Duram, Leslie A.

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Duram, Leslie A.




Office—Department of Geography, 1000 Faner Dr., Rm. 4520, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901; fax: 618-453-6465. E-mail—[email protected].


Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, professor and chair of department of geography and environmental resources.


Good Growing: Why Organic Farming Works (nonfiction), University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2005.


Leslie A. Duram presents the case for organic farming as the most practical agricultural method for the future in her book Good Growing: Why Organic Farming Works. Organic farming means using land, feed, and animals that are certifiably free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Instead of chemicals, natural methods and products are used to control pests, increase yield, and manage animal health. Farming organically produces lower yields and entails more cost than so-called "conventional" farming methods used by agribusinesses, which rely on the latest pesticides and fertilizers to bring in abundant harvests with minimal labor. The chemicals used in high-tech agribusiness practices are known to have detrimental effects on soil and water supplies, however, and leave a much greater impact on the land. Duram's book uses previously existing research and her own interviews with the owners of six diverse, successful organic farms from various regions of the United States to show that organic farming is the best choice for the future of agriculture.

Good Growing has six chapters. The first gives an overview of organic farming, its supporters, and the reasons consumer demand for organic food have increased. "In this chapter, the reader easily gets a clear, complete snapshot of the major issues usually raised in comparative analyses of organic and conventional farming systems," stated Cesar L. Escalante in his review for the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. In the next two chapters, the author goes into detail about the benefits organic gardening holds economically, socially, and scientifically. Organic methods enrich the soil rather than depleting it, as conventional methods do. The result of organic methods is that the soil is better able to withstand drought and erosion. Duram discusses marketing organic food at farmers' markets and through Community Supported Agriculture. The fourth chapter is made up of case studies of individual farmers, many of whom began with conventional methods but made a transition to organic farming. Because organic farming is usually locally based, it promotes strong, cooperative communities, as opposed to conventional farming, which is run purely for-profit, with little regard to impact on the local communities where the farms are operated.

In the book, organic farmers themselves express their motivations and goals, as well as relating their experiences in organic farming. In the fifth chapter, the author analyzes the factors that led to the success of the farms in the case studies, and in the sixth chapter, she suggests policies and plans that could benefit organic farming, including a show of support for organic farmers from the federal government, clear and reasonable standards for organic certification; the passage of supportive state and national policies are also among her suggestions. Duram warns that the current agricultural system in the United States is near total collapse, due to the inability of family farmers to make a living when competing against huge agribusiness interests. Her book also explains the dangers of the trend toward what she calls "Big O Ag," in which organic methods are adapted to fit an agribusiness model.

Reviewing Good Growing for New Farm, Laura Sayre felt that it would have been a better book if Duram had interviewed more farmers. Still, Sayre added, "this complaint cannot detract from the genuine power of these interviews, which Duram presents in fairly raw form." Barbara Jacobs, reviewing for Booklist, noted that, while organic farming was once considered a "hippie vocation," it has become steadily more mainstream for years. She found the interview section "perhaps the most intriguing" part of the book.

"Good Growing is unapologetically ‘advocacy scholarship,’ and the author's passion for her subject and her strong point of view is refreshing," wrote Steven M. Schnell in the Geographical Review. "Though cast in scholarly form, it is clearly written and eschews jargon, making it accessible to a broader audience as well as to scholars. I can only hope that Duram is able to reach this audience, because, as she makes clear, the future lies in the hands—and stomachs—of countless individuals. Good Growing is, at its heart, an encouraging vision of a real alternative to industrialized agriculture and an empowering tale of a highly successful grassroots social movement."



Agricultural History, spring, 2007, Thomas A. Lyson, review of Good Growing: Why Organic Farming Works, p. 280.

American Journal of Agricultural Economics, August, 2006, Cesar L. Escalante, review of Good Growing, p. 772.

Booklist, February 15, 2005, Barbara Jacobs, review of Good Growing, p. 1045.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, October, 2005, J. Nabe, review of Good Growing, p. 314.

Chronicle of Higher Education, May 6, 2005, review of Good Growing.

Ecologist, July 1, 2005, Sarah McCarthy, review of Good Growing, p. 65.

Geographical Review, January, 2006, Steven M. Schnell, review of Good Growing, p. 157.


Department of Geography, Southern Illinois University Web site,http://www.geog.sui.edu/ (March 13, 2008).

New Farm,http://www.newfarm.org/ (March 17, 2005), Laura Sayre, review of Good Growing.