Iowan Beth Hoffman’s book explores myths about modern farming

Beth Hoffman's book "Betting on the farm."

My husband Richard, a voracious reader, says Beth Hoffman’s book, “Bet the Farm,” is the best book he’s read all year.

The book gives you a perspective on farming and addresses what the author calls two myths: “bigger is better” and the “agricultural myth” that farmers are rugged individualists who will always be there for us.

Wait, dear city subscriber, don’t blow this column away because you don’t care about farming. We are closely connected to what is happening around us, from water quality to supermarket prices.

If you care about the security of the country, you want to understand how vulnerable the agricultural industry is.

Hoffman’s book reminded Richard of Malcolm Gladwell’s writings (“Blink,” “The Tipping Point,” and other bestsellers). Richard says he doesn’t think even Gladwell could have done what Hoffman did to explain current agricultural policies.

Early in his career, Richard edited the Iowa REC News, which was sent to all members of the Rural Cooperatives of Iowa, and edited two Iowa newspapers in rural Iowa. And he grew up on a farm in Seymour, Iowa.

Julie Gammack

Hoffman points out that even with huge government subsidies, most farms are barely profitable. She left a successful career as a journalist on agriculture and as a professor in San Francisco to move to Lovilla, Iowa, “to put into practice what she had learned in decades of reporting on food and agriculture.” She and her husband now work on the farm that has been in his family for five generations.

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