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CCFB News» April 2023

Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman: Book Review and Documentary Screening

In the book, Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman by Miriam Horn, readers are exposed immediately to the grandeur of the Mississippi River and its 7,000 tributaries that flow water from the Rockies and the Appalachians into a basin that ends in the Gulf of Mexico. The author, a former employee of the Environmental Defense Fund, notes that the Mississippi River basin is the third largest in the world, behind only the Amazon and Congo. Its importance as a great natural resource is set early on.


This book was Cook County Farm Bureau’s 2023 selection for its book club that this year drew more than a dozen participants. As a bonus after reading the book, all CCFB members and friends were invited to view the documentary film of the same name at the Historic Wagner Farm, adding a rich audio-visual dimension to the reading and discussion experience.


The author, who holds a PhD in earth and environmental sciences, sets the stage for a wonderous adventure down the river as told by five kinds of American conservationists: a rancher in Wyoming, a farmer in Kansas, a riverman from Mississippi, a shrimper in Louisiana, and a fisherman in the Florida Gulf. All have livelihoods that involve the Mississippi River indirectly or directly.


Readers are treated to in-depth features of each family that covers their backstory, their commitment to work, family, faith, country, and their local and national political involvement to result in a better world for their children and next generations. Note: almost all have deep American roots and in one case, the shrimpers as immigrants, have adapted to and adopted the American way with fervor and their own religious hybrids.


While each family works with natural resources in different ways based on geography, climate, and land with farming, ranching with animals, navigating waterways, shrimping in salt and fresh waters, or fishing in competitive waters, the consistent throughline revealed their unwavering commitment to conservation. That goal allows for the sustainment of resources that produce our food, water, clean air for sustenance, and recreation.


Their in-depth knowledge and constant attention to conservation and advancements resulted in each becoming sought-out leaders to represent their respective professions, often being the only person closest to the land (or water) at the table.


Because of their cooperation with a variety of stakeholders, they were able to smooth out tensions – or least explain another point of view – when meeting with regulators, environmentalists, industrialists, lawyers, politicians, academics, and others.


The CCFB book club participants noted their appreciation of the far-reaching work of these dedicated and “colorful conservationists” who, until recently, have been quietly working to advance environmental conservation. After reading this book, the group expressed a sense of hope for the future.


Panel members (left to right) Blake Lanphier, Doug Yunker, Mike Rauch, Jeff Heinsohn and moderator Bona Heinsohn open the discussion following a public screening of the documentary Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman based on the 2017 novel by the same title by Miriam Horn.  Numerous Farm Bureau members have been participating in conversations regarding the novel during the Book Club hosted by Cook County Farm Bureau®.

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