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The problem of agriculture is as old as civilization. Throughout history, great societies that abused their land withered into poverty or disappeared entirely. Now we risk repeating this ancient story on a global scale due to ongoing soil degradation, a changing climate, and a rising population.
But there is reason for hope. David R. Montgomery introduces us to farmers around the world at the heart of a brewing soil health revolution that could bring humanity's ailing soil back to life remarkably fast. Growing a Revolution draws on visits to farms in the industrialized world and developing world to show that a new combination of farming practices can deliver innovative, cost-effective solutions to problems farmers face today.
Cutting through standard debates about conventional and organic farming, Montgomery explores why practices based on the principles of conservation agriculture help restore soil health and fertility. Farmers he visited found it both possible and profitable to stop plowing up the soil and blanketing fields with chemicals. Montgomery finds that the combination of no-till planting, cover crops, and diverse crop rotations provides the essential recipe to rebuild soil organic matter. Farmers using these unconventional practices cultivate beneficial soil life, smother weeds, and suppress pests while relying on far less, if any, fertilizer and pesticides.
These practices are good for farmers and the environment. Using less fossil fuel and agrochemicals while maintaining crop yields helps farmers with their bottom line. Regenerative practices also translate into farms that use less water, generate less pollution, lower carbon emissions – and stash an impressive amount of carbon underground. Combining ancient wisdom with modern science, Growing a Revolution lays out a solid case for an inspiring vision where agriculture becomes the solution to environmental problems, helping feed us all, cool the planet, and restore life to the land.
David R. Montgomery is a professor of geomorphology at the University of Washington. He lives in Seattle with his wife, Anne Bikle, and Loki, their guide-dog dropout.
"The insights gleaned add nuance to [Montgomery's] pointed critiques of agrotechnology and organic farming, but it's the findings on rapid soil restoration that compel."
"A call to action that underscores a common goal: to change the world from the ground up."
– Dan Barber, author of The Third Plate
"In his reader-friendly style, Montgomery describes the environmental crossroads at which we stand and shows us not only the devastation but the potential solution that exists right beneath our feet."
– Hope Jahren, author of Lab Girl
"This is a Sand County Almanac of agriculture, a Walden of loam and tilth, a paradigm-bending journey into the principles that guide the life beneath our feet and thus the life that nourishes us."
– Paul Hawken, author of The Ecology of Commerce and Natural Capitalism
"A wonderful read on how to make soil rich and prosperous!"
– Estella B. Leopold, author of Stories from the Leopold Shack: Sand County Revisited
"Brilliant, well researched, eloquent, and deeply hopeful."
"Montgomery has the rare talent of making complex scientific topics not only understandable but truly fascinating. Growing a Revolution is both exceptionally enlightening and tremendously enjoyable. Highly recommended reading."
– Nicolette Hahn Niman, author of Defending Beef and Righteous Porkchop
– Denis Hayes, founder of Earth Day
"In the past couple of years, an awful lot of smart people have started talking very seriously about the state of the planet's soil. If you want to understand what's at stake, and learn about the exciting possibilities, this book is a fine starting point."
– Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy
"Montgomery has written another classic. Growing a Revolution is one of the most important books ever written – an engaging and revealing service to human society and our planet."
– Amir Kassam, professor of agriculture, policy and development, University of Reading, UK
"Being a long time 'doom bat' regarding the fate of the natural world, I was given hope by Growing a Revolution that there is a real possibility of revolutionizing agriculture with the result of growing more food, employing people, and putting carbon back into the ground."
– Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia
"Growing a Revolution presents a clear-eyed examination of a solution to the challenges we face in feeding the world. A joy to read with the bounce and flow of a great biography. I couldn't recommend it more."
– Jerry Harrison, keyboardist and guitarist, Talking Heads
"From Plato to FDR, from George Washington to Gabe Brown, Montgomery shows how all roads lead to the soil – and the potential it holds to redress some of our greatest challenges in the twenty-first century."
– Woody Tasch, founder of Slow Money and author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing As If Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered
"Loved the book! Ambitious and thought-provoking. A fascinating, thoughtful, and hopeful adventure."
– Diana Wall, past president of the Ecological Society of America and director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability at Colorado State University
"Surprising, inspiring, and thoroughly engaging [...] Relevant to farmers, backyard gardeners, and everyone who cares about our future, this is a clarion call that should not be ignored."