Today on Rootstock Radio, host Theresa Marquez speaks with Robert Wolf. Formerly a Chicago Tribune columnist, Robert currently serves as the director of Free River Press. He has written several books and is the producer of American Mosaic, a weekly half-hour radio program featuring stories written and read by men and women from all walks of life and all regions of the country. Robert’s new book—fresh off the press this month!—is called Building the Agricultural City: A Handbook for Rural Renewal.

As a young man, Robert struck out across the country in search of the “American soul.” Today he admits with a laugh that this abstract target eluded him, and in the end his journey became the search for, as he puts it, “authentic voices, authentic people.” The realization that many former fixtures of American life are vanishing—family farms and cowboys to name just two—led Robert to think about the concept of rural renewal, an idea he explores in his latest book. Robert predicts that rural America will be forced to become increasingly self-reliant saying “we’ve [rural Americans] got to have common recognition that we’re in trouble. And that it’s only by putting our brains together that we’re going to really sustain a decent kind of life.”

From the overuse of pesticides in agriculture, to the huge and inhumane Confinement and Feedlot Operations (commonly referred to as CAFOs) Robert and Theresa discuss the challenges rural Americans face today—in agriculture and beyond. However, the concept of rural renewal is, by definition, a hopeful one. Robert identifies positive change already happening in rural America, as he gives a nod to “all the young people interested in organic farming and permaculture,” continuing, “there’s a desire, we just have to create the opportunity for them.”

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