Larding the Lean Earth: Soil and Society in Nineteenth-Century America
Hill & Wang, 2003 (2002)
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Reviewed by Marian Powell
Amish Farmers ... their system of food production represents the future of American agriculture.
' That quote from the last chapter of
Larding The Lean Earth
sums up the theme of the book; '
Amish farming is not modern, but it might be postmodern.
' This volume is not, however, about the Amish, but about the history of farming in the United States. It goes into great detail about farming techniques and debates in the Nineteenth Century.
he author makes the fascinating point that a cause of farming problems was, ironically, the presence of the frontier. Farmers had no investment in improving their land because they knew they could always move west if the soil became worn out. Much of the book is devoted to detailed criticism and quotes from both European visitors and concerned Americans such as George Washington. The issue was that rich soil was not being nurtured and replenished, and therefore good farmland was used up and destroyed.
rofessor Stoll uses the Amish way of farming as a contrast to how a farm should be managed. The points he makes are interesting. The research he did is staggering. The bibliography requires 20 pages! Though it is repetitive (making the same points again and again) and somewhat overstates the case,
Larding the Lean Earth
makes an excellent reference book and a valuable research tool.
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