The Wallace K. Ferguson Prize
Royden Loewen, Mennonite Farmers. A Global History of Place and Sustainability
Royden Loewen’s Mennonite Farmers is a landmark scholarly achievement of comparative history, drawing upon the efforts of the “Seven Points on Earth” research team to study agricultural communities scattered across five continents, including four in the global north and three in the global south. Examining how ‘belief influences the business of farming’, the book centers communities that share Mennonite identities but which are otherwise shaped by diverse natural environments and local cultures. The book makes effective use of its broad primary material, including its treatment of oral histories and interviews, and offers a deep dive into several wellsprings of global environmental history. It brings together past and present, asking of its subjects and its readers what it means to be good stewards of the earth.
Mennonite Farmers is sprawling yet succeeds in keeping it together. But this jury has been most struck by its depth. Vertically, Mennonite Farmers stands out as it looks at its subjects’ different answers to different soils and climates; at their relations with the modernization of global agriculture and agricultural knowledge; at their understanding of their faith and purpose on Earth; at the work of Mennonite women; at their relations with state biopower; at their experience of climate change. Throughout, Loewen presents its subjects’ views with empathy, while reminding the reader of the regional and global forces at work.
Amidst a field of books remarkable for their reading and interpretation of evidence, Mennonite Farmers stood out for its ambition and innovative scholarly achievement.
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