NEW DEMANDS from a dynamic global economy, continued decline in the quality and availability of natural resources, and the unprecedented challenges of climate change are just beginning to take their toll on the U.S. food system. That’s the starting point of Laura Lengnick’s book Resilient Agriculture, Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate (New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada, 2015), which she researched and wrote in what seem now like the halcyon days of 2013-14, when the Obama administration’s responses to the challenges of climate change had begun to build some momentum, however slow. Now, with the U.S. government taken over by the corporate interests who profit from All Things Unsustainable – to the point of completely denying the irrefutable man-made contributions to global warming – her book takes on more urgency than ever.
Lengnick visited 25 farmers across the United States, choosing those who had been in that business for at least twenty years, noting that many of them were fourth- or fifth-generation families working the soil.
The Great Plains, for example, is a major source of feed grains and cattle, but higher temperatures and greater rainfall has challenged third-generation Kansas farmer Gail Fuller to move to a no-till approach in order to reduce erosion (and save on fuel costs). He also stopped raising livestock – it was thought that cows “were too destructive to soils and the damage they caused by trampling farm ground couldn’t be fixed without tillage,” as he explained. But his erosion continued. He blamed that on his focus on corn and soybean production, so he added cover crops, increased crop rotation, and brought back the cattle, with the goal, as Lengnick explains, of “keeping a living root in the ground at all times.”