Call of the Reed Warbler
A New Agriculture, A New Earth
“Charles Massy has written a definitive masterpiece that takes its place along with the writings of Aldo Leopold, Wendell Berry, Masanobu Fukuoka, Humberto Maturana, and Michael Pollan. No work has more brilliantly defined regenerative agriculture and the breadth of its restorative impact upon human health, biodiversity, climate, and ecological intelligence.” –Paul Hawken
In Call of the Reed Warbler, Charles Massy explores regenerative agriculture and the vital connection between our soil and our health.
It is the story of how a grassroots revolution—a true underground insurgency—can save the planet, help reduce and reverse climate change, and build healthy people and healthy communities, pivoting significantly on our relationship with growing and consuming food.
Using his personal experience as a touchstone—from an unknowing, chemical-using farmer with dead soils to a radical ecologist farmer carefully regenerating a 2000-hectare property to a state of natural health—Massy tells the real story behind industrial agriculture and the global profit-obsessed corporations driving it. With evocative stories, he shows how other innovative and courageous farmers are finding a new way.
At stake is not only a revolution in human health and in our communities, but the very survival of the planet. For farmers, backyard gardeners, food buyers, health workers, policy makers, and public leaders alike, Call of the Reed Warbler offers a tangible path forward and a powerful and moving paean of hope.
It’s not too late to regenerate the earth. Call of the Reed Warbler shows the way forward for the future of our food supply, our planet, and our health.
Reviews and Praise
"In the last few decades, a growing movement toward pesticide and GMO-free farming practices has been blossoming throughout the world as a counterbalance to corporate-driven agribusinesses. Piggybacking on terms like sustainability and permaculture, veteran sheepherder and author Massy refers to these environmentally friendly methods as “regenerative agriculture,” and he offers inspiring testimony here on how he and many of his fellow food-growing Australians have transformed their farmlands by respecting the native ecosystems that surround them. In three richly informative sections, Massy recounts the background story of how aboriginal sustainable land use eventually gave way to what he calls mechanical agriculture practices; demonstrates how balancing five landscape functions, such as solar energy and water cycles, can revitalize the soil; and gives abundant examples of Aussie farmers, including himself, using these practices with great success….[Massy’s] message about the dire need for sustainability is one that all readers concerned about food and the environment should closely heed."
"An Australian sheepherder and range specialist looks at his home's biotic communities and how to improve their health with a more thoughtful kind of agriculture. Arachnophobes take note: There's a reason you want to see a lot of spiders in the tall grass, for, as Massy (Breaking the Sheep's Back, 2011, etc.) instructs, it means that good things are happening. 'To sustain millions of spiders,' he writes, 'there must be a corresponding diversity in the food chain, and healthy landscape function above and below ground.' Such a healthy landscape, argues the author in considerable detail, cannot come about through what he calls the 'more-on' approach to agriculture, piling chemicals atop increasingly unproductive soil, but instead is the result of a ‘regenerative' agriculture that necessarily happens at a small scale. The larger scale is what modern agronomists insist is needed in order to feed a growing world population, but at a cost that may be too great. As Massy observes, a livestock grower will always seek to save the herd before saving the range, no matter how shortsighted that strategy may be in the end. The author's prose can be arid and technical at times, as when he writes, 'at a global level, non-regeneratively grazed livestock emissions are a huge source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.' At others, he sounds like a modern butterflies-are-free avatar of Charles Reich: 'an Emergent mind combines elements of the previous Organic and Mechanical minds, but its true difference is an openness to the ongoing processes of emergence and self-organization.' The circularity aside, Massy's book is a useful small-is-beautiful argument for appropriate-level farming that people can do without massive machines or petrochemical inputs. Though less elegant than Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson, he certainly falls into their camp, and their readers will want to know Massy's work as well. A solid case for taking better care of the ground on which we stand."
“Part lyrical nature writing, part storytelling, part solid scientific evidence, part scholarly research, part memoir, [this] book is an elegant manifesto, an urgent call to stop trashing the Earth and start healing it.”—The Guardian
“Charles Massy has written a definitive masterpiece that takes its place along with the writings of Aldo Leopold, Wendell Berry, Masanobu Fukuoka, Humberto Maturana, and Michael Pollan. No work has more brilliantly defined regenerative agriculture and the breadth of its restorative impact upon human health, biodiversity, climate, and ecological intelligence. There is profound insight here, realized by thirty-five years of farming on the ancient, fragile soils of the Australian continent, discernment expressed with exquisite clarity, seasoned wisdom, and some breathtaking prose of poetic elegance. I believe it takes its place as the single most important book on agriculture today, one that will become a classic text.”—Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest; editor of Drawdown
“I first met Charles Massy in 2015 when he visited the ranch of the Africa Centre for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe. Building on the work of many people, Massy has now written a compelling and comprehensive book on the importance of management being holistic—and how that will ultimately lead to a regenerative agriculture capable of restoring even the most degraded ecosystems and marginalized land in any climate and at any scale. He has done this with wonderful stories that take us on a journey of ecological literacy, supported by evocative insights into landscapes, science, and practical farming and living. Call of the Reed Warbler is a massive accomplishment and contribution to our collective work of building a new agriculture, a new Earth, and renewed human society and health.”—Allan Savory, president of the Savory Institute
“This book will change the way you think about food, farming, and the place of humans on the planet. Introducing us to leaders of the regenerative agriculture movement, Massy offers real hope that we may yet fashion a society that gives more than it takes.”—Liz Carlisle, author of Lentil Underground; lecturer, School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University
“Conceptually rich and filled with examples of diverse innovators, Call of the Reed Warbler is the most comprehensive and engaging book I’ve read on regenerative agriculture. Charlie Massy contends humans have morphed from an ‘Organic mind’ into a ‘Mechanical mind,’ which is now evolving into an ‘Emergent mind’—a change in consciousness that embraces self-organizing processes. He shows how the minds of the innovators in his book were opened to three key processes: First, they began to understand how landscapes function, how ecological system work, and how they are indivisibly connected. Second, they got out of the way to let nature repair, self-organize, and regenerate these functions. Third, they had the humility to ‘listen to their land,’ change, and continue to learn with that same openness. Massy concludes we can heal Earth, but only by transforming ourselves and our connections with the landscapes and communities in which we live. This book is a thoughtful step in that direction.”—Fred Provenza, professor emeritus, Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University; author of Nourishment
“Charles Massy is a leader in the regenerative agriculture movement in Australia with a message of hope for everyone. Using his arid homeland as a touchstone, Massy thoughtfully counterbalances the damage done by industrial agriculture to our land and our prospects with evocative examples from around the world of a hopeful way forward. His beliefs are grounded in practical experience, his vision clear, and his words inspiring. Call of the Reed Warbler is a must-read!”—Courtney White, author of Grass, Soil, Hope
“Call of the Reed Warbler not only heralds the sound of an ecosystem functioning but also of a world awakening to regenerative agriculture. Charlie Massy is Australia’s equivalent to Thoreau and Leopold and a practical regenerative farmer to boot. I can’t think of anyone better equipped to pen a book like this, and to do so with such scholarship, integrity, and rollicking prose is a credit to Charlie and those whose journey he’s portrayed. Easily my ‘Book of the Year.’”—Darren J. Doherty, founder, Regrarians Limited