Author Archives: Kirsten Ferguson

Suggested Summer Reading for Friends of Farms and Food

As the dog days of summer kick in, one of our favorite pastimes is catching up on reading about farm and food issues—ideally alongside a pool, beach or lake. Even if there is no water-based vacation in your future, we hope you get a chance to lounge in a yard or park—or even next to a fan somewhere indoors—while perusing one of the many latest books about farms, conservation and local food. Here we offer five reading suggestions from staff at American Farmland Trust.

DirtDirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, William Bryant Logan

In this collection of essays, arborist and gardening writer William Bryant Logan explains why the Earth’s soil is so special—and why it’s essential to life as we know it. In elegant prose, Logan describes how our planet’s dirt—a resource we lose when farmland is developed or farmed without the necessary conservation practices—is fragile, but must be protected because we owe our very lives to it.

TENDER:farmers,cooks,eaters: Simple Ways to Enjoy Eating, Cooking and Choosing Our Food, Tamara Murphy

This coffee-table-book-sized collection of recipes and meditations on cooking by Northwest chef Tamara Murphy is the perfect resource for anyone who likes to shop at farmers markets. Murphy, a James Beard Award winner, reminds us that simple is often best when we cook with real food grown by local farms, and her recipes—many containing only a few ingredients—celebrate healthy, whole, seasonal farm-fresh goods.

Fair FoodFair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All, Oran Hesterman

The food system is broken, argues Dr. Oran Hesterman, who runs the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based nonprofit Fair Food Network. Agricultural runoff into waterways, soaring rates of obesity and diet-related illnesses, and chronic loss of farmland to urban and suburban sprawl are all symptoms. In this book, Hesterman offers a vision for fixing the problems by changing not just what we eat but how our food is grown and sold—and by shifting the public policy that shapes much of our current farm and food system.

In the Small KitchenIn the Small Kitchen: 100 Recipes from Our Year of Cooking in the Real World, Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine

A recent article tagged the current generation the “gourmet generation,” as young people increasingly are being more food-aware and interested in the issues surrounding local farms and food. This cookbook by two young authors is a good place to start for budding young food enthusiasts, especially for those who live in cramped dorm rooms or urban apartments with little access to expensive cooking gear.

American Farmland MagazineAmerican Farmland magazine

What would a summer reading list be if we didn’t plug ourselves? Stay on top of the latest issues in farm and food policy—and receive more in depth information about what American Farmland Trust is up to as we fight to save the land that sustains us, by subscribing to our thrice-a-year full color magazine.

P.S. You can never read too many great books. If we missed your favorite summer farm and food read, leave us a comment on our summer book list post!


Kirsten Ferguson
About the Author: Kirsten Ferguson is Editor/Writer for American Farmland Trust. She works in the Saratoga, NY office and can be reached at kferguson@farmland.org

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Which Way the Wind Blows: AgWeatherNet Gives Washington Farmers the Data They Need to Grow Greener

Alien-looking contraptions with metal arms protrude out of farm fields throughout the state of Washington. Look closer and you’ll see gauges on the arms measuring all kinds of weather data, from temperature and precipitation to wind, dew point, solar radiation and humidity. The stations—part of Washington’s AgWeatherNet—relay data to a website (weather.wsu.edu) that farmers and the public can check for free information on current weather and agricultural conditions.

“I don’t know a farmer or field consultant who doesn’t use it,” says Washington State University (WSU) plant pathologist and AgWeatherNet director Gary Grove. “Over an eight year period, we went from a few people using it to everyone.” The network—launched in part by a grant from the EPA and American Farmland Trust—is one of the most advanced of its kind in the country. Farmers use it to make decisions about everything from irrigation and pruning to fertilizer and pesticide use. (And can sign up for text messages alerting them to adverse weather conditions).

Grove and other WSU researchers are using the weather data—along with disease and insect models—to help growers predict potential insect and disease outbreaks. By better assessing the risk from such threats, the network is helping farmers reduce their chemical use. Grape growers, for instance, have been able to use the data to better time their efforts to combat powdery mildew that infects grapevines. “We’ve reduced fungicide use over 27 percent with wine grapes,” Grove says.

This profile, along with many others can be found in the Integrated Pest Management cover story of our 2010 summer issue of American Farmland magazine. You can get your yearlong subscription by becoming a member of American Farmland Trust today.

Kirsten Ferguson
About the Author: Kirsten Ferguson is Editor/Writer for American Farmland Trust. She works in the Saratoga, NY office and can be reached at kferguson [at] farmland.org

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