It’s no coincidence that farming and ranching are at least partly responsible for a huge number of federal endangered species listings. When the goal of agriculture is to create monocultures of corn, soy, wheat, hogs or cattle, biodiversity loses.
But that doesn’t mean modern
agriculture has to be incompatible with healthy ecosystems. In his
new book, Farming with the Wild: Enhancing Biodiversity on Farms
and Ranches, farmer and writer Daniel Imhoff profiles 36 farms and
ranches scattered across the nation, from California to coastal
Maine. These farms and ranches tell a compelling story of
what’s wrong with our current industrialized agricultural
system, and what it might take to fix it.
On El Coronado,
a ranch in southeastern Arizona, for example, Imhoff tells how the
Austin family has pieced together over 20,000 gabions, or small
rock retaining walls, along a mostly dry creek bed. The gabions
have increased the amount of spring run-off that soaks into the
historically overgrazed riparian areas, increasing grass production
for cattle while also restoring habitat for the rare Sonoran mud
turtle and the endangered Yaqui chub.
And if Farming with
the Wild inspires you to “wild” your own farm or ranch,
Imhoff has included a “getting started” section,
complete with a resource directory of government conservation
programs, landowner incentive programs, and advocacy
Farming with the Wild: Enhancing
Biodiversity on Farms and Ranches
176 pages, softcover $29.95.
Club Books, San Francisco, CA, 2003.
Agriculture’s wild side
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