“A New Vision for Iowa Food and Agriculture” by Francis Thicke, PhD

Increasing consumer interest in food purity, ecology and environmental protection support the ongoing timeliness of Frances Thicke’s book “A New Vision for Iowa Food and Agriculture.” Drawing on his lifelong experience as a family farmer, soil scientist and organic dairy farmer Thicke’s thesis unites concerns about CAFOs, nutritious organic dairy production, balanced ecology, and sustainable pesticide-free agriculture into a grand plan to dramatically improve the future of sustainable agriculture for the 21st century.

Demonstrating repeatedly that family farm agriculture can offer holistic and often superior outcomes as compared to industrial agricultural models, the book is a must read for everyone concerned about the future of agriculture.

Thicke delineates the little-known health and environmental hazards of CAFOs, liquid manure and methane gas, as well as the importance of humane livestock production. In response he presents many ecological, life-supporting solutions to meet the nation’s growing organic food production needs. For example, his model of ideal pasture fertilization mimics the historic design of “nature’s ecology” which began with the rich mineral deposits left by ancient glaciers. Interestingly the grazing practices of native bison herds forms the basis of Thicke’s current model for organic dairy production — upholding his theory that the ecological perfection of nature’s ecology, responsible for the rich and diverse native Iowa prairies, can be easily replicated and practically applied to modern day sustainable organic dairy production. Thus his concept of multiple paddocks and grazing rotation offers a viable model for sustainable and ecological pasture management.

Thicke also offers a detailed analysis of bio-fuels introducing the reader to pyrolysis, biochar, a deeper understanding of ethanol as well as sustainable energy use and policy. Emphasizing the importance of local and regional food systems as well as food security, Thicke seeks to restore the reader’s vision of his home state as the shining jewel of American agriculture capable of transforming the agricultural systems of the nation to a new level of sustainable, health promoting and ecologically sound food production.

Simi Summer, Ph.D. is an organic advocate, independent researcher, educator, and freelance writer. She is a strong proponent of organic consumer education and informed consumer choices.