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Malabar Farm: Louis Bromfield, Friends of the Land, and the Rise of Sustainable Agriculture
By Anneliese Abbott

Kindle preview of Malabar Farm by Anneliese Abbott

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Ohioana Award finalist for Best Book about Ohio/Ohioan (2022)

How Malabar Farm pioneered soil conservation and grew the sustainable agriculture movement

"This is a work of great passion, which finally puts Bromfield's soil crusade in historical context. With impeccable research and vivid prose, Anneliese Abbott captures the whole wild adventure of Malabar Farm and shows how our current conversation around sustainability grew out of these rolling fields in Ohio."--Stephen Heyman, author of The Planter of Modern Life: Louis Bromfield and the Seeds of a Food Revolution

"Malabar Farm presents well-researched information about Louis Bromfield that even many of his fans may not know, introduces names of less-famous conservationists, and details the lengthy, heroic effort to save the farm. The author brings a scientist's familiarity with terminology of sustainable farming and the history of agriculture that only specialists will previously have had access to." - Deborah Fleming, winner of the PEN America Art of the Essay Award (2020) for Resurrection of the Wild: Meditations on Ohio's Natural Landscape.

Established in 1939 by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and farmer Louis Bromfield, Malabar Farm was once considered "the most famous farm in the world." Farmers, conservationists, politicians, businessmen, and even a few Hollywood celebrities flocked to rural Ohio to see how Bromfield restored worn-out land to lush productivity using conservation practices. Permanent, sustainable agriculture, Bromfield preached, was the "New Agriculture" that would transform the postwar world.

Anneliese Abbott tells the story of Malabar Farm within the context of the wider histories of soil conservation, the environmental movement, and the Ohio-based conservation organization Friends of the Land. Malabar Farm, which became an Ohio state park in 1976, provides an intriguing case study of how soil conservation flourished during the New Deal, was marginalized during the 1950s, and continues to influence the modern idea of sustainable agriculture.

To see Malabar strictly as a modern production farm - or a nature preserve, or the home of a famous novelist - oversimplifies the complexity of what Bromfield actually did. Malabar wasn't a conventional farm or an organic farm; it was both. Malabar Farm represents a middle ground that is often lacking in modern discussions about sustainability or environmental issues, yet remains critically important.

Anneliese Abbott grew up on a small Michigan farm. Her research on the history of Malabar Farm began while studying plant and soil science at the Ohio State University. She earned an MS in environmental studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2022 and is continuing her research on the history of organic agriculture independently.

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