The Nest LogoThe Nest Logo

The Nest Reads: Spring 2024

E. Bader
June 19, 2024

Words to Plant By

Across the Northern Hemisphere, spring has sprung. Flowers opening, leaves budding, weeds thriving, fields ready to plant. For anyone involved in food production from grower to gardener, spring is a season of hope and long hours of work. Fortunately, there are audio books.

This season I had the words of wisdom of not one, but two inspiring farmers to keep me company while my hands were in the soil, Gabe Brown and Mark Shepard.

Dirt to Soil

One Family’s Journey into Regenerative Agriculture

By Gabe Brown

If you saw the movie Common Ground, you will no doubt recognize Gabe Brown, red cape flying in the wind, standing at the divide between the bare soil of a neighbor’s conventional field and the lush green of Brown’s regenerative pastureland. Brown published Dirt to Soil in 2018.The book details his twenty-year journey from near-failure and financial struggles as a new farmer using conventional practices to becoming a leading voice for regenerative agriculture.

Brown’s warm, authentic baritone is also the voice on the book’s audio version. I listened to his story of his “chaos garden” in the chapter on biodiversity just as I was planting vegetable beds. I stopped the neat rows, mixed the seeds, and started my own chaos garden.

Dirt to Soil offers guidance on topics such as soil health, farm profitability, preserving a farm across generations, livestock management, and biodiversity. The book is a wealth of knowledge wrapped up in life stories that are told with humility and wit. But it is Brown’s wisdom that truly resonates as he uniquely captures not just the how-to of regenerative farming, but the why it matters to us all.

Restoration Agriculture:

Real-World Permaculture for Farmers

By Mark Shepard

The Nest is involved with permaculture with our investment in Propagate, our support for Eat More Trees, and the diverse orchards thriving at Domaine de Graux. Transitioning farmland from annual production to permaculture is one of the most meaningful changes to make for climate and biodiversity. But it is not a simple process.

Mark Shepard’s book, Restoration Agriculture, explains the journey from annual row crop to permaculture in depth. Shepard is CEO of Restoration Agriculture Development and Forest Agriculture Nursery. His book covers his innovative approach to permaculture at scale at his 106-acre New Forest Farm. Shepard applies his background in engineering and ecology to water management, a key topic as climate change makes precipitation patterns more extreme. Shepard is also recognized for his use of perennial crops based on ecosystems in place before conventional agriculture, including the oak savannah and eastern woodlands. He is a master of plant selection, mixing varieties based on their respective ecological niche to work as a system.


What Animals Can Teach Us about Rediscovering Our Nutritional Wisdom

By Fred Provenza

Both Gabe Brown and Mark Shepard reference the concept of “body wisdom” and nutrition in their books. Nourishment by Fred Provenza dives deeper into this concept which is the idea that animals and humans have an innate flavor-feedback sense at the cellular level. This body wisdom guides food choices to meet the body’s nutritional and medicinal needs. Provenza’s text explores what this concept means for both livestock and humans, and how modern diets have affected this natural wisdom. The book is highly recommended by Eric Smith of Edacious.

Ultra-Processed People

The Science Behind Food That Isn't Food

By Chris van Tulleken

While Nourishment covers our forgotten connections to real food, Ultra-Processed People provides context on how we lost that body wisdom and the processed foods that replaced our healthy diet. This international best-selling book unpacks the collateral damage of packaged foods on both global health and the health of our globe.

van Tulleken, an infectious disease physician, put himself through an experiment of consuming 80 percent highly processed food for a month. The author documents the results of his diet experiment and his experience of understanding how unhealthy the foods were even as he felt addicted to them. The book is more than just a personal journey, however. Ultra-Processed People also covers the science of how these foods are created and the solutions we need to change our food system.

Saving Us

A Climate Scientist's Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World

By Katharine Hayhoe

Did Earth Day inspire you to act on climate change, yet you are not sure what you can do? Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe advises that the most important thing we can do about climate change is talk about it. Yet most of us avoid this conversation the same way we avoid conversing on religion and policy. Politicizing a topic is an effective way to silence it.

Hayhoe’s accessible guide provides the tools to converse on climate with any audience, even those who vehemently deny the science. The book explains why facts won’t sway opinions, and how to find common ground to bridge the divide among us. Hayhoe’s optimistic and empowering text offers a path to the consensus and shared commitment we need now.