Bet the Farm is a firsthand account of the reality of farming today and an exploration of more just and sustainable ways of producing food.
Beth Hoffman was living the good life: she had a career as a journalist and professor, a comfortable home in San Francisco, and plenty of close friends and family. Yet in her late 40s, she and her husband decided to leave the big city and move to his family ranch in Iowa—all for the dream of becoming a farmer, to put into practice everything she had learned over decades of reporting on food and agriculture. There was just one problem: money.
The economics of agriculture are a challenge: half of America's two million farms made less than $300 in 2019. Between rising land costs, ever-more expensive equipment, and the growing uncertainty of the climate, farming today is a risky business. For many, simply staying afloat is a constant struggle.
Bet the Farm looks at the cultural, environmental and economic aspects of agriculture in America, and chronicles this struggle through Beth’s eyes as a beginning farmer. The family must figure out how to pass the farm from one generation to the next. Growing oats is good for the environment but ends up being very bad for the wallet. And finding somewhere, in the midst of COVID-19, to slaughter and sell grass-finished beef is a nightmare.
Even with a decent nest egg and access to land, making ends meet at times seems impossible. And Beth knows full well that she is among the privileged. If Beth can’t make it, how can farmers who confront racism, lack access to land, or don’t have other jobs to fall back on, succeed? Bet the Farm is a first-hand account of the perils of farming today and a personal exploration of more just and sustainable ways of producing food.
"Bet the Farm works wonders in the classroom. It conveys to students the economics of--and the scale of--contemporary farming. Immensely readable and relatable, Hoffman's concise narrative reframes farming for general readers and explains what's at stake with industrial agriculture. In my classroom, it stirred student interest and led to an inspired discussion."
Use Bet the Farm in your classroom, or invite Beth to speak at your book club or to your class. Contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out the Readers Guide here.
Dr. Andrew Offenburger
Associate Professor of History
"Beth Hoffman gave a lively and informative talk at Grinnell College related to her book, Bet the Farm. The event was very well-attended, and Beth’s remarks generated considerable interest and numerous questions, and even sparked a debate between two members of the audience, a sure sign of success. Her book is packed with information and insights and would be an ideal choice for use in a college class."
Professor and Director
Center for Prairie Studies