely refreshing, in this sea of extreme voices on both ends of the debates on conservation all clamoring to be the most strident,
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Non-Fiction is not my favorite category, but as I get older I find myself reading a lot more, especially when it comes to nature, conservation and the environment, sometimes politics. This book though, just did not thrill me, though it did give me some hope. Ms. Horn seems to want to make a point: environmentalists are too extreme in their demands, and deniers are putting us at risk, so let's find a third way, a way to make this conservation stuff work for the people on the front lines, that wan ...more
Cassandra Fay
Edit: changed rating to 3/5

So, the first thing I want to say is that, there is a big difference between commercial fishing/farming & fishing/farming that is done small scale. Small scale farming for example is almost always a family or small business operation, farmers & homesteaders understand the value of the land and of course want to preserve it for their children and future generations. Fishermen that operate on a small scale have the same ideology. Fishermen that are local to an area are v
Russel Chiodo
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Miriam Horn traveled across the United States to see how those who make their living from the land and sea are working to pass the resources on the next generation. From rancher to farmer to fishermen, her subjects are determined to leave it all better than it is today.

Horn works at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), so she brings a deep understanding of federal regulations, processes, and philosophies to the table. She knows how the game is played in Washington, but in this book she heads t
Teri L.
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Good description of five different parts of the food supply chain, highlighting solutions to complicated environmental problems. The author shows how progress is made when diverse groups of knowledgeable people work together - getting engaged, listening to one another, pooling their knowledge and energy, and compromising.

The author sometimes implies, rather defensively, that these producers are taking the "right" paths to improve the food system. Each of the five producers she profiles - the ra
Kelly Massey
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Miriam Horn takes the accounts of five people who work the land and animals for their livelihood; people who care about what they do and how they do it. Their stories attribute poor land management to a government and environmentalists who are out of touch and are limited in their knowledge as they haven't worked the fields, the mountains, the river, or the gulf for generations like they have. The ranchers in Montana, farmers in Kansas, river men on the Mississippi, shrimpers out of Louisiana, a ...more
Trish Remley
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Up to date account of the state of conservation and the land owners and in a couple of cases the fisherman. Turns out the farmer is located about 60 miles from here and although I pretty much knew all that was presented, it was very interesting to read the journey of how Justin came to where he is. Insightful in all cases reading how much work and time (decades) it has taken to get many to the table and that compromise and solutions to environmental & industrial concerns can be found. Doesn't me ...more
Aug 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This was all right, but as somebody trained as an environmentalist/in the sciences and have done jobs where I have worked with landowners, all I have to say is "Duh." I felt like maybe the author and other environmentalists were surprised that anybody but themselves could possibly know anything about conversation. It really isn't a big surprise that involving people whose lives depend financially on what you're trying to conserve to make things better, as a collaborative effort, works better tha ...more
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An inspiring book that I have recommended to all of my patient friends. The author covers large scale conservation movements in communities in the Mississippi River basin from Montana to the Louisiana gulf. In each case, preservation of resources was the common goal that brought stakeholders with a variety of programs together for the common good. The author does a wonderful job of making the main characters in each area real in a non-judgemental way.

I also think this book should be required rea
Kirsten Cutler
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
A fascinating narrative about individuals directly involved in ranching, farming, captaining barges up and down the Mississippi, and fishing the Gulf waters who all have had to adapt to a damaged environment to try to enable its recovery for the benefit of their immediate livelihoods and also its long-term survival for future generations. These individuals did not come out of the environmental movement but instead have developed a conservation mindset from the realization that their way of life ...more
Nov 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
An interesting look at the environment as told from the perspective of a rancher, a farmer, and a fisherman (among others). Living in a small rural town, I related to the farmer more than the others. The farmer practiced no-till farming techniques after exhaustively studying the process and subsequently becoming an expert at it. This is where the author shines explaining the processes used by these hands-on professionals who fortuitously became champions of the environment (usually after comprom ...more
Lauren Rudersdorf
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. As a farmer and environmentalist, I thought I knew what would be sad but I was constantly asked to reassess my values and convictions and think about the broader context. This book forced me to think about the environment and conservation in deeper, more meaningful ways while also educating me on important issues. Love, love, love this book. Highly recommend. ...more
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Beautifully written true accounts of Americans at the forefront of environmental activism, but who do not define themselves as environmentalist, in fact they are often at odds with the green movement. These are the real people who work the land and water and know first hand the dire need to transform the way we use up and destroy the riches of our planet. Eye opening, important and a call to conscientiousness.
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book should be the standard for anyone interested in solving environmental problems. Instead of shouting at each other or trying to dictate your point of view to others, get together and try to reach a consensus. To often we allow ourselves to be divided on unimportant issues, while things of greater importance are taken from us.
Miriam Gloger
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: prepub, political
Explores conservation from the perspective people who make their livelihoods from the land and are important and overlooked stakeholders in environmental issues. Too often the debate is between nebulous 'business' interests and out of state'activists' and implemented by a remote bureaucracy in Washington. ...more
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Horn takes a hard look at the subject of caring for the environment in which we all live and has given us some very interesting views of what we do. I do note that he never quite made the connection that much of what motivates the worst of what we do stems from raising animal protein on which we feed.
Nancy L.
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A thoughtful well-written book, which presents a model for grassroots change. Through profiles of those who work on and for America's land and water, Horn shows how those once considered adversaries, like environmentalists and hunters, can work together for common goals. Imagine??!! ...more
Mar 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Took me a while to finish this book-- text is a bit thick and unfocused. The first chapter was the hardest-- I enjoyed several of the other chapters much more (notably the shrimper chapter, which didn't even make the title, unless you classify "shrimper" as "fisherman"). The book could have used a stronger editor, as it is filled with run-on sentences, vague allusions to other works, largely apropos of nothing, and poor focus on the specific story (sort of like Krakauer's approach: see, this obs ...more
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Long and appropriately so. Honest efforts all around, really. Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman, Reporter.
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature
A hopeful and intelligent look by an EDF staff member at what sustainable food systems can look like in the U.S.
Dorothy Hynous
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wonderful to read what people are doing to bring back our land and water. Learned MANY new things. Well written
Mossy Kennedy
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Clever device of following the watershed in telling the story. While there was a linking of the stories, I wanted more development of the connection.
Jessica Bukowinski
May 03, 2018 rated it liked it
So glad I read this, and would recommend to others.
Sara Busse
Oct 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Learned so much from this book about the interconnected was of our land and our people. Such an important read for those trying to forge relationships, mend fences and strive for better.
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-book
Interesting book on the Conservation-- I mainly picked this up because I grew up near Choteau but was unaware of the rancher the book was based on.
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Miriam Horn is the author of two previous books, including the New York Times best-selling Earth: The Sequel. She works at Environmental Defense Fund and lives in New York City.

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