In 2019, half of America’s two million farms made less than $300. For Beth Hoffman, a journalist who’d spent decades reporting on food and agriculture, the hard financial truths of farming became painfully clear after she and her husband packed up their life in San Francisco and moved to a 530-acre farm owned by his family in Iowa.
Bet the Farm: The Dollars and Sense of Growing Food in America is a compelling and deeply personal narrative that delivers a unique view into the realities of the American farm. As a beginning farmer, Hoffman and her husband need to negotiate with her father-in-law, who is reluctant to hand over control of the land. They have to find somewhere – anywhere – to slaughter grass-finished beef and must weather the losses of a failed oat crop. Through her own struggles, Hoffman reveals the larger story of American agriculture and explores how a more economically and environmentally sustainable system may be possible.
Bet the Farm looks at issues as far ranging as a changing climate, rising land costs, limited health care options, ever-more expensive equipment, and the emotional toll farming can take. But it also looks at the role myths play in pitting farmers against each other, trapping them in endless cycles of debt, and encouraging self-exploitation. Hoffman calls for a new national narrative, one that honestly addresses the financial realities of farming and reckons with the dark history of agriculture. ◊