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Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  237 ratings  ·  43 reviews
A century of industrialization has left our food system riddled with problems, yet for solutions we look to nutritionists and government agencies, scientists and chefs. Lisa M. Hamilton asks: Why not look to the people who grow our food?

Hamilton makes this vital inquiry through the stories of three unconventional farmers: an African-American dairyman in Texas who plays Dav
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Counterpoint (first published March 25th 2009)
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3.81  · 
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 ·  237 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Mar 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written. I think it's worth picking up for the craftsmanship alone. But it's also a fascinating, clear-eyed and yet emotional look at how farming has changed in the United States, and how some family farms are still trying to find a place within this new landscape.

Hamilton takes us to meet a dairy farmer who believes that letting his cows out to pasture is not just an environmental good, but a spiritual necessity. We meet a New Mexico rancher struggling to preserve his family tradit
Nov 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Three cheers for this superb book, which combines close-up portraiture with first-rate reportage. Presenting the nearly heroic--no, not nearly, just heroic--struggles of three small farmers (an African-American dairy farmer in Texas, a Hispanic cattle rancher in New Mexico, and two families preaching and living the organic life in North Dakota) to swim against the tide of big-farm agribusiness, the book manages to be both intimate in its descriptions and sweeping in its subject matter. I learned ...more
Oct 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of 3 different farmers. Each of them very different in their focus, methodology and region, but all of them with the same basic principles of loving the land and the food it produces.

If you enjoyed The Omnivore's Dilemma, this should go next on your to be read pile. Now that you know why you should support local farms that grow food sustainably, and now that you know why that food is better for you than a box of something off the grocery store shelf, this book can help you dig
Juliana Haught
May 20, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this book difficult to read at times, and found myself putting it dow for several days at a time. Overall, I think it was well-written, and it reveals to us facts that most of us have forgotten or perhaps never knew. Yet, I found it depressing. The book features three different farmers/ranchers, and gives excellent insight into how agribusiness came to be and why it persists. What I found hopeful in the book was how there are those out there working the land who have held onto (or redisc ...more
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written and well researched. This book tells the stories of three different farmers. Heartbreaking at times, the author does a great job illustrating the passion that each farmer feels for their work.
Jun 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have an unconventional taste in books, I can admit that. But I'm a gardener, and a farm is really just a big garden . . . right?
Apr 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
I enojyed this book and how 3 families are working to produce a product to fit their niche markets. However, I disagree that they are working outside the confines of traditional agriculture. I think this is the heart of traditional agriculture. These families are all producing a commodity consistent with what the believe is right based on their values and for a specific sector of the population who wants what they produce. Big or small agriculture is doing the same, trying to stay afloat as the ...more
Dec 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: gardening
I'm glad I stuck with this book because I loved the final section about a North Dakota organic farming family and their quest to survive as a small farm in the midst of big corn and wheat country. The family is involved in both farming and gardening, particularly the breeding and development of seeds. Hamilton does an excellent job summarizing the importance of preserving our oldest seed varies in order to maintain genetic qualities that can be selected in new plant breeding programs. Learning a ...more
Sep 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Maybe not as hard-hitting as "Omnivore's Dilemma," "Fast Food Nation," or "Eating Animals"; but, this was still an interesting read. I felt a little like some of the more artistic flourishes presented in some of the passages seemed a little out of place.

There are three stories in the book: those of a dairy farmer, a rancher, and a organic farmer. My aunt gave me this book because we share an interest in the importance of food and how it's grown and because the organic farmer lives in her small,
Feb 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: foodies, food movement
The book is basically a glimpse in the lives of three farmers trying to farm their land in ecologically supportive fashion.

The author writes very well, and I am particularly enjoying the artistic descriptions of place (east texas, new mexico, north dakota). I appreciate that the author didn't just run with three profiles of young, idealistic eco-farmers now getting much of the press. Instead we get Harry, an African-American dairyman, Virgil, a native New Mexican, and the Podolls, a "modern pion
Dec 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in ag issues
Recommended to Mary by: Orion magazine; and another I can't think of the name of, a fin
Shelves: ag-food
Three long profiles of three unconventional farmers. One in Texas, one in New Mexico, and a household in North Dakota. Very inspiring. It is hard to be a farmer in this day and age, and these farmers are bucking that system, which makes it even harder. If you have to choose which milk to buy, and you buy organic, choose Organic Valley because it's a coop.
Oh, and to borrow from another Goodreads reviewer: most dairy farming in the US takes place not on those picturesque, green-hilled pastures of
Well-researched, but also well-written. Hamilton spent a great deal of time with each family, understanding how the unconventional methods being used on a dairy farm, cattle ranch, and grain farm not only buck the current trends of agribusiness but also are actually conventional in approach. Hamilton clearly spent a great deal of time learning about the history of American agriculture, and its metamorphosis since the late 19th century. But she also found three very different families, and placed ...more
Jan 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Readable and interesting, but the purpose of the book was vague. It describes three farmers from three industries (dairy, beef, seeds) and how their lives and attitudes are different from most farmers in their industry. The weakest chapter was the one on beef, as what made the rancher distinctive was not his farming style, and also his life was closely tied to some slightly confusing history of Native American land rights. The book would've held together better and felt more purposeful if she'd ...more
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: botany
A quick read and overview of the state of agribusiness. I enjoyed the three different profiles of the small farmer revolutionaries and the communities they live made me gain a better understanding of just how different these unconventional approaches are. If you wanted to get more into the discussion of big agribusiness you may want another book but for a quick overview, this does the trick.
Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A unique look at REAL farmers in an age of agribusiness. I emphasize "real" because these are hippies with big gardens and they're not planting row after row of GMO corn. They're living on the land, realistic, productive, and hanging on by the skin of their teeth. It's folks like these that will be our hope when the oil we rely on for traditional ag is gone. For now, we at least deserve to hear their story and know how things should have been working all along.
Mellodi Parks
Nov 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book had really great stories about the past and how farming used to be versus what it is now. Lisa did such a great job at explaining everything she was going through while talking to all of these folks, you felt like you were there right along side her. If you ever want to explore the difference in how agriculture was back then versus now. This book is worth a read. You really get a sense of where you food comes from, that in itself is quite valuable to know. Give this book a read.
Dec 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: farming, food
Profiles of three farmers from across America who are trying to do things differently than their neighbors. I nearly returned the book to the library without finishing, finding that my interest petered out two thirds of the way through, but am happy that I persisted and finished the book; the final section, about the Podol family of North Dakota, was my favourite in the end. A good profile of men and women doing good work in the world.
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: environmental-bc
Inspirational, educational, a piece of art ....this was one of those books that you didn't want to end. I knew that there were wonderful, hard working folks out there that are trying to help save our food industry in their own quite way. Thank you Lisa. Hamilton for introducing them to us. Let's try to give them all the support we can .
Jul 24, 2012 rated it liked it
This was an interesting biography/travel type of book about farmers avoiding the agribusiness trend. It didn't provide as much analysis as I had expected, but that may have been for the best since there are plenty of books providing that kind of analysis without the in-depth examples.

This probably would be 3.5 stars if I had that option.
Mar 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Journalist Lisa Hamilton tells the story of three different farming families bucking "conventional" agribusiness farming trends: a dairy farmer in Texas, a cattle rancher in New Mexico, and a wheat-and-many-other-things farm in North Dakota. Each family's story is engaging and forms the central focus of the book. Enjoyable, well-written, and informative.
Meghan Poperowitz
Jan 04, 2010 rated it it was ok
I'm giving up on this. It's a nice tip of the hat to folks who are keeping rural farming traditions alive, but it is overall lacking in an opinion or climax. The book consist of three well written sections that are more suitable for the "local" section of the Sunday newspaper than a hardcover book.
Sep 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Well written portraits of three farmers interwoven with plenty of the author's background research. I liked that her subjects each come from a long line of farmers - it's interesting to see how they came to align themselves with such unconventional farming practices.
I can't honestly rate this book because I didn't read it. I kept trying to get into it, but it was clearly more about the politics of farming in the U.S. than about the nitty gritty hands on stuff I enjoy.
Oct 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Fans of Omnivore's Dilemma might enjoy the author's fairly in depth look at two ranchers and a farmer, each in different climates and situations, trying to do what's right-- restoring the land, working pesticide-free, renewing long-unused crops and more. I really, really liked this book.
Fascinated by this book and the family stories. Continued my learning about modern agriculture with its major terrors along with its "benefits". In hopes for more farmers like the ones in Deeply Rooted!
Rebecca Duncan
Jan 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
Beautifully descriptive, but that was pretty much it for me. I didn't get much of a takeaway from this one - I like my food lit to have a thesis or a recommendation or both. I don't feel like this offered either.
Jul 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I am in the middle of this incredible read. The author spends time with several "salt of the earth" farmers who share their heroic accounts of trying to maintain their integrity and the health of the land in the middle of the rise of Agribusiness.
Truly these are American Heroes.

Nov 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
not what i thought this would be, a back to the lander's book, but rather a spotlight on 3 families who never left, and how they are dealing with and what they think about the industrial ag of 21st century. very enlightening and hopeful for folks who are concerned about agriculture and food.
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I love reading stories about farmers.
Andrea Wright
Dec 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Great book even if you only read the first and last people's stories. The middle one was good but i just didn't relate to it as much.
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Introduction 1 13 Mar 25, 2009 10:22AM  

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For more than ten years, writer and photographer Lisa M. Hamilton has been telling stories of farmers in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Her work has been published in National Geographic Traveler, Harper's Magazine, The Nation, Orion, and Gastronomica. She lives in Northern California."
“They" are farmers and ranchers, though generally not those from the front row of the church, that select few who remain in conventional agriculture. These are the ones who were trimmed off long ago, or at least by the industry's prescription, should have been. As we sit and talk, the topics are sometimes technical, often political or economic, and always, ultimately, philosophical. And personal. If we start with a discussion of soil microbiology or a comparison of turkey breeds, inevitably we end up in family, history, ecology, faith, beauty, morality, and the fate of the world to come. For them, all those things are linked.
As they see it, agriculture is not an industry on the periphery of modern civilization. It is a fundamental act that determines whether we as a society will live or die. What binds these people is not a particular farming method, but rather the conviction that as humans, the contributions they make are essential. Conventional agriculture doesn't need people for much more than to run the machines and carry the debt, but these people refuse that lifeless role. To the work, they bring their intellects and their consciences, their histories and their concerns for the future. In quiet ways, in quiet places, they have set about correcting the damage that has come from believing agriculture could actually be reduced to numbers alone.”
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