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The Omnivore's Dilemma
I recently read the Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and it was a pretty eye opening in relation to how much modern farming has diverged from farming practices even as recently as the last few decades. I spent alot of time helping out in a bunch of different ways with gardening and such when I was kid, and also spent more than one summer helping out on farms, taking care of animals and stuff like that, but all that experience was 20 or more years ago, and certainly didn't involve any of the style of industrial farms described in the book. My older brother worked more recently in industrial hog farms, but Pollans descriptions were much more vivid than my brothers.
Opening with a detailed history of Corn, and working it's way forward from there, Pollan walks the reader through the history of a number of farming techniques, the impact on the environment, economy, and people that are affected as consumers and producers of food, exploring the ethical, social and economic implications of each.
I don't think the book lead me to any solid conclusions about the way that I eat, but it certainly dispelled many of the notions I had about how well I understood modern food production. From a practical perspective, I am still looking for more information about how to improve the sustainability of my own lifestyle, improve my own health, and to do the same for my family.
One thing is certain - after reading about Rosie the Organic Chicken, and her plight as a "Free Range Chicken", the idea of doing Backyard Chickens in Vancouver has become that much more appealing.