If you are still looking for the perfect Christmas gift, here are some last-minute ideas that may help you with your search. In the spirit of the upcoming holidays, we asked the Cool Farm Alliance Executive Team for book recommendations. We’ve put together a list of their favourite recent food, agriculture and climate books from which we hope you can find some inspiration. Take some time for yourself or perhaps gift one to your loved ones. Happy reading, happy gifting and happy holidays!
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1. The Art of the Commonplace
by Wendell Berry
The Art of the Commonplace gathers twenty essays by Wendell Berry that offer an agrarian alternative to our dominant urban culture. Grouped around five themes — an agrarian critique of culture, agrarian fundamentals, agrarian economics, agrarian religion, and geo-biography — these essays promote a clearly defined and compelling vision important to all people dissatisfied with the stress, anxiety, disease, and destructiveness of contemporary American culture.
Why is agriculture becoming culturally irrelevant, and at what cost? What are the forces of social disintegration and how might they be reversed? How might men and women live together in ways that benefit both? And, how does the corporate takeover of social institutions and economic practices contribute to the destruction of human and natural environments? Through his staunch support of local economies, his defense of farming communities, and his call for family integrity, Berry emerges as the champion of responsibilities and priorities that serve the health, vitality and happiness of the whole community of creation.
Giulia Stellari, Chair of the Cool Farm Alliance Executive Committee says:
“It is a critique of modern culture as seen from the rural and agrarian lens. A classic.”
2. Speculative Harvests
by Jennifer Clapp & S. Ryan Isakson
In Speculative Harvests, Clapp and Isakson investigate the evolving relationship between the agri-food and financial sectors, paying particular attention to how the contemporary process of financialisation is reshaping agrarian development and food systems. Understood as the growing prevalence of financial actors, markets, motives and profits in an economy, financialisation is a defining feature of modern-day capitalism that is reconfiguring the distribution of wealth and economic power in a variety of contexts across the globe.
In a clear and accessible manner, Clapp and Isakson explain the character and ramifications of these changes for the world food economy and systematically detail how different elements of agri-food provisioning — including commodity trading, farmland tenure, the management of agricultural risk, and food trading, processing, and retailing — have been reconfigured for financial purposes. Speculative Harvests is essential reading for food scholars and activists who not only seek a better understanding of the problems inherent to the contemporary food system, but are also in search of effective interventions towards its positive transformation.
Giulia Stellari likes the book because
“It looks at the interplay between the financial sector, agriculture, commodity trade, land values and explores the implications for farmers and food systems.”
3. River Cottage Much More Veg: 175 vegan recipes for simple, fresh and flavourful meals
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Want to cook more veg for your family, but have no idea where to start? River Cottage Much More Veg! makes it clear that unadulterated ingredients are the very best building blocks for delicious and healthy meals. In typical Hugh style, the recipes are easy, utterly foolproof and delicious. All but a handful are gluten-free, and at least half the dishes require 20 minutes (or less) hands-on work time. You will find recipes such as Roast squash and chickpeas with spicy apricot sauce, Blackened cauliflower with pecans and tahini, Spiced beetroot, radicchio and orange traybake, Celeriac and seaweed miso broth, Seared summer cabbage with rosemary, chilli and capers, and Baked celery agrodolce. Let’s ‘Eat Them To Defeat Them’.
Christof Walter, Consultancy Director, Agramondis, and Communications Support to the Cool Farm Alliance, suggests this book:
“If ever proof was needed that plant-based food was diverse, inspiring, colourful and delicious, here it is.”
4. Rebugging The Planet
by Vicki Hird
Rebugging the Planet explains how we are headed toward “insectageddon” with a rate of insect extinction eight times faster than that of mammals or birds, and gives us crucial information to help all those essential creepy-crawlies flourish once more. Author Vicki Hird passionately demonstrates how insects and invertebrates are the cornerstone of our global ecosystem. They pollinate plants, feed birds, support and defend our food crops, and clean our water systems. They are also beautiful, inventive, and economically invaluable―bees, for example, contribute an estimated $235 to $577 billion to the US economy annually, according to Forbes.
Here is why Michaela Aschbacher, Membership and Communications Manager, of the Cool Farm Alliance likes this book:
“Vicki invites us to change our view of small insects from scepticism and fear to fascination and appreciation. As she puts it, ‘this book aims to gladden hearts with great tales and learnings of the invertebrate world, bring awareness of their demise, and give readers the tools to act.’ Rebugging the Planet shows that moths and spiders can be beautiful and tells us how to positively impact biodiversity, insect life, and our planet through small actions, starting now.”
5. Regenerative Leadership – The DNA of life-affirming 21st-century organisations
by Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm
This book by leadership and sustainability experts provides an exciting and comprehensive framework for building regenerative life-affirming businesses. Regenerative Leadership draws inspiration from pioneering thinking within biomimicry, circular economy, adult developmental psychology, anthropology, biophilia, sociology, complexity theory and next-stage leadership development. It connects the dots between these fields through a powerful framework that enables leadership to become regenerative: in harmony with life, building thriving, prosperous organisations amid transformational times. The book is a combination of theoretical frameworks, a multitude of business cases and case studies, fascinating examples from nature’s living systems, insights from the front-line pioneers and tools and techniques for leaders to succeed and thrive in the 21st century.
Christof Walter likes this book because
“[It] takes the concept of ‘regenerative’ to organisations and the way we lead them. Sounds contrived at first but turns out to be a comprehensive blueprint for building truly sustainable businesses, organisations and societies.
6. All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis
by Ayana Johnson and Katharine Wilkinson
There is a renaissance blooming in the climate movement: leadership that is more characteristically feminine and more faithfully feminist, rooted in compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration. While it’s clear that women and girls are vital voices and agents of change for this planet, they are too often missing from the proverbial table. More than a problem of bias, it’s a dynamic that sets us up for failure. To change everything, we need everyone.
All We Can Save illuminates the expertise and insights of dozens of diverse women leading on climate in the United States—scientists, journalists, farmers, lawyers, teachers, activists, innovators, wonks, and designers, across generations, geographies, and race—and aims to advance a more representative, nuanced, and solution-oriented public conversation on the climate crisis. These women offer a spectrum of ideas and insights for how we can rapidly, radically reshape society.
Daniella Malin, Deputy General Manager of the Cool Farm Alliance, is curious about this book that is both a balm and a guide for knowing and holding what has been done to the world, while bolstering our resolve never to give up on one another or our collective future.
7. Feeding Britain
by Tim Lang
British food has changed remarkably in the last half century. As we have become wealthier and more discerning, our food has Europeanised (pizza is children’s favourite food) and internationalised (we eat the world’s cuisines), yet our food culture remains fragmented, a mix of mass ‘ultra-processed’ substances alongside food as varied and good as anywhere else on the planet.
This book takes stock of the UK food system: where it comes from, what we eat, its impact, fragilities and strengths. It is a book on the politics of food. It argues that the Brexit vote will force us to review our food system. Such an opportunity is sorely needed. After a brief frenzy of concern following the financial shock of 2008, the UK government has slumped once more into a vague hope that the food system will keep going on as before. Food, they said, just required a burst of agri-technology and more exports to pay for our massive imports.
Feeding Britain argues that this and other approaches are short-sighted, against the public interest, and possibly even strategic folly. Setting a new course for UK food is no easy task but it is a process, this book urges, that needs to begin now.
Graham Mullier, Chair of the Cool Farm Alliance Development Operations Committee, has this book on his holiday reading list – and you might too.
8. English Pastoral – An Inheritance
by James Rebanks
As a boy, James Rebanks’s grandfather taught him to work the land the old way. Their family farm in the Lake District hills was part of an ancient agricultural landscape: a patchwork of crops and meadows, of pastures grazed with livestock, and hedgerows teeming with wildlife. And yet, by the time James inherited the farm, it was barely recognisable. The men and women had vanished from the fields; the old stone barns had crumbled; the skies had emptied of birds and their wind-blown song.
English Pastoral is the story of an inheritance: one that affects us all. It tells of how rural landscapes around the world were brought close to collapse, and the age-old rhythms of work, weather, community and wild things were lost. And yet this elegy from the northern fells is also a song of hope: of how, guided by the past, one farmer began to salvage a tiny corner of England that was now his, doing his best to restore the life that had vanished and to leave a legacy for the future. This is a book about what it means to have love and pride in a place, and how, against all the odds, it may still be possible to build a new pastoral: not a utopia, but somewhere decent for us all.
“A story of land inheritance and restoration”, recommended by Richard Profit, General Manager of the Cool Farm Alliance.
9. The Lorax
by Dr. Seuss
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees”. Long before saving the earth became a global concern, Dr. Seuss, speaking through his character the Lorax, warned against mindless progress and the danger it posed to the earth’s natural beauty.
Dr. Seuss’s beloved story teaches kids to treat the planet with kindness and stand up and speak up for others. Experience the beauty of the Truffula Trees and the danger of taking our earth for granted in a story that is timely, playful, and hopeful.
On its final pages, the book teaches us that just one small seed, or one small child, can make a difference. “UNLESS someone like you…cares a whole awful lot…nothing is going to get better…It’s not.”
Daniella Malin recommends this book that is
“a fascinating and inspiring story for the youngest amongst us (and grown-ups too). A a story that is more relevant than ever.”
10. Braiding Sweetgrass – Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants
by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings―asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass―offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world.
For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.
Both Richard Profit and Daniella Malin recommend this book for our reading list.