Lentil Underground

Lentil Underground

Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America

Book - 2015
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A protégé of Michael Pollan tells the remarkable story of an unheralded group of Montana farmers who have defied corporate agribusiness by launching a unique sustainable food movement. Forty years ago, corporate agribusiness launched a campaign to push small grain farmers to modernize or perish, or as the Nixon administration''s secretary of agriculture, Earl Butz, put it- ''Get big or get out.'' But twenty-seven-year-old David Oien decided to take a stand. When he dropped out of grad school to return to his family''s 280-acre farm, Oien became the first in his conservative Montana country to seed his fields with a radically different crop- organic lentils. A cheap, healthy source of protein, rich in fiber, folate, vitamin B1, and amino acids, lentils are drought-tolerant and don''t require irrigation. And unlike the chemically dependent grains American farmers had been told to grow, lentils make their own fertilizer and withstand variable climate conditions, so their farmers aren''t beholden to industrial methods. Today, David Oien leads a thriving movement of organic farmers who work with heirloom seeds and biologically diverse farm systems. Under the brand name Timeless Natural Food, this ''lentil underground'' has grown into a million-dollar enterprise that sells to hundreds of independent natural food stores and a host of renowned restaurants. Set in the farm belt of red-state America, far from the farmers'' markets and haute cuisine of coastal cities, Lentil Underground confronts the global food system in one of the little-known rural communities that will determine its fate. From the heart of Big Sky Country comes this inspiring story of a handful of colourful pioneers who have successfully bucked the chemically based food chain and the entrenched power of agribusiness''s 1 percent by stubbornly banding together. Unearthing the deep roots of this movement, Lentil Underground introduces readers to a memorable cast of characters from gun-toting libertarians and Christian homesteaders to peace-sign-waving environmental activists. Journalist and native Montanan Liz Carlisle weaves an eye-opening and richly reported narrative that will be welcomed by readers of food and farm memoirs, as well as everyone concerned with the future of American agriculture and natural food in an increasingly uncertain world. Advance Praise for Lentil Underground ''What does it take to farm sustainably - and make a living? Liz Carlisle tells the engrossing story of the ''audacity rich, but capital poor'' Montana farmers who thought lentils were the answer and stuck with them until proved right. Anyone who dreams of starting a farm or wants to know how organic farmers can overcome the obstacles they face will be inspired by this book.'' Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University and author of Food Politics ''These farmers demonstrate how to build democracy and build soils at the same time. What a deal!'' Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet and EcoMind ''Liz Carlisle''s new book is an absolute treasure - actual stories of real farmers in a part of Montana, some of whom found that their industrial farming practices were a ''losing game'' and some who discovered that locally adapted organic farming could be resilient and economically successful. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the future of food in America.'' Frederick Kirschenmann, author of Cultivating an Ecological Conscience ''Who knew? This book tells the fascinating story from one corner of the ongoing rural renaissance - it will resonate and fascinate, and it will leave you looking for ways to get involved yourself.'' Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy ''All of civilization rests on agriculture, and so it follows that real revolutions begin in the soil, which is why the stories of real revolutions must be reported from the ground up, as Liz Carlisle has done so competently in Lentil Underground . Read it, engage the real revolutionaries, and begin the understand why their work is so vital to all of us.'' Richard Manning, author of Against the Grain ''Who''d have thought that a book about lentil farming could be a page-turner? With a voice as clear and powerful on the page as it is onstage, Liz Carlisle writes the struggles of Montana''s farmers as an epic. Their battles with food, finance, health care and modern capitalism are both inspiring, and a timely reminder that populism needn''t be a dirty word.'' Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved , research professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin
Published: New York, New York :, Gotham Books,, [2015]
ISBN: 9781592409204
Branch Call Number: 631.5709 CAR
Characteristics: xix, 298 pages :,map ;,22 cm


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Jul 28, 2017

A very engaging story about a real farming community in Montana. The title “lentil underground” has a dual meaning. It refers to both the type of crop that a small group of “renegade farmers” are growing organically, contrary to area conventions (grain grown industrially), and the benefits that are occurring ecologically, starting below ground, in the soil. It began with a single farmer forty years ago. What I appreciated most about the story are the interconnections that make for a community and ecosystem, both above and below ground.

Apr 13, 2015

I can't recall WHY I placed this book on Hold but very happy I did! Luckily I began this book one Saturday morning because I could not stop reading.

So inspiring I ditched my garden plan and switching to community planting and changing my grocery buying habits. Most important I have an understanding of family farming in the USA no other book has been able to describe.

srmechs Apr 09, 2015

This is an exciting story even if it doesn't sound like one -- farmers in Montana who wanting to grow crops that would improve rather than degrade their land. Facing inertia and resistance but learning to work together they have experimented with different crops and methods. The result has been a growing business, improved land, good food and a growing influence.


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