Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

"So much depends / on a red wheelbarrow" says William Carlos Williams in a famous poem. In telling these farm stories, practically everything has depended on folks other than me. Special thanks to the board of directors of the Experiment in Rural Cooperation, who approached me about writing this book and made it happen. Their...

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Introduction

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pp. xv-xix

For the past three years, I have been talking with, and learning from, folks who understand, as best any of us can, how agriculture works. In the process, I've visited with almost forty farm families in southeast Minnesota, northern Iowa, and western Wisconsin. Some of those visits lasted half a day or more and included a firsthand look at the farm. In some cases I've been back several times. Tve also spoken with university faculty in our land-grant institutions...

PART I. IN THE BEGINNING

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Chapter 1. Fundamentals

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pp. 3-9

It seems right to begin with the oldest elements. From the beginning, the Sumerians were right, the ancient Greeks were right, the American Indians were right, the Chinese were right: in the beginning, there were earth, air, fire, and water. We may all know these, but some in our cities and urban bureaucracies—and even some farmers—may have forgotten them. It is no disservice to either language or thought to speak of soil as earth, and light as...

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Chapter 2. Histories

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pp. 10-26

Immigrants in 1846 followed wagon ruts all the way from Chicago to Red Wing, Minnesota. The army had worn the ruts into the rolling hills and prairie during the Black Hawk War. At Grand Detour, a common stop along the way, the Anderson family halted for a rest. They saw a plow leaning against the blacksmith shop, gleaming silver in the sun. They were struck by it and inquired after it. Their respondent gestured toward the...

PART II. FARMERS TALKING ABOUT FARMING

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Chapter 3. Two Views, One Farm: Vance and Bonnie Haugen

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pp. 29-59

Driving from Red Wing, Minnesota, down to Mabel, Minnesota, I take an inland route, a big semicircle cutting southwest across the bluff country along the Mississippi, heading up into the borderland between those steep, tree-covered hillsides and the beginning of the rolling prairie that will soon taper into the Great Plains. In the hills leading away from the bluff lands along the river, the soil lies lightly on the ridges, a porous sandy silt called...

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Chapter 4. Farming Is a Spiritual Responsibility: Mike Rupprecht

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pp. 60-63

It's April, but you couldn't tell that from the weather. This year, it is still winter. I drive through the milky translucence of a winter day with snow falling onto the snow on the roofs of barns, falling onto the snow on the trees and on the ground, turning the whole landscape into a pale, mostly white, minimalist painting. Maybe the artist today wanted to paint light but didn't want to overdo it, or perhaps just ran out of color. I am headed...

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Chapter 5. Timelines: Ron Scherbring

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pp. 64-75

The blufflands just north and west of Winona, Minnesota, rise above the Mississippi in steep hills. A few miles inland, the country is barely beginning to ease up a bit, has not yet relaxed into the rolling hills that appear just a few miles farther west. Rollingstone is nestled in these steep, July-green hills so typical of karst topography. This town of about seven hundred has an impressive museum, a handsome high-spired church with carefully trimmed lawns, and a very...

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Chapter 6. The Absolute Last Thing I Ever Dreamed I'd Be Doing: Lonny and Sandy Dietz

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pp. 76-80

Most of our city planners and many agriculture scientists would declare that the highland ridges above the Whitewater River in southeast Minnesota are "marginal lands." They're not suited for townhouse development or for growing commodity crops like corn and beans. But that's one reason Lonny and Sandy Dietz found them attractive. They had something else in mind, and they didn't want to be dependent, beholden to the federal...

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Chapter 7. I Felt It Was Just the Right Thing to Do: Dennis Rabe

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pp. 81-106

It seems as though Dennis and Sue Rabe (pronounced "Ray-bee") have tried it all—conventional farming, high-production farming, valueadded products, and direct marketing to individuals and to farmers' markets—and now are focused on pigs and beef cattle. They follow a rotational grazing pattern for the cattle and a Swedish deep-straw system for the hogs. Behind those changes and the evolution of their current methods lies a continuing...

PART III. FARMING IN AMERICA: WHO CARES?

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Chapter 8. They Say Eating Is a Moral Issue: Bill McMillin

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pp. 109-117

When I drive in, Bill McMillin asks if I wanted to take the Mule for a quick tour. I say sure, so we start out on the four-wheeler down his lane, with mowed grass lawn to left and right, cross the highway that divides his property, then bump along his neat contour strip. From where we stop, we can see his contour strips and two other farms. It isn't his strips he wants to show me. He points across the big coulee to a field of corn, not his, with rows...

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Chapter 9. Farming Connects Us All

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pp. 118-170

Every story has a context, akin to an ecosystem. That ecosystem includes its history, its environment, and its cultural and social context. This chapter, along with the chapters in part 4, provides our farm stories with their context in the state, the Midwest, America, and, in a small way, the rest of the agricultural world. Everything discussed, no matter how far it may seem from...

PART IV. IT ALL WORKS TOGETHER, OR IT DOESN'T WORK AT ALL

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Chapter 10. Agriculture and Community Culture

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pp. 173-200

What are the ties between agriculture and community culture? What is the relationship between small farms and small towns? Phil Abrahamson's family has been farming the highlands above the Root River for generations. He told me about his purebred Angus herd and about his great-grandfather, his grandfather, and his father, the last two of them Angus men...

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Chapter 11. Farming in Developing Countries

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pp. 201-204

One striking feature of comments from participants in an eighty-nation agriculture "e-conference" in 1999 was the broad agreement in many nations about what is happening to small farming, the environment, farmers' access to markets, and the circumstances of farmworkers and food processors. The issues are similar around the globe. The economic, social, and psychological symptoms of...

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Chapter 12. The WTO, NAFTA, CAFTA, and the FTAA

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pp. 205-244

Thanks to the publicity surrounding the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle and subsequent meetings, most U.S. citizens know about the WTO. Because so much of the news focused on isolated incidents of property damage, there is considerable wonder among our own farmers and other citizens at the opposition, hostility, and outright anger expressed toward the WTO. In spite of the media reports, however, the real threats posed...

PART V. ALTERNATIVE VISIONS, HOPEFUL FUTURES

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Chapter 13. Healthy Food, Healthy Economics

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pp. 247-261

As nutritionists have expanded our knowledge about the importance of diet to health and longevity, consumers' awareness of what they eat has grown as well. There has been a shift in interest from fatty foods to leaner meats, and to vegetables no one used to like, such as broccoli, because they are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. The shift among consumers has increased as they have become more aware of small producers'...

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Chapter 14. Alternatives for Agriculture and the Whole Culture

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pp. 262-274

The trade agreements of the WTO, NAFTA, CAFTA, and the FTAA, with their narrow vision and dismal results, are not the only way to think about trade and the future. Some alternative visions come from new and (on the surface at least) unlikely amalgamations of nongovernmental organizations that are willing to take thoughtful stands for what they believe. That is one...

PART VI. AN ECOLOGY OF HOPE

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Chapter 15. Ours for a Short Time: Peggy Thomas

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pp. 277-280

Driving along the shore of the Mississippi this morning, I move in and out of mist rising, a red-orange sunrise suffusing the sky wherever the drifting curtains of mist thin, part, and open to color. I am headed to see Peggy Thomas, who farms with Larry Gates just a mile and a half west of the great river below Kellogg, Minnesota. We begin where most farm and ranch visits...

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Chapter 16. An Ecology of Hope

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pp. 281-308

Where lies hope? The phrase "ecology of hope " which serves as the title of the final part of this book, comes from a fine book of that name by Ted Bernard and Jora Young. I think there is an ecology of hope just as there is an ecosystem for marmots, mussels, or mallards. That ecology is formed from the constituent parts of a sustainable culture, rather than a sustainable agriculture or sustainable communities. The list of dangers that threaten a...

Notes

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pp. 309-325

Sources and Resources

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pp. 326-350

Index

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pp. 351-363

Photos [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 364-371