Plowed Under: Agriculture and Environment in the Palouse

Paperback | February 11, 2010

byAndrew P. DuffinForeword byWilliam Cronon

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In Plowed Under, Andrew P. Duffin traces the transformation of the Palouse region of Washington and Idaho from land thought unusable and unproductive to a wealth-generating agricultural paradise, weighing the consequences of what this progress has wrought. During the twentieth century, the Palouse became synonymous with wheat, and the landscape was irrevocably altered. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, native vegetation is almost nonexistent, stream water is so dirty that it is often unfit for even livestock, and 94 percent of all land has been converted to agriculture.

Commercial agriculture also created a less noticeable ecological change: soil erosion. While common to industrial agriculture nationwide, topsoil loss evoked different political and social reactions in the Palouse. Farmers all over the nation take pride in their freedom and independence, but in the Palouse, Duffin shows, this mentality - a remnant of an older agrarian past - has been taken to the extreme and is partly responsible for erosion problems that are among the worst in the nation.

In the hope of charting a better, more sustainable future, Duffin argues for a candid look at the land, its people, their decisions, and the repercussions of those decisions. As he notes, the debate is not over whether to use the land, but over what that use will look like and its social and ecological results.

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In Plowed Under, Andrew P. Duffin traces the transformation of the Palouse region of Washington and Idaho from land thought unusable and unproductive to a wealth-generating agricultural paradise, weighing the consequences of what this progress has wrought. During the twentieth century, the Palouse became synonymous with wheat, and the...

From the Jacket

New in Paper--Duffin traces the transformation of the Palouse region of Washington and Idaho from land thought unusable and unproductive to a wealth-generating industrial agricultural paradise, weighing the consequences of what this progress has wrought.

Andrew P. Duffin is assistant professor of history at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 9.1 × 6.05 × 0.7 inPublished:February 11, 2010Publisher:University Of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0295990171

ISBN - 13:9780295990170

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Table of Contents

Foreword: The Wind's Gift of Wheat by William CrononAcknowledgments1. Introduction: A Place Called the Palouse2. The Precontact Palouse3. From Bunchgrass Backwater to Agricultural Empire4. The Implications of Prosperity5. Lessons Learned and Unlearned6. Better Farming through Chemistry7. Lessons Neglected and Rejected8. A Glimmer of Hope?EplilogueNotesSelected BibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

In Plowed Under, Andrew P. Duffin traces the transformation of the Palouse region of Washington and Idaho from land thought unusable and unproductive to a wealth-generating agricultural paradise, weighing the consequences of what this progress has wrought. During the twentieth century, the Palouse became synonymous with wheat, and the landscape was irrevocably altered. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, native vegetation is almost nonexistent, stream water is so dirty that it is often unfit for even livestock, and 94 percent of all land has been converted to agriculture.Commercial agriculture also created a less noticeable ecological change: soil erosion. While common to industrial agriculture nationwide, topsoil loss evoked different political and social reactions in the Palouse. Farmers all over the nation take pride in their freedom and independence, but in the Palouse, Duffin shows, this mentality - a remnant of an older agrarian past - has been taken to the extreme and is partly responsible for erosion problems that are among the worst in the nation.In the hope of charting a better, more sustainable future, Duffin argues for a candid look at the land, its people, their decisions, and the repercussions of those decisions. As he notes, the debate is not over whether to use the land, but over what that use will look like and its social and ecological results.If our goal is to imagine where food will come from for the grandchildren of our grandchildren, then the paradoxical mix of private rights and public subsidies that have supported erosive soil practices on Palouse farms seems especially instructive. For just this reason, Plowed Under deserves to be read even by those who have never visited the curious hill country lying north of the Snake River in eastern Washington and western Idaho. - William Cronon, from the Foreword