Lexington, KY—First Lady Michelle Obama recently planted a vegetable garden at the White House as part of
her platform on healthy living, which also emphasizes the expansion of sustainable farming. The First Lady’s
action highlights the growing importance of a change in the national mentality: production must be managed
with a mindset of preservation. As a nation, the United States collectively produces and consumes unparalleled
amounts of food, and corporate farming practices often leave the land exhausted and unable to sustain
sufficient yields. Fighting against these negative practices, sustainable agriculture is increasing farmers’
awareness of the diminishing resources they face and the impact their farming has on the environment.
Over the years, Frederick L. Kirschenmann has established himself as one of the most respected critics of
industrial food and the unsustainable farming practices of the modern age. His active participation in the fight
for agrarian sustainability has placed him in the ranks alongside other notable advocates of agricultural
renewal, such as Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson.
Cultivating an Ecological Conscience: Essays from a Farmer Philosopher presents a series of essays that
take readers on a journey through Kirschenmann’s life, detailing the development of his farming philosophy
through stories of his personal thoughts and experiences. Beginning with his childhood on the family farm in
North Dakota, the essays chronicle his growth as both a philosopher and a farmer. Organized chronologically,
the earlier essays focus on production strategies concerning the transition to a sustainable system, while later
essays explore more universal themes about the relationship between agriculture and ecology.
Kirschenmann’s present philosophy recognizes that it is virtually impossible to preserve “things as they are,”
as technological development and the need for rapid production continue to increase as farmers struggle to
meet the demands of an ever increasing population. Instead, he advocates the importance of a scientific
understanding of the lasting effects that rigorous farming techniques impose on the landscape and the overall
quality of the land.
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