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Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  448 ratings  ·  81 reviews
For centuries, agricultural practices have eroded the soil that farming depends on, stripping it of the organic matter vital to its productivity. Now conventional agriculture is threatening disaster for the world’s growing population. In Growing a Revolution, geologist David R. Montgomery travels the world, meeting farmers at the forefront of an agricultural movement to re ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 10th 2018 by W. W. Norton Company (first published May 9th 2017)
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Cory Meeks
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now I want to be a farmer.

I've been interested in gardening for a few years now. My dad gardened when I was young, but only recently have I owned land to garden.

I first heard of this book from an Urban Farming podcast, and I was intrigued. Soil science has been a new interest of mine, and I had never heard of most of the methods and practices in this book.

I'm not a true environmentalist, I don't fight for the whales, or boycott slaughtering animals, but anyone would want to be a good steward
Mar 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I won an ARC of this book in a goodreads drawing.

An important book about returning fertility back to our soils, without becoming dependent on artificial fertilizers.

Two aspects elevate this above the usual book about environmental concerns.

First it isn't written in apocalyptic overtones. It doesn't feel like somebody is yelling "WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!" in your face all the time. This is a refreshing change.

Second, while I don't believe all of the author's solutions are workable, at least the
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everone who cares about the living earth
Recommended to Stephen by: Gidon Eshel
Nearly everything that nourishes terrestrial biota grows in a micro-thin layer of the earth’s surface that is fast running out -- topsoil. Yet while people of good will march by the many thousands for clean air or clean water, no one marches about the ongoing loss and impending disappearance of a resource (sustainably fertile soil) as important to higher forms of life on earth as are clean air and drinkable water. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported in 2015 that at the current rate ...more
I heard an interview with the author on one of my favorite podcasts, You Bet Your Garden, a few months back and I was so fascinated by what he was proposing that I had to read this book.

Well, I'm convinced. The health of our soil directly impacts how we all live and how we will continue to live in the future. Without soil full of organic matter, chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides leach and run off fields, contaminating water and creating algal blooms far downstream. Soil stripped
Nov 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
was inspiring Thanksgiving holiday reading. Written by MacArthur Fellowship recipient David Montgomery of the University of Washington, the book reports on global examples of farmers adopting practices of “conservation agriculture” which restore soil as a renewable resource, instead of degrading soil over time.

By avoiding plowing, using cover crops, and employing crop rotation, farmers are able to use much lower levels of fertilizers, pesticides and fuel and make higher profits, with less vulner
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There are good books and then there are books that change that way you see the world.

If you're into agriculture - Read it.

This is basically a collection of tales and tricks by successful farmers. And not just tricks this often talks about their distilled path to success in depth. The magic for me happened when everyone they talk about uses slightly different techniques and this made me understand the range within which I can work with, what I really must do and what I can plan for future.
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Very well written that made the scientific content easy to understand. The idea that we have the power and knowledge to reverse the effects of soil degradation is both encouraging and frustrating if we don’t do anything about it.
Please keep in mind this book was written with the general public in mind. It may be “basic” for people with science or microbiology education but the point is to get the general public on board with thinking in these terms.

I am hooked on this topic now.
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thanks, David.
Tim Knutson
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I’ve heard people talk recently about things like vertical farming and automation as the future of agriculture. They tend to go along with other techno-solutions to humanity’s problems, like ditching earth entirely and living on Mars.

Instead this book argues that we don’t have to cut nature or soil out of the picture, that actually they are our most important resources in helping make sure we have good food and a good planet in the future. Instead of focusing on automation and technology, yields
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received this book from the Goodreads Giveaway.

Wonderful book with a mixture of history, environmental science, agriculture, and memoir. Enjoyable narrative and facts. The author really captured no-till agriculture from various perspectives without sounding arrogant or condescending. Recommended reading for anybody interested in the sciences.
Nov 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My grandparents were peasants. My mother lived in the rural area before adulthood but moved to the city where she found a job and a man (my dad). I have seen the preservation of manure that would be returned to the fields, but aside from that my knowledge of agriculture - let alone conservation agriculture - is as limited as a typical urban laborer. I am embarrassingly naive when it comes to the basics of field practice. That said, I keep telling myself that I should learn more. My encounter wit ...more
It’s safe to say that something is wrong with our agricultural system when neighbors collectively sue those who feed them for poisoning their water.
In its own way as damning as Dark Money. The agricultural business is in trouble because so many farmers are in debt to the companies like Koch Industries and Monsanto who supply farmers, who want to keep selling farmers chemical fertilizers even though we now know chemical fertilizers are bad for soil health.

What it all comes down to is this, conse
Marathon County Public Library

Many people choose sides between conventional and organic methods of farming, assuming that you will have to settle for lower harvests and smaller produce if you don’t want your food to be poisoned by carcinogenic pesticides. Montgomery brings the reader’s attention to a third option: conservative agriculture. This means not tilling fields with a plow, planting cover crops year-round, and rotating crops regularly. The author repeatedly points out that all three factors are required to truly prac

May 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Just after 23 minutes in, he’s extolling the benefits of no till planters but I have not yet heard how they use herbicide on the field first.

2:23. Right about this point there’s a story of a man in Pakistan back in the 60s who went to agricultural school and graduated with high honors then went back to his village and they laughed at him because he had gone to school to be taught how to plow which of course they already knew how to do it. I find it interesting that the point of this book being n
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I must admit that I wasn't sure about this but I was assured by my partner that it was a great read. Well, once I started I didn't put it down for long. Montgomery goes through different stages of building back soil structure and fertility through visits to different farmers in different parts of the world to see how they're all doing it. Really fascinating - especially when livestock comes into the story. While some chapters became ever so slightly repetitive you get a small idea of the bind fa ...more
Aug 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: agriculture
Very interesting book, I learned a lot from it. However, to a complete novice/non-scientist it got a bit too technical at times... In addition, the chapter set in Ghana could have been more culturally sensitive.
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Book 9 of 52: Growing a Revolution: Bringing our Soil back to Life by David R. Montgomery. This was NOT a breezy, simple read, but it WAS fascinating. Montgomery discusses, at length, the practice of regenerative agriculture. He visits farms across the world that are practicing soil building techniques to build fertility and increase crop yields. The most interesting thing about what he learned, to me, was that soil building can be accomplished on BOTH organic AND conventional farms. When all as ...more
Montgomery covers a lot of ground...boosting knowledge and support for a new/old way of farming crops...conservation agriculture, comprised the 3 legs of no-till, cover crops, and adequate crop rotation (not just alternating corn and beans). This could easily be the answer to building up our soil to produce more with less...include animal waste and one can boost production even higher.

Unfortunately, university ag research and government programs depend almost solely on "products"...what to buy,
Karen Hardy
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Growing a Revolution was an amazing eye-opener about the state of our soil. Sounds boring but it was far from it. David Montgomery wrote with clarity, many examples for the sorry state of our earth and even more hopeful stories of restoration of our agriculture and farming communities. He extensively researched, traveled to Africa, Central America, South America, Europe and Russia and the US.
He sold me on the need to restore soil health and fertility without excessive use of chemicals herbicide
Feb 19, 2020 rated it did not like it
Never has so little been said in so many pages. Tilling is evil because it leads to erosion, cover crops are good because they add organic matter. There - that's the entire book. The author just rambles on about that, saying it in three hundred different ways. Instead of actual data, there are lengthy anecdotes about people who agree with this basic philosophy. Any science mentioned is at the third-grade level. "No-till" is nothing new, so its not even like this book is introducing a revolutiona ...more
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While I already knew most of the information in this book, Montgomery's book is the first I have read to focus on soil as the direct resource we rely so much upon and the politics behind it. It's as if the book presents itself "okay, let's get down to business". The author clearly lines out the connecting pieces of the how, what and why of the issue. I appreciate his direct approach and hope more people read this. It is a brilliant book, intelligently written, and full of information our country ...more
Jan 01, 2019 rated it liked it
It's definitely worth reading if you're interested in the subject matter. It also went quite well since I had just finished the Omnivore's Dilemma which also addresses issues of soil degradation.
It could have benefited a little more with some graphics and charts showing some simple concepts like the monthly/yearly rotational planting cycle of some of the farms he visited, for instance.
While it clearly and concisely addresses the agricultural/biological/geological processes and the 3-fold system
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well researched, this book hammers home the same points through a number of different examples. But the takeway points remain the same: no-till farming, crop rotation, and cover crops. The author paints an optimistic future of agriculture and climate change, but we have to do our part by being educated and restructuring government subsidies which currently incentivize farming practices which are leading to rapid soil erosion, overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, and release of carbon from soil ...more
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book made me want to become a farmer (my wife encouraged me to keep my day job). It's a rare book that describes the failures of agriculture (tilling and/or 'mining' our soil) while pointing us towards solutions (conservation agriculture). Montomery does a great job bridging the gap between real life, in the trenches farmers, and researchers who can back up what conservation agriculture proponents claim. I'll be incorporating soil building techniques described here into my backyard gardenin ...more
Dusty Wight
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Soil is amazing! I never knew how exciting reading about the complex ecosystem that is soil could be. After reading this book I really want to try some farming and spread conservation agriculture. It’s amazing how simple of a solution it would be to ecological, economic, and even cultural issues that we face in today’s world.
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This great book was recommended by a friend, so i listened each morning to this edition through Hoopla (our library service) while i walked and worked out at our local YMCA. There were several take away pieces of information which will help me ranch more effectively. Might listen again to make sure i didn't miss any small bits. Highly recommend. ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Clear-eyed discussion of the case for improving soil health. While I don't agree with all of the author's conclusions with respect to "acceptable" pesticide use, his writing is clear and well referenced. This is a very readable non-fiction book given to me by a community gardener/farmer, and I'm passing it on to an environmental economics student. Spread the word. ...more
Esther Marie
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Interesting topic. Good reporting. Great writing. This book is a must-read for those who are interested in agriculture, both large and small scale. Stay tuned for a longer review or check out what other's have already said to get a more detailed sense of of the content. ...more
Haley LeRand
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I said so many swear words when I turned onto the last page in the book and realized it was the end. I didn't want it to end. I can't believe how long I went without reading this brilliant work. I would recommend it to everyone, but especially if you are a farmer or have friends who are farmers. ...more
Who knew a book like this could get me so excited about soil?
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David R. Montgomery is a MacArthur Fellow and professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington. He is an internationally recognized geologist who studies landscape evolution and the effects of geological processes on ecological systems and human societies. An author of award-winning popular-science books, he has been featured in documentary films, network and cable news, and on a wide va ...more

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Believe it or not, we're halfway through 2021! As is our tradition, this is the time when the Goodreads editorial team burrows into our data to...
11 likes · 5 comments
“People tend to assume that organic farming and sustainability go hand in hand. But that's not necessarily the case - and it hasn't been for most of history. While going organic has some big advantages, even today most organic farmers still rely on the plow - the chief culprit in the this story. Why? Because it provides cheap, reliable weed suppression." David Montgomery - Growing a Revolution” 2 likes
“In many ways, soil degradation set the long-wavelenght pattern of history, as wars, natural disasters, and climate shifts pulled the trigger on environmental guns loaded by soil loss and degradation.” 0 likes
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