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Mennonite Farmers

A Global History of Place and Sustainability

A comparative global history of Mennonites from the ground up.

Mennonite farmers can be found in dozens of countries spanning five continents. In this comparative world-scale environmental history, Royden Loewen draws on a multi-year study of seven geographically distinctive Anabaptist communities around the world, focusing on Mennonite farmers in Bolivia, Canada, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Russia, the United States, and Zimbabwe. These farmers, who include Amish, Brethren in Christ, and Siberian Baptists, till the land in starkly distinctive climates. They absorb very disparate societal lessons while being shaped by particular faith outlooks, historical memory, and the natural environment.

The book reveals the ways in which modern-day Mennonite farmers have adjusted to diverse temperatures, precipitation, soil types, and relative degrees of climate change. These farmers have faced broad global forces of modernization during the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, from commodity markets and intrusive governments to technologies marked increasingly by the mechanical, chemical, and genetic. Based on more than 150 interviews and close textual analysis of memoirs, newspapers, and sermons, the narrative follows, among others, Zandile Nyandeni of Matopo as she hoes the spring-fed soils of Matabeleland's semi-arid savannah; Vladimir Friesen of Apollonovka, Siberia, who no longer heeds the dictates of industrial time of the Soviet-era state farm; and Abram Enns of Riva Palacio, Bolivia, who tells how he, a horse-and-buggy traditionalist, hired bulldozers to clear-cut a farm in the eastern lowland forests to grow soybeans, initially leading to dust bowl conditions.

As Mennonites, Loewen writes, these farmers were raised with knowledge of the historic Anabaptist teachings on community, simplicity, and peace that stood alongside ideas on place and sustainability. Nonetheless, conditioned by gender, class, ethnicity, race, and local values, they put their agricultural ideas into practice in remarkably diverse ways. Mennonite Farmers is a pioneering work that brings faith into conversation with the land in distinctive ways.

About the Author

Royden Loewen is a senior scholar at the University of Winnipeg. His books include Horse-and-Buggy Genius: Listening to Mennonites Contest the Modern World and Village among Nations: "Canadian" Mennonites in a Transnational World, 1916–2006.

Endorsements

"An outstanding work of comparative oral history that artfully situates Mennonite farmers within the context of Anabaptist teachings, the Mennonite diaspora, and the Anthropocene. Offering extensive descriptions of each rural environment and personal stories of life on the land, Loewen helps readers come to know each place comfortably. This excellent book is uniquely positioned to demonstrate how communitarian faith and cultural enclaves compare with 'high modernist' and technocratic government approaches to the environment."

- Joshua MacFayden, University of Prince Edward Island, author of Flax AmericanaA History of the Fibre and Oil That Covered a Continent

"Mennonite Farmers makes an important and original contribution to the history of rural and agricultural communities worldwide. Loewen does an excellent job of documenting and explaining the considerable diversity of experience across and even within seven different Mennonite communities around the world Giving ever-deepening insight into each community, this book will be of interest to scholars in Anabaptist studies, agricultural history, rural life, environmental history, and microhistorical studies."

- Ruth Wells Sandwell, University of Toronto, author of Canada's Rural Majority, 1870–1940: Households, Environments, Economies

"Royden Loewen's highly engaging account compares how farmers on five continents with shared religious beliefs have differently negotiated their encounters with their environments and modernity. Both global and local, this book will be of great interest to scholars of religion, communities, agriculture, and the environment."

- David Moon, University of York, author of The Plough that Broke the Steppes: Agriculture and Environment on Russia's Grasslands, 1700–1914

"Wonder what a group of farmers from four corners of the globe might discuss if they all came together for a coffee hour? Royden Loewen enlightens us by addressing how culture undergirds agriculture and how belief influences the business of farming. Mennonite Farmers confirms that commitment comes at a cost but can also sustain farm fields and families alike."

- Debra A. Reid, Curator of Agriculture and the Environment, The Henry Ford

"Loewen has written an imaginative and graceful global history of Mennonite farming. He builds a compelling history of how local farm communities in the Global North and Global South grappled with—and actively participated in—larger global forces. Mennonite Farmers offers a fresh perspective on the histories of agriculture, environment, and sustainability in the twentieth century."

- Stuart McCook, University of Guelph, author of Coffee is Not Forever: A Global History of the Coffee Leaf Rust

9781421442037 : mennonite-farmers-loewen
Paperback / softback
November 2, 2021
$49.95 USD
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November 2, 2021
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