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Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America

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A protégé of Michael Pollan shares the story of a little known group of renegade farmers who defied corporate agribusiness by launching a unique sustainable farm-to-table food movement. The story of the Lentil Underground begins on a 280-acre homestead rooted in America’s Great Plains: the Oien family farm. Forty years ago, corporate agribusiness told small farmers like the A protégé of Michael Pollan shares the story of a little known group of renegade farmers who defied corporate agribusiness by launching a unique sustainable farm-to-table food movement. The story of the Lentil Underground begins on a 280-acre homestead rooted in America’s Great Plains: the Oien family farm. Forty years ago, corporate agribusiness told small farmers like the Oiens to “get big or get out.” But twenty-seven-year-old David Oien decided to take a stand, becoming the first in his conservative Montana county to plant a radically different crop: organic lentils. Unlike the chemically dependent grains American farmers had been told to grow, lentils make their own fertilizer and tolerate variable climate conditions, so their farmers aren’t beholden to industrial methods. Today, Oien leads an underground network of organic farmers who work with heirloom seeds and biologically diverse farm systems. Under the brand Timeless Natural Food, their unique business-cum-movement has grown into a million dollar enterprise that sells to Whole Foods, hundreds of independent natural foods stores, and a host of renowned restaurants. From the heart of Big Sky Country comes this inspiring story of a handful of colorful pioneers who have successfully bucked the chemically-based food chain and the entrenched power of agribusiness’s one percent, by stubbornly banding together. Journalist and native Montanan Liz Carlisle weaves an eye-opening and richly reported narrative that will be welcomed by everyone concerned with the future of American agriculture and natural food in an increasingly uncertain world.


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A protégé of Michael Pollan shares the story of a little known group of renegade farmers who defied corporate agribusiness by launching a unique sustainable farm-to-table food movement. The story of the Lentil Underground begins on a 280-acre homestead rooted in America’s Great Plains: the Oien family farm. Forty years ago, corporate agribusiness told small farmers like the A protégé of Michael Pollan shares the story of a little known group of renegade farmers who defied corporate agribusiness by launching a unique sustainable farm-to-table food movement. The story of the Lentil Underground begins on a 280-acre homestead rooted in America’s Great Plains: the Oien family farm. Forty years ago, corporate agribusiness told small farmers like the Oiens to “get big or get out.” But twenty-seven-year-old David Oien decided to take a stand, becoming the first in his conservative Montana county to plant a radically different crop: organic lentils. Unlike the chemically dependent grains American farmers had been told to grow, lentils make their own fertilizer and tolerate variable climate conditions, so their farmers aren’t beholden to industrial methods. Today, Oien leads an underground network of organic farmers who work with heirloom seeds and biologically diverse farm systems. Under the brand Timeless Natural Food, their unique business-cum-movement has grown into a million dollar enterprise that sells to Whole Foods, hundreds of independent natural foods stores, and a host of renowned restaurants. From the heart of Big Sky Country comes this inspiring story of a handful of colorful pioneers who have successfully bucked the chemically-based food chain and the entrenched power of agribusiness’s one percent, by stubbornly banding together. Journalist and native Montanan Liz Carlisle weaves an eye-opening and richly reported narrative that will be welcomed by everyone concerned with the future of American agriculture and natural food in an increasingly uncertain world.

30 review for Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    LOVED this book!!! I kept wanting to phone or email the author and the people featured in this book, and ask them over to supper so we could further discuss the ideas Carlisle presented. We have so much to learn from the people associated with Timeless Seeds. I especially appreciated the farmers' plea for appropriately sized farm implements, and the accounts of successful multi cropping on the way to restoring and improving the health of farm soil. LOVED this book!!! I kept wanting to phone or email the author and the people featured in this book, and ask them over to supper so we could further discuss the ideas Carlisle presented. We have so much to learn from the people associated with Timeless Seeds. I especially appreciated the farmers' plea for appropriately sized farm implements, and the accounts of successful multi cropping on the way to restoring and improving the health of farm soil.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Curious about Food? Read This Book! In Lentil Underground Liz Carlisle pulls together many important concepts related to food in America, in particular the growing and distribution of food. The story begins at David Oien’s farm in Montana on the east side of the Rocky Mountains. When Oien decided to plant acres of organic lentils, this was a radical act. This book traces the ups and downs of organic lentil farming in Montana over the years. In time other farmers in Montana started planting acres Curious about Food? Read This Book! In Lentil Underground Liz Carlisle pulls together many important concepts related to food in America, in particular the growing and distribution of food. The story begins at David Oien’s farm in Montana on the east side of the Rocky Mountains. When Oien decided to plant acres of organic lentils, this was a radical act. This book traces the ups and downs of organic lentil farming in Montana over the years. In time other farmers in Montana started planting acres of organic lentils. Why grow lentils? The lentil is a member of the legume family. Lentils create their own fertilizer. Legumes are often planted as cover crops because of the nutrients they bring to the soil. They do not need to be fertilized with chemical brews. The species grown in Montana are more tolerant of wind, heat, and lack of rainfall than other commercial crops. Why eat lentils? They are extremely nutritious. Lentils are an excellent source of dietary fiber, they are a complex carbohydrate, and are a low GI food with high protein. Lentils play a prominent role in Indian cuisine, often called dals. I learned so much from this book. What it’s like for a small farmer to get an order from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Just how hard it is to get financing for your organic farm. Why small organic farmers can’t get crop insurance. What the Farm Bill means to small farmers. Carlisle’s writing style is engaging and descriptive. She does an excellent job weaving various farmer’s stories together. Given that much of American agricultural policy is designed for huge corporate farms, the activities of the “lentil underground” are revolutionary and encouraging. This is an important book. Do read it. * This review is based on receipt of an Advance Uncorrected Proof from the publisher via LibraryThing *

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    My favorite thing about this book was the care it took to avoid oversimplifications. It explained why "going organic" is an oversimplification; why "eating within 100 miles" is an oversimplification. A story of how farmers in Montana are working to rebuild their soil, it points out what are often contradictions as people seek to eat local and have a positive impact on the environment, and doesn't skimp to point out that the truly sustainable processes might take ten, twenty, thirty years. There My favorite thing about this book was the care it took to avoid oversimplifications. It explained why "going organic" is an oversimplification; why "eating within 100 miles" is an oversimplification. A story of how farmers in Montana are working to rebuild their soil, it points out what are often contradictions as people seek to eat local and have a positive impact on the environment, and doesn't skimp to point out that the truly sustainable processes might take ten, twenty, thirty years. There is no quick fix, but this book offers hope for land management in an engaging, person-focused exploration of one movement that stubbornly took hold, and then held on.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Keith Akers

    Want to know what it's really like to be an organic farmer? This is your book---especially if you want to know what it's like to grow lentils in Montana. The author weaves together a number of stories about organic farmers and how they came to want organic agriculture to succeed, even though there doesn't seem to be a lot of money in it. Along the way you find out both why it's so necessary and why it's so difficult. Also, I found out about "black medic," an otherwise worthless weed which, howe Want to know what it's really like to be an organic farmer? This is your book---especially if you want to know what it's like to grow lentils in Montana. The author weaves together a number of stories about organic farmers and how they came to want organic agriculture to succeed, even though there doesn't seem to be a lot of money in it. Along the way you find out both why it's so necessary and why it's so difficult. Also, I found out about "black medic," an otherwise worthless weed which, however, is actually good for the soil, so the organic farmers actually encouraged it to spread (it fixes nitrogen in the soil, like legumes). Besides the fact that spraying your fields is easier than actually dealing with weeds and hostile insects in a more natural way, our system of subsidies essentially discourages organic agriculture. Especially enlightening was her description of no-till agriculture. This technology, which avoids tillage, was formulated in order to avoid soil erosion; the number one time when soil can erode is when there is no vegetation to protect the land --- namely, after the soil has been tilled. But farmers who utilize it typically get GMO crops unaffected by the pesticide, and then blanket their fields with pesticide, which can't be good for the long-term health of the soil.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sari

    At the age of 27, David Oien began the transformation of his family's farm in Montana from a conventional farm to an organic one, with the introduction of the planting of a crop of organic lentils, in order to return nutrients to the soil while growing a food crop that could be sold. Liz Carlisle relates Oien's experiences as he connects with other Montana farmers and involves them in the growing of organic lentils and other crops. The farmers all contribute the the growth of Timeless Seeds and At the age of 27, David Oien began the transformation of his family's farm in Montana from a conventional farm to an organic one, with the introduction of the planting of a crop of organic lentils, in order to return nutrients to the soil while growing a food crop that could be sold. Liz Carlisle relates Oien's experiences as he connects with other Montana farmers and involves them in the growing of organic lentils and other crops. The farmers all contribute the the growth of Timeless Seeds and this book chronicles the varied experiences and challenges of many of these farmers as they adopt organic methods over many years. As an organic home gardener for over 30 years, much of what Oien and his fellow farmers experienced was familiar to me (on a much smaller scale). And yet, I found this a fascinating book to read and highly recommend it. It made me stop and think about how a simple food like a lentil gets from the farm to the table.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    My 4 favorite takeaways: 1) eating organic lentils shipped in from across the country is more environmentally friendly than local conventionally grown food. 2) we've been practicing agriculture for 12000 years, and only using heavy chemicals for 60 years. 3) legumes are green manure, they fix nitrogen into the soil. 4) lentils are resistant to drought. My 4 favorite takeaways: 1) eating organic lentils shipped in from across the country is more environmentally friendly than local conventionally grown food. 2) we've been practicing agriculture for 12000 years, and only using heavy chemicals for 60 years. 3) legumes are green manure, they fix nitrogen into the soil. 4) lentils are resistant to drought.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Malia

    Way more interesting than I thought it would be! I was so engaged with the stories of these farmers, out there changing the world. :)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kate Lawrence

    Although some sections were of only marginal interest to non-farmers, overall the book was a worthwhile read. I had no idea how difficult it was for farmers to transition to organic methods. The commitment and persistence of the farmers who began the process in northern Montana was stunning, especially because it had to be maintained over many years and through some major discouragements and financial losses. Living in Colorado, I'd be interested to read about how Western Slope fruit growing mig Although some sections were of only marginal interest to non-farmers, overall the book was a worthwhile read. I had no idea how difficult it was for farmers to transition to organic methods. The commitment and persistence of the farmers who began the process in northern Montana was stunning, especially because it had to be maintained over many years and through some major discouragements and financial losses. Living in Colorado, I'd be interested to read about how Western Slope fruit growing might compare. I was also impressed that these folks had to figure everything out as they went along; no precedents or wise elders existed to give guidance. I hadn't previously understood fully how the government pays some farmers to grow nothing, nor why organic agriculture methods are more fuel-intensive and expensive than just spraying with toxic chemicals once a season. Once again a primary virtue of book clubs comes into play--I would never have picked this up on my own, but only because one of my book clubs selected it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    audrey

    This reads like a long company prospectus for Montana-based Timeless Seeds. It is literally a blow-by-blow account of the founders havin' a dream, forming a company, the setbacks and challenges the company faced, yadda yadda yadda. I could work with that if there was also hey, here's the science behind why lentils rock (because they totally do) and here's an imagining of what this could look like outside Montana, if it was like, the future of food in America! Not all dissertations need publishing This reads like a long company prospectus for Montana-based Timeless Seeds. It is literally a blow-by-blow account of the founders havin' a dream, forming a company, the setbacks and challenges the company faced, yadda yadda yadda. I could work with that if there was also hey, here's the science behind why lentils rock (because they totally do) and here's an imagining of what this could look like outside Montana, if it was like, the future of food in America! Not all dissertations need publishing, is what. But I did come away with a marginally better understanding of no-till crop rotation.

  10. 5 out of 5

    M.J. Groves

    I love stories of grit and determination, especially when they're true. This is a wonderfully told account of a little farmer who could, and did, and still is doing, and the community of farmers spread across Montana who have joined in in his quest to grow plants in harmony with the land. A ray of hope for our future and our planet's. Plus, who knew you could make a lentil cookie? I love stories of grit and determination, especially when they're true. This is a wonderfully told account of a little farmer who could, and did, and still is doing, and the community of farmers spread across Montana who have joined in in his quest to grow plants in harmony with the land. A ray of hope for our future and our planet's. Plus, who knew you could make a lentil cookie?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Avarla

    I really want to buy a farm now and try some of the techniques described here. And I grew up on a farm and know how much never-ending work having a farm is actually. No romanticizing. That's how convincing this book is. I was sometimes a bit lost with all the different players and who dropped out or in when and ehy and how they fit into the picture, but the overall narrative worked just fine. I really want to buy a farm now and try some of the techniques described here. And I grew up on a farm and know how much never-ending work having a farm is actually. No romanticizing. That's how convincing this book is. I was sometimes a bit lost with all the different players and who dropped out or in when and ehy and how they fit into the picture, but the overall narrative worked just fine.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    A wake up call to the YOLO all about me lifestyle, presented in a measured cadence. Author even admits surprise along her advocacy journey. We are all in this together, can we act like it?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    An amazing story of the beginning of organic farming practices in Montana!

  14. 4 out of 5

    K Marie

    A very interesting book about the history of organic farming in north central Montana. From about the 1970s to 2014. The primary thing I got from it was that you can plant more than one crop at a time in the same field. The undercrop being lentils that retain moisture and provide nitrogen to the soil so chemical fertilizers are not needed. A bit confusing at times trying to keep up with the many people the author interviewed. Very well read by Tavia Gilbert. She made what might have been hard to A very interesting book about the history of organic farming in north central Montana. From about the 1970s to 2014. The primary thing I got from it was that you can plant more than one crop at a time in the same field. The undercrop being lentils that retain moisture and provide nitrogen to the soil so chemical fertilizers are not needed. A bit confusing at times trying to keep up with the many people the author interviewed. Very well read by Tavia Gilbert. She made what might have been hard to get through a compelling book to listen to.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    A new food system must be led by farmers, with hope from non-farmers. Montana has set the pace for the rest of us! Carlisle's first book. Could be in every high school in the U.S. Also, her second book, Grain by Grain might be even better. A new food system must be led by farmers, with hope from non-farmers. Montana has set the pace for the rest of us! Carlisle's first book. Could be in every high school in the U.S. Also, her second book, Grain by Grain might be even better.

  16. 5 out of 5

    MaryJo

    Four young Montana Farmers in the wheat growing high plains decide to do things differently. The first one to try lentils in the 1980s is David Oien, from Conrad, a couple of years older than me. He starts college at the University of Chicago, but then graduates from Missoula in Religious Studies having studied with Joseph Epes Brown, chronicler of Black Elk Speaks. Oien starts experimenting with a few acres on his family homestead. He struggles for decades figuring out what to grow and how to m Four young Montana Farmers in the wheat growing high plains decide to do things differently. The first one to try lentils in the 1980s is David Oien, from Conrad, a couple of years older than me. He starts college at the University of Chicago, but then graduates from Missoula in Religious Studies having studied with Joseph Epes Brown, chronicler of Black Elk Speaks. Oien starts experimenting with a few acres on his family homestead. He struggles for decades figuring out what to grow and how to make a living at it. His wife, an accountant, helps pay the bills. The movement he starts draws in many different kinds of people some, but not all, outsiders like himself. Liz Carlisle is a Ph.D in geography at UC Berkeley, and this is her dissertation topic. She turns to this topic after a stint in Senator Jon Testor's office. She is a protege of Michael Pollan's at Berkeley, and he helped her turn her dissertation into this readable book. She does a good job of showing how the idealistic growers come up against all sorts of other forces: there is the climate, especially drought in this part of the US. Then, once you grow something, there is getting it to market. She also describes how even in this non-GMO wheat country, Monsanto is a force to be reckoned with. Even more so are USDA policies that, in helping farmers manage risk, have reduced farmers' willingness to experiment with new crops. Carlisle, a Montana native herself, does a good job of capturing the culture and landscape of this part of the US, where the climate is extreme and the distances are vast. Carlisle tells an inspiring story of people who are willing to take risks and try to things for the good of planet, and to cooperate with others in doing so.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    When I think of the organic food movement, I think of Vermont or California or Oregon or Wisconsin. Montana was not on my radar. This book changed that naive perception. Of course there are revolutionary thinkers everywhere, silly coastal citizen! (Why did I not realize that until now?) This book painstakingly documents the roots of the regenerative agriculture movement in Montana, throwing light onto an agricultural region that has not received enough attention for its efforts at transforming t When I think of the organic food movement, I think of Vermont or California or Oregon or Wisconsin. Montana was not on my radar. This book changed that naive perception. Of course there are revolutionary thinkers everywhere, silly coastal citizen! (Why did I not realize that until now?) This book painstakingly documents the roots of the regenerative agriculture movement in Montana, throwing light onto an agricultural region that has not received enough attention for its efforts at transforming the land and soil back to one that relies on a healthy micro-biome and not on weed killers. It is a step by step accounting, a look at the individual farmers and their families and their efforts to redefine smart agriculture, year by year. That is, farming that can feed a family and a nation AND turn over a healthy farm to the next generation. In the process of reading this book, I also now understand how fellow farmer Jim Tester keeps his footing as a politician in the state. It is 100% more clear. And everyone I know who has ever done business with Trader Joe's has a similar tale to the one told herein. When the author of "The United States of Arugula" updates that tome to how we arrived at this food moment, I hope Montana will be included as a cradle of modern (ancient) farming techniques, especially for lentils. They certainly deserve the attention.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dav

    . Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America (2015) • by Liz Carlisle OVERVIEW: "The story of the Lentil Underground begins on a 280-acre homestead rooted in America’s Great Plains: the Oien family farm. Forty years ago, corporate agribusiness told small farmers like the Oiens to “get big or get out.” But twenty-seven-year-old David Oien decided to take a stand, becoming the first in his conservative Montana county to plant a radically different crop: organic lentils. Un . Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America (2015) • by Liz Carlisle OVERVIEW: "The story of the Lentil Underground begins on a 280-acre homestead rooted in America’s Great Plains: the Oien family farm. Forty years ago, corporate agribusiness told small farmers like the Oiens to “get big or get out.” But twenty-seven-year-old David Oien decided to take a stand, becoming the first in his conservative Montana county to plant a radically different crop: organic lentils. Unlike the chemically dependent grains (wheat, barley, etc) American farmers had been told to grow, lentils make their own fertilizer and tolerate variable climate conditions, so their farmers aren’t beholden to industrial methods. Today, Oien leads an underground network of organic farmers who work with heirloom seeds and biologically diverse farm systems. Under the brand Timeless Natural Food, their unique business-cum-movement has grown into a million dollar enterprise that sells to Whole Foods, hundreds of independent natural foods stores, and a host of renowned restaurants." . Dave Oien and few others worked together to change farming practices in Montana by introducing organic farming techniques to their skeptical farming community. In the mid-70s Dave convinced his dad to allow experimental changes to the family farm, beginning with solar power. To get away from expensive chemical fertilizers and their harmful effects Oien experimented with legume crops that naturally pull nitrogen from the air and refurbish the soil. "Green manure" crops are plants thar are under sowed as fertilizer (alfalfa, black medic, etc) that help rebuild soil nutrients. They began Timeless Seeds about 1986 using the weed black medic to enhance soil naturally, it worked, but wasn't a money maker. Being a common weed it also had detractors, other farmers were not interested in cultivating a weed. What Dave needed was a legume (alfalfa, clover, peas, chickpeas, lentils, etc) that could "fix" nitrogen in the soil and be profitable as well. The book covers the efforts of Dave and his organic farming cohorts through 2014, emphasizing various challenges and successes. Some highlights include: The Trader Joe's debacle; black Beluga lentils; intercropping and canopy crops; weed control without chemicals; getting government agency recognition for organic farming and the reforming of government policy; no-till farming by using herbicides. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), well-intentioned, but basically paid farmers not to farm and so many retired on the government handout. At times the story gets deep in the weeds of government bureaucracy (which at first seemed opposed to organic farming practices), and details of soil composition. In the 2014 epilogue the author says Dave's group produces about half of America's lentils. Lentils also remain an unknown too many consumers and Organics as too pricey. Next time I'm at the store I may look up organic lentils. I believe the only lentils I've ever had were those in Progresso's lentil soup, which is too high in sodium (1,740mg per can). ..

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    "Building your soil biologically is not a precise prescription for a particular crop, but a contribution to a larger ecology, subject to independent variables, geologic time, and global biogeochemical cycles. You will not capture all the value on this farm, in this year. You cannot individualize your return. To build biological fertility is to build community—to accept interdependence with other creatures and foster a common benefit. This way of life cultivates a new kind of awareness, a new emp "Building your soil biologically is not a precise prescription for a particular crop, but a contribution to a larger ecology, subject to independent variables, geologic time, and global biogeochemical cycles. You will not capture all the value on this farm, in this year. You cannot individualize your return. To build biological fertility is to build community—to accept interdependence with other creatures and foster a common benefit. This way of life cultivates a new kind of awareness, a new empathy. You have to pay attention beyond this homestead. You have to pay attention beyond this season..." (p 250). More than thirty years ago, a few Montana dreamers got together, thinking they might challenge "the system" by promoting the use of nitrogen-fixing plants in place of fertilizers. Today, they have built Timeless Seeds, a company that supports pulses on their journey from "field to fork"—from farming to processing to wholesale distribution to branded marketing. This book carefully follows the farmers' journeys, illuminating both their idealism and the countless challenges (from health insurance to broken tractors) that stand in the way of success. Even today, only 20 farmers earn their livelihood with Timeless Seeds. Carlisle's narrative makes clear that the deck remains stacked against farmers who want to farm in an interdependent, ecologically sane manner. She tells the story clearly and fairly, without straying from the facts of the farmers' existence—in some ways an improvement on more popular food writers like Michael Pollan. I deeply enjoyed both the story she had to tell and her style in telling it. Highly recommended!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    This wonderful journey that Liz Carlisle brings her readers through is one of unwavering dedication and honoring of the self and of the land. Through the lens of Montana farmers, their families, and their stalwart community, we see the beginnings and continuation of a movement. When farmers are stuck in the system of "get big or get out", filing for bankruptcy because they can no longer afford fuel nor fertilizer, and they see the degradation of the land that has fed this nation, their next best This wonderful journey that Liz Carlisle brings her readers through is one of unwavering dedication and honoring of the self and of the land. Through the lens of Montana farmers, their families, and their stalwart community, we see the beginnings and continuation of a movement. When farmers are stuck in the system of "get big or get out", filing for bankruptcy because they can no longer afford fuel nor fertilizer, and they see the degradation of the land that has fed this nation, their next best bet is to throw in on a risk and a dream - organic lentils. What these traditional farmers understand is they must support their community, and not just their neighbors and fellow church-goers, but the community in their soil and around their lands. By paying attention to nature and working with it to nurture it, these people found a way to live off the land that wasn't destroying it. They found a healthier way to grow and feed people and to support their common dreams. When people are growing food knowing they are building better soil and habits for future generations, that is true farming that will last generations, as long as someone is constantly fighting the battle for it. And Liz Carlisle shows us it's well worth it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    A deeply engaged and engaging case study in how a group of Montana farmers, some of them visionary some of them careful and cautious, have backed away from extractive agriculture, building and finding markets and community along their way. Carlisle is attentive to the interdependencies of soil, commerce, politics, technical skills, long experience, and the role of common cause made by men and women as fully committed to their own independence as they are accepting of the role community plays in A deeply engaged and engaging case study in how a group of Montana farmers, some of them visionary some of them careful and cautious, have backed away from extractive agriculture, building and finding markets and community along their way. Carlisle is attentive to the interdependencies of soil, commerce, politics, technical skills, long experience, and the role of common cause made by men and women as fully committed to their own independence as they are accepting of the role community plays in supporting it. Her account spans the realities, vicissitudes, and halting pace of real-world change that builds and strengthens sustainable farms, farming communities, and diet -- for people and livestock alike -- and does so by immersing readers in a gripping, quarter-century account of Montanans she brings to vivid life on the pages of Lentil Underground.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jill Blevins

    At first I forgot I read the whole book. I might not have, but once I looked at the synopsis, I realized this is one of those books I languished in and bought on Kindle so I could look at it again because I love stories of rebels, like the protagonist lentil farmer guy, who works hard to make the world a better place, sacrificing and scrimping and pinching along the way to unpredictable/extraordinary under any circumstances success. I’m smarter now about seeds, planting, farming, weeds, agricultu At first I forgot I read the whole book. I might not have, but once I looked at the synopsis, I realized this is one of those books I languished in and bought on Kindle so I could look at it again because I love stories of rebels, like the protagonist lentil farmer guy, who works hard to make the world a better place, sacrificing and scrimping and pinching along the way to unpredictable/extraordinary under any circumstances success. I’m smarter now about seeds, planting, farming, weeds, agriculture, agribusiness, pesticides, crops, and the growing seasons and soils in Montana because this woman is a Michael Pollan protege and they always do their deep research. This one isn’t too deep, or maybe it is at the end. I forgot. What I remember is that when people put their minds to something good, and they don’t listen to what you’re supposed to do, you can do anything.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America / Liz Carlisle. This title was the U of M’s campus read this summer/fall. Until encouraged by a colleague where I volunteer, I had no plans to read it. It turned out to be an extended (260 pp.) New Yorker article, an engrossing one. The story of a few Montana farmers who, for various reasons, wanted to get out from under the control of Big Agribusiness and its chemicals. Partly because of the individual personalities, partly Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America / Liz Carlisle. This title was the U of M’s campus read this summer/fall. Until encouraged by a colleague where I volunteer, I had no plans to read it. It turned out to be an extended (260 pp.) New Yorker article, an engrossing one. The story of a few Montana farmers who, for various reasons, wanted to get out from under the control of Big Agribusiness and its chemicals. Partly because of the individual personalities, partly my familiarity with the Central Montana culture and wheat ranching, and, finally, the talented storytelling made the science flow. For a different take on 21st century agriculture, please read Lentil Underground. For me, it is a lifechanger. There will be more lentils and more organic food in our diet! There are alternatives for the future.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Frank

    Reading this book was a life changing experience for me. I learned so much; I'm a loyal Timeless Food customer and AERO supporter now, too. It's amazing to hear how some farmers in Montana moved from Big Ag farm management to local, organic operations utilizing collaborative knowledge share. Doesn't that make sense? Why yield to some huge corporation in another state when you can manage your own future locally, knowing exactly what's good for your farm and livelihood? This is the story of some k Reading this book was a life changing experience for me. I learned so much; I'm a loyal Timeless Food customer and AERO supporter now, too. It's amazing to hear how some farmers in Montana moved from Big Ag farm management to local, organic operations utilizing collaborative knowledge share. Doesn't that make sense? Why yield to some huge corporation in another state when you can manage your own future locally, knowing exactly what's good for your farm and livelihood? This is the story of some key individuals who made that choice. It was tough, but they persisted, and now they're seeing success and the numbers are growing! Gives me hope for a cleaner, more sustainable food supply, better environmental management, and lower carbon footprint - just when we need them! As far as I'm concerned, these people are heroes! Great that Liz Carlisle took the opportunity to tell their stories :-)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Smith

    This book brings you right into the homes and lives of the farmers who stood up for what they knew in their heart to be wrong, spraying our food with an abundance of chemicals as a farming technique, and by doing so harming our planet and our health. This book tells the story of organic farmers in the midwest and the years and years of experimentation and hard work that enabled them to grow organic sustainable food. It was interesting to hear the story of the beginning of the organic food indust This book brings you right into the homes and lives of the farmers who stood up for what they knew in their heart to be wrong, spraying our food with an abundance of chemicals as a farming technique, and by doing so harming our planet and our health. This book tells the story of organic farmers in the midwest and the years and years of experimentation and hard work that enabled them to grow organic sustainable food. It was interesting to hear the story of the beginning of the organic food industry, in the midwest of all places, and I believe that every person should read books like this to learn more about where their food, literally the stuff that keeps us alive, comes from, so that we can make informed decisions to support farmers that are farming sustainably. And I now have a higher appreciation for lentils!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    The Legume Underground is a group of courageous, revolutionary thinking farmers who thwarted Big Farma and concentrated on the organic production of "alternative" crops in Montana. Banding together these farmers were able to experiment, research and embark on a plan to protect farmer and consumer health, revitalise soils and successfully combat drought conditions. There's is a success story that has seen a re-emergence of the popularity of traditional crops like lentils, emmer and spelt onto sho The Legume Underground is a group of courageous, revolutionary thinking farmers who thwarted Big Farma and concentrated on the organic production of "alternative" crops in Montana. Banding together these farmers were able to experiment, research and embark on a plan to protect farmer and consumer health, revitalise soils and successfully combat drought conditions. There's is a success story that has seen a re-emergence of the popularity of traditional crops like lentils, emmer and spelt onto shop shelves all without the need for expensive and hazardous pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. An inspiring read that should make all primary producers think about their relationship with the land and all consumers think about how their food makes it to the table.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    Conflict from the start: Liz Carlisle is a friend of mine and colleague in the field of teaching sustainable agriculture at the college level, so I'm biased from the get-go. And yet... Liz Carlisle does a brilliant job in this book of introducing us to lentil farmers in Montana, of telling their story and highlighting challenges of the modern food system as she does so. The characters are great, their stories are varied and interesting, and Liz has an astounding capability of summarizing facets o Conflict from the start: Liz Carlisle is a friend of mine and colleague in the field of teaching sustainable agriculture at the college level, so I'm biased from the get-go. And yet... Liz Carlisle does a brilliant job in this book of introducing us to lentil farmers in Montana, of telling their story and highlighting challenges of the modern food system as she does so. The characters are great, their stories are varied and interesting, and Liz has an astounding capability of summarizing facets of our food system without oversimplifying them. I'll be sharing selections with my students for sure, and if I was teaching a seminar, would go ahead and use the whole book and then head out to natural food stores to see what kind of lentils we could find on the shelves.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Most of us have noticed the increased availability of organic products in the supermarket, but I didn't realize the struggle that organic farmers have had in converting their operations and finding markets for their products. Carlisle describes a group of farmers in Montana who decided to go against the push to monoculture of grains that require increased use of herbicides and pesticides for crops. This small band of farmers developed the 'lentil underground', a cooperative of farmers using heir Most of us have noticed the increased availability of organic products in the supermarket, but I didn't realize the struggle that organic farmers have had in converting their operations and finding markets for their products. Carlisle describes a group of farmers in Montana who decided to go against the push to monoculture of grains that require increased use of herbicides and pesticides for crops. This small band of farmers developed the 'lentil underground', a cooperative of farmers using heirloom seeds and complex crop rotation cycles and tilling methods that preserve soil and promote a healthy soil microbiome. Marketing and getting a fair price for these products has been challenging, and it is still only a niche market. For readers interested in ecology and sustainable farming.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Abhishek Kona

    "If you are not going to do what we need you to do, we will do it ourselves" - this is a story of a defiant group of Farmers lead by David Oien who started growing lentils to restore the nutrition soil of their farms in Montana. It is an inspiring story of Timeless seeds, a company / collective of farmers who are growing sustainable lentils and taking a stand against the mono crop big agriculture of the United States. Its the story of the Black Beluga a lentil that was bred in Canada for the har "If you are not going to do what we need you to do, we will do it ourselves" - this is a story of a defiant group of Farmers lead by David Oien who started growing lentils to restore the nutrition soil of their farms in Montana. It is an inspiring story of Timeless seeds, a company / collective of farmers who are growing sustainable lentils and taking a stand against the mono crop big agriculture of the United States. Its the story of the Black Beluga a lentil that was bred in Canada for the harsh climate of the Northern plains but which has found its home in Montana.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bob Stocker

    I left for a two-week trip after reading the first half Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America by Liz Carlisle and didn't get back to the book until I got home. The first half was a 5. I was fascinated by what it took to get started at commercial environmentally-friendly farming. The second half was more like a 3. I found that I got confused by who was who in the large number of farmers that were introduced and discussed. Perhaps this wouldn't have been a problem I left for a two-week trip after reading the first half Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America by Liz Carlisle and didn't get back to the book until I got home. The first half was a 5. I was fascinated by what it took to get started at commercial environmentally-friendly farming. The second half was more like a 3. I found that I got confused by who was who in the large number of farmers that were introduced and discussed. Perhaps this wouldn't have been a problem if I hadn't stopped reading the book in the middle. For me, the book ended up as a 4.

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