Staff Picks for the Consumer: Books, Articles, Documentaries

The Encyclopedia of Historic and Endangered Livestock and Poultry Breeds, by Janet Vorwald Dohner: If you are looking for a detailed overview of heritage livestock, this is it! This Yale Agrarian Study Series Encyclopedia provides profiles of over 130 rare breeds, including color photographs, breed history and conservation plans. The author also provides a well written depiction of livestock domestication and evolution, setting a nice backdrop to explain how so many heritage breeds became available today.

Rare Breeds: Endangered Farm Animals in Photographs, by Lawrence Alderson and Robert Dowling: This is our all-time favorite coffee table book. It contains plenty of information about a variety of rare livestock breeds, as well as gorgeous photography.

In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, by Michael Pollan: We all agreed, this is one of the best introductions to Michael Pollan’s work. This book gets to the point quickly, is a quick read and will leave you thinking twice about what you eat.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma,by Michael Pollan: This should be mandatory reading—OK, for some it’s a long read, since there is a lot to take in. The author delves deep into today’s consumer choices, not only what we eat and where it comes from, but how it is produced and the impact food production has on our planet. From industrial corn and meat production, to foraging for edible mushrooms and everything in between, this polemic will have you thinking about what you choose to put on your plate.

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love, by Kristin Kimball: This is Cheryl’s pick, and if you’re finding Michael Pollan’s books a bit fact-laden, this is a great read. This is the story of a freelance writer who meets her future husband, a young farmer interested in sustainable farming with an ambitious plan to provide enough food to feed a community. The story tells of all the trials and rewards of farming, as well as the author’s life-changing move from Manhattan city girl to farmer. The Dirty Life is about hard work, love, marriage and farming.

Animals in Translation, by Temple Grandin: This is Sarah’s pick, great for farmers and animal lovers. The author, an acclaimed animal activist, uses her unique insights as an autistic to explain animal behaviors and thought patterns. It’s a humorous read that helps people understand how animals view the world. Her work in the field of animal welfare has changed the way many farms and agricultural productions operate – for the better.

Raising Steaks, by Bette Fussell: Peter’s pick, after reading a great deal of books on agriculture, this was a much deserved break. Even if you have little interest in beef, Rasining Steaks takes you from the domestication of cattle to a quick way to dry-age your own steak before it hits the barbeque—light, interesting but filled with facts.

Good Meat, by Deborah Krasner: Rocky’s pick. This book is a great farm-to-table guide for any “locavore.” Prepare for a journey from pasture to butcher shop. as Deborah Krasner sheds light on where our favorite cuts (and some you may never have heard of) come from. Each chapter provides lots of anecdotal information woven between dozens of delicious recipes.

Old Will: The First Arapawa Goat, by Alison Sutherland: This is a wonderfully illustrated children’s book about a critically endangered breed of goat which SVF has worked hard to conserve. It describes the journey of “Old Will”, and how he traveled with Captain Cook from England to New Zealand in 1773, a true story based on the journals of Captain Cook!

Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable and Secure Food, by Phillip Ackerman-Leist: This entertaining and well written book encompasses the hard to tackle angels of creating a sustainable system. Ackerman-Leist doesn’t shy away from the nitty-gritty (and sometimes dirty) aspects involved when a community decides it’s time to pay attention to their own food resources. This book will challenge the commonly held belief that the most important thing we can do is “vote with our fork” and try to transform the reader from a consumer into a citizen.

Staff Picks for the Farmer

The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius: This book is a beautiful photographic encyclopedia that illustrates the varied fiber characteristics of over 200 different breeds of livestock.  The authors explore the evolution of each rare breed and describe how to get the best qualities from each type of fiber—SVF provided samples of wool from our own rare breeds of sheep for the authors work.  We are thrilled to be mentioned in this one of a kind resource book.

Arapawa – Once Upon an Island, by Betty Rowe: This book is a first-hand account of Betty Rowe’s experience living with her family on the remote Arapawa Island in New Zealand.   While establishing their home and learning to survive in the beautiful and rugged wilderness that surrounded them Betty became enchanted with the wildlife on the island, especially the Arapawa goats—one of the rare breeds that SVF is working to preserve.  Betty learned that the government was planning to eradicate the goats from the island and vowed to do everything she could to save them.   Once Upon an Island details Betty Rowe’s journey to save the natural habitat of the Arapawa goats.

Taking Stock, by Donald E. Bixby, Carolyn J. Christman, Cynthia J. Ehrman and D. Philip Sponenberg: The authors are considered foremost experts on heritage breeds in North America. This short book covers it all, from the importance of livestock and genetic diversity to the change in breed registrations between 1970 and 1990.

Livestock Diversity Genetic Resources for the Farming of the Future, by Stephen J. G. Hall: This book is written for the undergraduate and postgraduate student of genetics, animal breeding and animal science. Hall says, “this book aims to give an overview of the patterns and processes of evolution of livestock biodiversity, to emphasize its place in our cultural heritage and its values to the farming of today and the future.”

The Farmer’s Dog, by John Holmes: Sarah recommends this book will introduce you to the world of sheep-herding with dogs. It was Sarah’s go-to book when she began working with our border collie, Dakota, at SVF. The author does a nice job of turning a dog training manual into an interesting read, filled with anecdotal advice.