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Tom Philpott in conversation with Maddie Oatman / Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It

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Booksmith and Mother Jones present a virtual event with Tom Philpott for his new book Perilous Bounty: The Looming Collapse of American Farming and How We Can Prevent It. He'll be in conversation with Mother Jones senior editor Maddie Oatman.

This is a free event, but RSVP is required.


Our two dominant food-producing regions—California's Central Valley and the Corn Belt of the Midwest—are both in a state of accelerating ecological decline. To make matters worse, the agribusiness interests that dominate these regions actively consume the ecological foundations that support agriculture itself. California's farms are mining non-renewable water and Corn Belt operations are exhausting their soil. 

In this vital book, veteran journalist and former farmer Tom Philpott explores the corporations, investment funds, and magnates who benefit from these hazardous cycles. As massive companies put upward pressure on prices, mid-sized, diversified farms wither. The money-making deluge of chemical weedkillers stifles farming innovation and produces toxic runoff. Consumers encounter bountiful but health-ruining calories from cheap meat, sweetener, and fat. And our precious stores of water and tenable soil vanish.

Resource scarcity looms on the horizon, but rather than point us toward doomsday, Philpott shows how American agriculture could be routed away from its path to disaster. He profiles farmers and activists who are valiantly and inventively pushing back: their resilient, soil-building, water-smart farming practices and preparation for climate shocks show the way toward an abundant future. And he explains how consumers can help move these methods from the margins to the mainstream.

Perilous Bounty is a timely investigation of the United States’ food system as we plunge into an era of climate chaos, and an essential exploration of possible solutions.

Tom Philpott has been the food and agriculture correspondent for Mother Jones since 2011. Previously, he covered food as a writer and editor for the environmental-news website Grist. Philpott’s work on food politics has appeared in the New York TimesNewsweek, and the Guardian, among other places. From 2004 to 2012, he farmed at Maverick Farms in Valle Crucis, NC. He lives in North Carolina and Austin, Texas.

Maddie Oatman is a senior editor at Mother Jones, where she writes about the environment, food and farming, and culture. Her writing has won awards and been featured in The Best American Science and Nature Writing. She is the executive producer and co-host, along with Tim Philpott and Kiera Butler, of Mother Jones’ podcast Bite, a show for people who think hard about their food.

This event is free and all ages, but RSVP is required.

To have a copy of Perilous Bounty sent to your door, order here or add the book to your cart when you register.