Agri-cultured: Farming Titles

1. Livestock: food, fiber, and friends
McKenna, Erin. Georgia, 2018

In this book, McKenna (philosophy, Univ. of Oregon) examines multiple facets of the ethics of livestock husbandry using primarily pragmatist and ecofeminist lenses. In addition to literary analyses of the portrayals of animals who are raised for food, McKenna also relies on interviews and ethnographic observation of farms that span the spectrum from industrial to free range to organic, incorporating words from farmers as well as imagery to support and provoke the philosophical analysis she conducted. Each chapter presents several core ethical questions, with philosophical grounding, that focus the reader on one particular type of livestock, such as cows, pigs, or chickens. The result is a rigorous and cross-disciplinary work that is accessible and highly effective at sparking discussion and reflection about the animals that are called “livestock.” This text would shine as a core reading for a course about animal ethics or food ethics that incorporates philosophy and/or case studies.
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2. Quick cattle and dying wishes: people and their animals in early modern England
Fudge, Erica. Cornell, 2018

As Fudge (English studies, Univ. of Strathclyde, UK) outlines in the preface, this book deals with the “actual face-to-face encounters between individual humans and animals that made up so constant a part of early modern life for so many” and relies upon wills, literary sources, and manuals for evidence. By applying the methods and perspectives of animal studies, she hopes to explore the social and emotional worlds that animals and humans shared. The latter perspective includes qualitative behavioral assessment, which rejects the mechanistic approach dominant since Descartes and maintains that “animals drive their own activities” and experience them in ways similar to humans. Thus animals live in “sequential time” and are able to “remember, respond and affect changes that reflect their own desires.”
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3. Pigs, pork, and heartland hogs: from wild boar to baconfest
Clampitt, Cynthia. Rowman & Littlefield, 2018

Clampitt, an independent scholar, presents a multidisciplinary homage to the pig, the first animal to be domesticated as a source of food and the most commonly eaten meat across the globe. The text first explores the global history of the pig, from its early domestication to its prominence in the American Midwest. Following this is a detailed overview (including recipes) of pork in cuisine. The final chapters assess the current status of the pig, drawing on interviews with pork industry leaders, chefs, and advocates, a consideration of popular culture, and a nod to food system problems related to pork production. Clampitt combines a review of secondary sources, archival research, field visits, and interviews to produce a highly readable, engaging consideration of the history and culture of pork. Extensive endnotes, a bibliography, and source list will satisfy the scholar, while the journalistic methods, photos, and engaging storytelling will appeal to the general reader.
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4. The worm farmer’s handbook: mid- to large-scale vermicomposting for farms, businesses, municipalities, schools, and institutions
Sherman, Rhonda L. Chelsea Green, 2018

Writing for medium- to large-scale commercial worm growers of all types, Sherman (North Carolina State Univ.) presents information on the techniques and systems needed to successfully run a vermicomposting operation. Vermicomposting includes using earthworms and microorganisms to breakdown organic wastes, which creates a product that combines worm castings and decomposed organic matter. This material is called vermicast, and is similar to compost but is a much richer soil amendment that improves soil fertility, structure, and drainage. Sherman identifies how vermicast benefits soils and plants, then follows with detailed information on earthworm physiology, feeding requirements, disease and pest control, vermicomposting system setup and design, worm bed monitoring, vermicast harvesting practices, local and state regulations, and how to prepare business, marketing, and education plans.
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5. Farming while black: Soul Fire Farm’s practical guide to liberation on the land
Penniman, Leah. Chelsea Green, 2018

This text, written by an activist and farmer, is a tour de force commentary on black liberation and farming. The 16 chapters and introduction run readers through an array of historical and sociological background and practical guidance. Penniman begins with advice for those interested in becoming growers: acquiring resources and business planning, seed keeping, and urban farming. She extends further guidance to those concerned with social justice: healing, movement building, and uprooting racism. Along the way, Penniman holds nothing back, offering no apologies for reintroducing what is often left out of other scholarly books on farming: homage to our ancestors, correcting falsehoods about farming, and confronting colonial US history and current racism head on.
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