Thursday, September 29, 2016

Heroes of the Heartland: A Chat with Author Miriam Horn

Miriam Horn's latest book, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman, released this month by W.W. Norton & Company, smashes traditional notions about many things: what it means to be a sustainable producer; what conservation looks like; and the idea that traditional, conservative Americans are hostile to environmental issues.

The book tells the stories of five unlikely conservationists along the Mississippi watershed: Dusty Crary, a Montana rancher; Justin Knopf, a Kansas farmer; Merritt Lane, a Mississippi riverman; Sandy Nguyen, a Louisiana shrimper; and Wayne Werner, a Gulf Coast fisherman. Horn spent three years traveling, researching, and writing the book, visiting her subjects throughout the seasons: to Montana, for instance, during calving season; to Kansas for wheat planting; and to 90 miles out in the Gulf to catch red snapper.

What seems like an up-to-the-minute story about the intersection of agriculture and environmental issues becomes, in the hands of Horn, a story about the histories of both the people she’s writing about and the land they call home, giving us a deeper understanding of both. None of her five subjects would likely call themselves conservationists, but never the less have dedicated their lives to protecting the heritage and natural wealth of their regions by bringing together disparate groups of people—from politicians to large landowners to hardcore environmentalists—in order to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy the continued bounty of the land and sea. 

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