Stephanie Anderson grew up on her family’s ranch in South Dakota, so it’s not hard to see why she would be interested in writing about ways to keep America’s farmland alive.
In her new book, One Size Fits None: A Farm Girl’s Search for the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture, Anderson travels the United States researching that very topic, spending time with everyone from an organic vegetable farmer in Florida to a bison rancher in South Dakota. She aims to present the case for “regenerative” agriculture, a term she hopes will replace “sustainable” as a new way to approach agricultural practices.
Regenerative agriculture goes more local, the main goal being to renew resources instead of apply sustainable practices to the diminished conditions of much of this country’s farmland.
Anderson, who got her MFA in creative nonfiction from Florida Atlantic University, now lives in Boca Raton and works at FAU as an English instructor. One Size Fits None’s first chapter begins in Florida, with Ryan Roth, a conventional vegetable and sugarcane farmer. She uses his story to set up the idea that conventional agriculture is not, well, sustainable.
In her introduction, Anderson lays this out:
“Sustainable” has long been the rallying cry of agricultural progressives; given that much of our nation’s farm and ranch land is already degraded, however, sustainable agriculture often means maintaining a less-than-ideal status quo. Industrial agriculture has also co-opted the term for marketing purposes without implementing better practices. Stephanie Anderson argues that in order to provide nutrient-rich food and fight climate change, we need to move beyond sustainable to regenerative agriculture, a practice that is highly tailored to local environments and renews resources.
She sets the scene at a South Dakota buffalo ranch, and goes on to say:
But it doesn’t have to be this way. The buffalo before me represent a new agriculture that can help restore the prairie and other landscapes without sacrificing the amount of food produced. These animals show us that there are many ways to farm and ranch, that we can change how we define those terms, that we can reverse the damage we have done and create a better agricultural future. The buffalo are walking, breathing proof that human beings do not have to destroy the earth in order to eat.
Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading
Stephanie Anderson will speak at 12:15 p.m. Saturday in Davis Hall Room 103 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, 140 Seventh Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Free. festivalofreading.com.