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Lentils are often taken for granted – a simple staple lacking the cult status of coffee, wine, or artisan chocolate.
But there is much to learn from these tiny legumes, insists Liz Carlisle, a former country music singer and Harvard grad who is now a doctoral student in geography at UC Berkeley. For the past few years, she has immersed herself in lentil agriculture, ecology, and economics.
And along the way, she has become something of a lentil evangelist. Her passion led her to write Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America.
The book tells the story of a small farmer on a 280-acre patch of land in the Northern Great Plains, who dared to take a stand against agribusiness by planting what others considered weeds.
David Oien led a small underground network of farmers in his conservative Montana county that investigated the wonders of lentils, demonstrating to skeptics that they enrich the soil, create their own fertilizer, and thrive with little moisture.
Years of work resulted in Timeless Seeds, now a million dollar enterprise that sells lentils and heritage grains not only locally, but also to foodies across the country.