Grain by Grain by Bob Quinn and Liz CarlisleTo be honest, I did not expect to be fascinated by a book about growing wheat. That’s not a crop that I pictured being an enthralling topic. I was wrong. The authors' examination of the food industry, particularly American grain production, was fascinating, and I know a lot about food. The book takes the reader on a historical ride of the evolution from small family farms to the current toxic takeover of conglomerates that we have today. It’s disturbing but fascinating coming from someone who lived through it and played an active role in regulations and education.
Kamut wheat farmer Bob Quinn doesn’t just give us upsetting facts, however, about the food supply. From farm boy, to getting his Ph.D. in plant biochemistry, to businessman and farmer educator, the story of his life is enthralling. His journey ignited in me newfound hope in the promise of the American dream. As a member of the organic community, a contributing member to the formation of organic standards, and an educator of hundreds of organic Kamut grain farmers, Bob never ceases to tire in his commitment to expanding access to healthy, organic, ancient grains. Bob takes his responsibility seriously to ascertain what is happening within the food industry. He also contributes to his community and creates jobs. These facts put him on my list of American Heroes.
From the moment an old man at the county fair gives Bob a handful of “King’s Tut” grains, to his transition from chemical farmer to organic, through the onslaught of criticism from his farming community, we are privy to the innermost thoughts and challenges of a dedicated American farmer. He is compassionate, dedicated, humble, and brilliant. Our country is better off because of him. My childhood perception of farmers, which I am too embarrassed to admit, was completely extinguished. I know nothing but total reverence for farmers like Bob Quinn.
Want to regain your faith in the future of America? Want a refreshing look at one of the oldest, most challenging, thankless, and fulfilling occupations in the world? Want to know the surprising new information about how healthy organic, ancient grains are for your body? Then get yourself a copy ofGrain by Grainby Bob Quinn and Liz Carlisle.
Beyond Labels by Dr. Sina McCullough and Farmer Joel SalatinAs someone working day and night to convince mothers, who buy 85% of the food, to read food labels and purchase clean, organic food, I had an innate resistance to a book calledBeyond Labels.We need labels to know what we are buying—and not everyone has access to food from a local farmer without labels. But that is not the complete picture.
That turned out to be precisely the point of this book. Everyone should have access to food from a local farmer. If you know and trust your farmer to do what’s right, you don’t need a label to ensure safety. And we should not be depending on our government, which is heavily lobbied by corporations, to tell us what food we should be eating.Beyond Labelswas written by a mother with a Ph.D. in Nutrition Science and a B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior (meaning she knows what food does to our brains and bodies) and a rockstar farmer who has written 12 previous books and educated people around the world about pasture-raised livestock farming. It is a fluidly written, conversation-style book, packed with information that even the most avid food movement activist will find surprising.
Throughout the book, I couldn’t decide what I liked better. Was it Sina’s tips on how to wean her family off sugar? Joel’s perspective on raising “organic” eggs and dairy? Sina’s shopping advice? Or the statement, “Fake meat, gentle people, is a really bad idea” from Joel?
I decided I loved them both the same, but differently, like our kids; we need them both. We need the farmer’s perspective on our food supply on raising, processing, and supply chain ups and downs. And we need the doctor’s perspective on minerals, vitamins, High Fructose Corn Syrup, GMOs, glyphosate, and their impact on our brains, bodies, and families. We need to realize that healing from chronic health issues (which are plaguing America) means not just treating the symptoms, as Sina describes, but getting to the root cause. Joel’s farming style is a root cause solution that nurtures the soil with regenerative farming practices. And Sina’s unique life-altering perspective on how we think about ourselves and what we are worth has us reimagine everything we have been doing. What I loved the most is the way both Sina and Joel inspired me to go beyond not just the labels for food, by insisting on getting locally raised meat and produce for my family, but to go beyond the labels I have for myself and what is possible.
As Sina encourages us to do, this book inspired me to believe in myself and as Joel charged us to do, relocate to a piece of land and grow food. We did just that. I have taken on being the “Chief Visionary” (as Joel calls himself) in partnership with my husband for our life, and our family has taken on being masters of our food supply. I just planted three apple trees, six blueberry trees, two elderberry trees, one blackberry bush, and a slew of garlic with my family at our new homestead. We have started to go beyond the labels we had for ourselves, the ones of very comfortable, sun-tanned Southern Californian people to hardworking Carolina mountain folks, and we have never been happier. We recently bought bison meat from a local farmer, 100% pasture-raised, never fed GMOs or glyphosate sprayed grains, and I didn’t need a label. I trusted the farmer’s word.
If you want to regain trust in our food supply, local farmers, and yourself, read Beyond Labels.