An open-source catalog of these books and many more relevant titles can be found on Agrarian Trust’s Library Thing
Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture. By Wendell Berry.
Wendell Berry argues that good farming is a cultural development and spiritual discipline. He runs us through the history of industrialization. He describes its victims and the great rural vacancy it has created, culturally and economically. This is one of the all-time best books on agriculture in America.
Finding Good Farmland: How to Evaluate and Acquire Land for Raising Crops and Animals. By Ann Larkin Hansen. Storey (2012)
This is a straightforward user’s guide to the land search and purchase process. It describes the qualities to look for in agricultural properties, and some alternative financing approaches to take.
Sharing the Harvest, Revised and Expanded: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture. By Elizabeth Henderson and Robyn Van En. Chelsea Green (2007).
This classic book lays out the basic tenets of CSA, and provides useful information for both farmers and consumers on starting and running a successful community farm project. It describes hundreds of useful strategies that have worked (or not worked) for CSAs across the country. An inspirational and practical handbook for the movement.
Whole-Farm Planning: Ecological Imperatives, Personal Values, and Economics. By Elizabeth Henderson and Karl North. Chelsea Green (2011).
Aimed at farmers and homesteaders transitioning to organic methods, this guide to whole-farm planning and management includes assessment; management of people, money, and physical and mental assets; goal setting; decision making which considers all variables; choosing appropriate tools and systems; and testing decisions and monitoring results. Henderson and North also provide business plans and goal statements from working farms along with resources for holistic approaches to farming.
On Common Ground: Caring for Shared Land from Town Common to Urban Park. By Ronald Fleming. Harvard Common Press (1982).
I include this title for sentimental reasons, as it’s the book my father finished the year I was born. He wrote it as the seminal piece for his newly founded Townscape Institute. The book is a users guide for civic land, with historical and contemporary case models.
Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land – Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty. By Gary Nabhan. Chelsea Green (2013).
Climatic uncertainty is now the new normal, compelling farmers, gardeners and orchard-keepers in North America to adapt their production strategies and become more resilient. This book draws upon the wisdom and technical knowledge from desert farming traditions all around the world to offer time-tried strategies for adaptation.
Renewing America’s Food Traditions – Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods. By Gary Nabhan. Chelsea Green (2008).
This book is a beautifully illustrated call to recognize, celebrate, and conserve the great diversity of foods that gives North America its distinctive culinary identity and reflects our multicultural heritage. Included is the first-ever list of endangered foods in North America, as well as the insight that what we choose to eat can either conserve or deplete the cornucopia of our continent.
The Forgotten Pollinators. By Gary Nabhan and Stephen Buchmann. Island Press (1996)
A concoction of natural and cultural history illustrating how pollination works and how easily it can be disrupted.
Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods. By Gary Nabhan. W.W. Norton (2001)
A celebration of food and culture with a social conscience, in the tradition of M. F. K. Fisher and Frances Moore Lappé.
Land Grabbers: The New Fight Over Who Owns the Earth. By Fred Pearce. Beacon Press (2012).
This is a contemporary non-fiction book reporting on the land grabs going on across Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe – the current hotspots for agricultural land investment and ensuing humanitarian nightmares.
Promised Land: Competing Visions of Agrarian Reform. By Peter Rosset, Raj Patel and Michael Courville (Eds.) Food First (2006).
This book takes a global perspective on redistributive land reform, its social and economic motivations and outcomes. It has a definite Food First left-leaning and activist/academic orientation.
Fields of Farmers, by Joel Salatin. Chelsea Green (2013)
Joel takes on the issue of farm apprenticeship, incubation, investment and partnership in a direct appeal to the growing audience of “slow money” and “social enterprise” investors. There are increasing numbers of such investors and landowners looking for a young qualified manager for their land assets, and Joel makes great points about the kind of relationship that this can be – both its benefits and limitations.
Finding and Buying your place in the country. By Les. Scher. Dearborn/ Kaplan Publishing (1992,1996,2000).
Classic, republished many times. It seems like this may have started as a back to the landers guide, and become more conventional as time went on. I have an edition from the late 1970’s with hilarious commentary about hippies and communes and small town dynamics.
Guide to Financing the Community Supported Farm. UVM Extension (2012)
This is another practical guide to approaching farm finance options using both new and established models.
Strategic Relocation: North American Guide to Safe Places, 3rd Edition. Swift Learning Resources (2011).
This book is very odd, but I think useful to include as it represents a definite category of motivated buyer. The white flight of the 1950’s-60’s when more affluent white professionals moved out of the city to suburbs is now being repeated as commuters, wealthy paranoid preppers, and the self-sufficient/self-employed move to rural areas for a variety of escapist reasons. From a young farmer’s perspective, its important to educate these farmland and farm property buyers, so that they will have positive interactions and expectations of their land stewards, tenants and of agriculture in general.