- Author: Ann Brody Guy
The farmers who first introduced Missoula, Montana-native Liz Carlisle to the revolution taking place deep in her home state's grain belt were a diverse group that included lefty liberals, fundamentalist Christians, and freewheeling libertarians. But they shared a common plight: Years of drought and costly chemicals had damaged their bottom line and their soil, and threatened their family farms.
Lentils were a natural for Montana's water-stressed landscape. When there's no water, the plants neither wither nor bolt—they simply pause their growth cycle. So they don't require irrigation. On top of that, they also preserve nitrogen in the soil, fertilizing themselves and leaving behind healthier soil for the next crop.
By cooperating instead of competing, the group of former conventional farmers built a successful company, Timeless Seeds, and showed doubters, including their own state university, that sustainable farming was both possible and profitable.
Carlisle, who studied with Michael Pollan and received book-jacket support from food luminaries including Marion Nestle, Frances Moore Lappé, and Raj Patel, is herself part of the colorful cast of characters she paints in the book: She was a professional country singer and learned that the “amber waves of grain” she sung about didn't live up to their hype as she gigged her way across the country and chatted with farmers after shows.
Carlisle implanted herself in the community of Timeless Seeds farmers across four years of dissertation research, and through their story she lays out a workable vision for sustainable agriculture in the age of climate change.