Archives For Agriculture


Today [ August 5th] is Wendell Berry’s 77th birthday!!!

Wendell Berry

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.



Most of our readers know that his work is pretty important to the way we at the ERB think about both church and culture.

So, to celebrate his birthday, we’ve pulled together a bunch of reviews and other materials that we’ve run in the ERB over the last few years…



***First of all, you will want to
Download these Mp3’s of Wendell reading his poetry


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Two great videos of Wendell Berry that I discovered recently:

Reading poems from Leavings
(One of our best books of 2009… Read our review.)

Talking about the basics of his economics.
(Read our review of What Matters? One of our best books of 2010).

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“How Now Shall We Eat?

A review of

The Town that Food Saved:
How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food
By Ben Hewitt.

Review by Dave Swanson.

The town that Food Saved - Ben HewittThe Town that Food Saved:
How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food
Ben Hewitt.
New Paperback Edition:
Rodale Books, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon – Paperback ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

The problem with reading books about sustainability, ecology, and responsible agriculture, is that the authors seem irresistibly drawn to recitation of “the litany”: that long, horrible, tragic list of ways that we humans are destroying things on our world. It’s as if reading this litany one more time will push readers over the edge to finally admit that, “Yes, western industry and the lifestyles that make it necessary are doing so much harm in the world that I am NOW determined to make a change (trumpets please)! I fear the litany has become a dirge, inspiring nobody.

Thankfully, Ben Hewitt has resisted the list! In his book The Town that Food Saved about the burgeoning food economy in Hardwick, Vermont, Hewitt gives us a story both timely and laden with import for our food crisis. I say story because that is what it is. The book, instead of introducing readers to issues, introduces us to people. The cast of characters involved with the food economy in Hardwick and the narrative outlining the evolution of the dynamics between them captured my attention and created a human context in which Hewitt could explore the questions about the food economy. Of course, some of the statistics and issues frequently appearing in the litany do appear in his book but it is as a contextual aside to the primary task he pursues: Finding out if the changes in the food economy in Hardwick are as beneficial to that community as those driving the movement claim.

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“A Life Fully Lived”

A review of

A Time to Plant:
Life Lessons in Work, Prayer, and Dirt

By Kyle T. Kramer

Review by Ragan Sutterfield.

A TIME TO PLANT - Kyle KramerA Time to Plant: Life Lessons in Work, Prayer, and Dirt
By Kyle T. Kramer
Paperback: Sorin Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

I have long been haunted by the closing of Alisdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue:

What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us.  And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope.  This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time.  And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament.  We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—St. Benedict.

The passage speaks to the deep longing in our time for a community of sustainable virtue and values; a place where practices that ground us in what is truly valuable can thrive.

Often thinking of this passage from MacIntyre, I was struck years later when I read the introduction to farmer and writer Gene Logsdon’s book Living at Nature’s Pace.  The last sentence of the introduction of Logsdon’s book recalls with amazing parallel the last paragraph of After Virtue, as Logsdon writes, “Sustainable farms are to today’s headlong rush toward global destruction what monasteries were to the Dark Ages: places to preserve human skills and crafts until some semblance of common sense and common purpose returns to the public mind.”

Might MacIntyre’s new St. Benedict might be clad in overalls rather than a habit?

Kyle Kramer’s book, A Time to Plant: Life Lessons in Work, Prayer, and Dirt points in the direction of a “yes.”

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“Moving Beyond a Culture of Fear and Scarcity

A Review of

Year Of Plenty.
By Craig Good win.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

[ Read an Excerpt from this book… ]

[ A Study Guide is now available… ]

YEAR OF PLENTY - Craig GoodwinYear of Plenty: One Suburban Family, Four Rules
and 365 Days of Homegrown Adventure In Search of Christian Living
Craig Goodwin.
Paperback: Sparkhouse, 2011.
Buy now: []

There’s been no shortage of books and trends in the church’s nascent interest in food and environmental issues over the last year or so, with its own churchy language – “creation care,” “green ministries,” and “eco-palms” – just in time for the Palm Sunday service, of course. To some degree, many of these offer one consumer choice for another, albeit a fair trade or organic one, but never make it out of the model of consumption. Fortunately for this reader, Craig Goodwin’s Year of Plenty: One Suburban Family, Four Rules, and 365 Days of Homegrown Adventure in Pursuit of Christian Living starts with just such a turn away from the delights of consumerism and towards the Kingdom of God as it is embodied in the daily, local and communal. As Eugene Peterson makes clear in his foreword, “the embracing context for this story as it is told here is the Word that became flesh, moved into our neighborhood – think of it, our very backyards! – and revealed God to us.”

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“Wasting Away in the USA”

A Review of

American Wasteland
By Jonathan Bloom


A Documentary by Jeremy Seifert.

Reviewed by Chase Roden.

AMERICAN WASTELAND - Jonathan BloomAmerican Wasteland:
How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food
(and What We Can Do About It)
Jonathan Bloom.
Hardback: De Capo, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon – Hardback ] [ Amazon – Kindle ]

A Documentary by Jeifert Seifert.
Available through the website:

Jeremy Seifert wants you to eat trash. Jonathan Bloom just wants you to stop throwing food away.

In the wealthiest country in the world, while tens of millions of Americans don’t get enough to eat or know how they’re going to get their next meal, we throw away 11 million pounds of food an hour. While people suffer malnutrition or even starve, half of the food grown or purchased in America is thrown out, uneaten.

Seifert and Bloom independently take on food waste in two recent works, approaching the topic from surprisingly different perspectives. Where Jonathan Bloom’s book American Wasteland focuses on waste in the production, sale, and disposal of food, Jeremy Seifert’s documentary Dive starts with dumpster diving — the reclaiming of edible food from the trash cans of grocery stores — and moves to broader questions about American society. The problem as Seifert and Bloom both identify it is not simply one of hunger in a land of waste, but also of the massive environmental impact of food rotting in landfills.

Jonathan Bloom’s career as a freelance journalist shows in his far-ranging fieldwork and tendency to use examples of individuals and institutions to make his case against waste. Starting on a factory farm in Salinas, CA and going wherever the story takes him — school cafeterias, landfills, nursing homes, high-tech waste facilities in the UK — Bloom is dedicated to uncovering and understanding waste wherever it occurs. He even takes a job in the produce section of a Durham, NC grocery store for several months in order to witness the industry first-hand. The stories Bloom uncovers are treated fairly and with a positive outlook, with the stories of people working against wastefulness alongside accounts of profligacy.

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Year of Plenty - Craig GoodwinIn this online issue, we reviewed Craig Goodwin’s new memoir Year of Plenty; read our review

Craig has kindly arranged for us to give away three copies of the book!


To Enter to win a Free copy of this book
(It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!) :

NOTE: You may enter to win once per day as long as the contest is running…
(Additional entries only need to complete steps #2 and #3.)

1) Receive our free weekly online edition via email -or-
LIKE our Facebook page (LGT: More info…
Sorry, following us on Twitter does not count here… )

2) Post the following message on your blog, Facebook Page, or on Twitter:
I just entered to win @CraigGoodwin’s new book YEAR OF PLENTY from The Englewood Review ( @ERBks )! You can too:

3) Leave a comment below noting which option you chose
for #1 and a link to your post for #2 before 12AM on Frida y April 15, 2011.


We will draw the winners at random after the contest ends, and will notify them within a week.


Looking forward to reading this book!

Watch for our review in next week’s issue…

Year of Plenty: One Suburban Family, Four Rules
and 365 Days of Homegrown Adventure In Search of Christian Living
Craig Goodwin.
Paperback: Sparkhouse, 2011.
Buy now: []


“Toward the Life and Health
of All Creation”

A review of
Food Justice.
Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Food Justice.
Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi
Hardback: MIT Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

FOOD JUSTICE - Gottlieb and JoshiIn recent years, there has been growing popular interest in reflecting on where our food comes from, how it is produced and how it progresses from the farm to our kitchens.   Many writers have explored various facets of this system, but few have provided the broad sort of overview of food-related issues that we find in the new book Food Justice by Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi.  Near the beginning of the book, the authors provide the following definition of food justice:

Food justice, like environmental justice, is a powerful idea.  It resonates with many groups and can be invoked to expand the support base for bringing about community change and a different kind of food system.  It has the potential to link different kinds of advocates, including those concerned with health, the environment, food quality, globalization, workers’ rights and working conditions, access to fresh and affordable food, and more sustainable land use (5).

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A Review of

Honeybee Democracy.
Thomas Seeley.
Hardback: Princeton UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon

Reviewed by Mary Bowling.

There’s something about honeybees that captures – and holds onto – the interest of people who come into contact with them.  It’s the same for almost all beekeepers, and it has been for ages.  People who work with bees love them, are intrigued, captivated, and mesmerized by them, Thomas D. Seeley – the author of this book – notwithstanding.  So what is that something that causes people to fall for them and not just for their honey?  They are a superorganism, a collection of thousands of tiny, cold-blooded insects that together function something akin to a warm-blooded animal.  Bees don’t maintain their own body temperature, but a hive does. Bees don’t live more than a season, but a hive does.  Most bees don’t reproduce, but a hive does.  Bees don’t analyze information and make decisions based on that information, but a hive does.

Honeybee Democracy represents years of research on the part of Seeley and collaborators into the habits of a swarm of bees as it chooses a new home.  The book details various experiments performed by Seeley in order to test his and some of his predecessors’ hypotheses about several aspects of the behavior of a swarm as it looks for a suitable place to live.  Each chapter contains charts, graphs and diagrams representing data collected during his many experiments with the swarms.  The experiments, when taken in total, provide evidence that a swarm functions in much the same way as a primate brain; gathering information from an array of sources, deciding which option is the best, and acting upon that decision as a unit.

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