Book Review

McClaughry: Green New Deal vs. Small Farm Republic

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by John McClaughry 

John Klar, the lawyer/farmer from Brookfield has just published his book “Small Farm Republic: Why Conservatives Must Embrace Local Agriculture, Reject Climate Alarmism, and Lead an Environmental Revival” (White River Jct. : Chelsea Green, 2023).

While the subtitle is clearly intended to speak to “conservatives”, including libertarians and various types of decentralists across the political spectrum, those concerned about Vermont’s future who don’t consider themselves “conservatives” should read it nonetheless, because the path it charts offers a meeting ground for all but what Klar describes as “carbon cult doomsday advocates.”

John Klar admits he was born in Connecticut but in his youth regularly stayed at his present farm in Brookfield, Vermont  “where my [single parent] mother’s family had farmed for six generations until bulk tank and other unaffordable regulatory requirements drove them out.”

John McClaughry

John was what one might call a trail hiking fanatic, all over the U.S but especially in the White Mountains. He earned a law degree and practiced tax law in the UK and in Connecticut. In 1988 he was suddenly stricken with Lyme disease and fibromyalgia, and became unable to continue his law practice.

He relocated with his “crazy horse person” RN wife Jackie to small, working dairy farms in Barton and Irasburg, and in 2019 removed to part of the maternal family homestead in Brookfield. That hands-on experience as a small farmer – dairy, pigs, produce, feed – sold John on the economic, cultural and political benefits of what he calls the “small farm republic”. He became, in his words, an “agripublican.”

From his perspective, America faces an environmental challenge far more immediate and dangerous than any single-minded attack on fossil fuels to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to stop global temperatures from increasing by another degree or two C by the end of the century.

Says he, “Local and regenerative farming practices reverse the climate and soil crises, reverse water depletion, and turn around the economic  and cultural decline of rural communities. They reduce harms to human health from chemicals, preservatives, early harvesting (which deprives produce of vital nutrients), antibiotics, hormones, pathogens, nutrition deficiency and so on; lessen inhumane treatment of animals during life and slaughter, and mitigate negative consequences of globalization, including related threats to national security.”

“They also reduce American dependency on immense industrial producers and processors, ports, distributors, and retailers for food while building public trust in Republicans to offer sincere and effective solutions to observable environmental harms.” He is a dedicated fan of cattle:  “Ruminants comprise an integral link in sustainable agriculture and converting industrial meat production to rotational grass-based methodology is the best single tool to mitigate climate change.”

Klar doesn’t challenge the arguments for addressing climate issues, but he is scathingly critical of the Democrats’ solution of choice, the multi-trillion dollar Green New Deal. “The grotesque inadequacies, even counterproductive harms, proposed by the Green New Deal are apparent. Conservatives must lead the charge to fashion methods to counter the destructive profiteering that has dominated food production, and the deteriorating American environmental landscape, for over a hundred increasingly destructive years.”

In a paragraph that really ought to wake up liberals, Klar writes “the ‘Green Revolution’ was really about selling chemicals, agricultural machinery, and engineered seeds (and plunging farmers into destructive debt), [and] so is this climate-rescuing spin about peddling solar panels, EVs, and other technologies to which a handful of profiteers will make a quick bundle at the expense of true change.” That’s certainly grist for a Michael Moore follow-on exposé to “Planet of the Humans”.

Can America, heavily urbanized, possibly revert to adequately feed itself through millions of environmentally sensitive small farms?  “Small Farm Republic” falls short of making a believable case for it. Nor does it explain how millions of people working in America’s vast food creation, processing and distribution system can find other ways to make a living. This former tax lawyer’s policy recommendations, aside from deregulating small farms, tend to resemble the subsidy-ridden, tax credit fueled Green New Deal turned upside down.

But that said, Klar’s writing is well informed, lucid, and passionate. If it opens the eyes of both conservatives and liberals to the problems inherent in mega-agriculture, his book will become a valuable and timely addition to the works of Wendell Berry and Joel Salatin, both inspirations and enthusiasts for the book.

The author, a Kirby resident, is founder and vice-president of the Ethan Allen Institute. To read all EAI news and commentary, go to

Categories: Book Review, Commentary

7 replies »

  1. I just finished reading Small Farm Republic. I’m very happy I read it. It underscores the need for real change in the Federal bureaucracy’s approach to Agriculture, among other important things. I hope this message gets picked up and articulated by other members of national leadership. It’s essential to our future.

  2. No worries, the globalist government has initiated landgrab 2023. Here is how Phil views the current situation in Vermont: “From my perspective, that means merging our flood recovery efforts and the community revitalization work we’d already begun using historic federal ARPA funds. As you know, we dedicated hundreds of millions to this work for things like housing, water, sewer, stormwater, infrastructure, climate change mitigation, economic development and more. Coordinating these efforts is how we can best build back stronger.” As well as build back “smarter” right Phil? Climate change mitigation – not only here, but Maui, Texas, California, or anywhere a disaster happens to occur of which there are many to date. The globalists will burn you out or flood you out – they are as relentless as they are dangerous.

  3. Yes, Mr. Klar’s book is good reading- and probably important reading for all- including the liberal minded folks that have succumbed to the pretending around contemporary politics. I remember a important tome written and compiled in 2008 that too was largely ignored by those that should have paid attention- “Off the Rails”. Unfortunately, Off the Rails is prophesy of Vermont’s current conditions- perhaps Klar’s writing is the same.
    Until the pretending stops, Vermont and the Nation will continue to get what we are getting…

  4. Sounds like a nice effort by Mr Klar. I’ll have to pick up a copy. Maybe the book addresses these, but there are a couple of things that need to be said.

    First, the simple act of planting thousands more long-lived and native trees could, in theory, take care of any *global warming* (because that’s really what we’re talking about, isn’t it?) by itself. Add modern forest and succession management to this, and it’s a no-brainer.

    Second, in and of itself, moving toward a small farm-based model would mitigate huge amounts of CO2, if you really think that’s a problem. Think of all the transportation and distribution costs from who knows where involved in bringing meat, poultry, grain, and produce to Vermont, and all the extra fuel involved in doing so. By encouraging more local agriculture, these problems would be diminished. And if local agriculture were scaled up, who knows how far it could expand. 50% of our consumption? 60%? I don’t know, but it makes sense. So you might have to live with only acquiring avocados or bananas *in season*. Our ancestors seemed to do just fine.

    And hey, it wasn’t THAT long ago when the thought of vineyards in Vermont was dismissed as folly. Same with many grains. Too cold, they said. Welp, how’d that work out? Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

    I’m a Free Market-er, for what it’s worth. Left to their own ingenuity, which means keeping government, both state and federal, out, the people usually come up with the best solution, especially our farmers.

  5. The green new deal is called that because all it does is put money in politicians pockets.

  6. I thought Vermont was “liberal” until I saw this state “hire” some youngster at AAF&M (or whatever) to “monitor” an online swap/sales site for selling farm raised & butchered local raised meat and John was in their sights. And these are the same folks that bother small farmers while ignoring liquid manure running right past tiny “buffer zones” while the algae “blooms” are bigger & come earlier every year? Maybe we should change the motto to “The Green Lakes State”, anyone remember ANR head Deb Markowitz changing the “allowable” e-coli levels from 77/1000 to the Federal’s 235/1000 so “more people could enjoy open waterways”? It’s Nuts.

  7. I read John’s book, will be reading it again, sent it to a friend and intend to send a copy to my family out of state.
    I thought it was great. It reminded me a bit like reading the Bible or going to church and hearing the same, in a slightly different way, over and over again but finally a light bulb goes on in your head and you are like, YES I get it!
    Klar’s references to small farm regenerative farming practices and how they can improve, our earth, the climate ,our foods nutrient content and our communities were not just pie in the sky statements. It was fact and science based, interesting and encouraging.
    His ideas for the reduction of the huge subsidies that are given to big farms and the slaughtering of animals on site were all spot on.
    Klar’s book encourages people to talk to each other and to seek information. He’s not giving you all the answers nor does he claim to have all the answers. You will enjoy this book and come away with a renewed sense of responsibility for your health and well being. It really is a must read.
    I appreciate and value John McClaughry and his opinions. I’d like to address a few things that McClaughry stated, that didn’t quite sit right with me.

    “Can America, heavily urbanized, possibly revert to adequately feed itself through millions of environmentally sensitive small farms? “Small Farm Republic” falls short of making a believable case for it. “

    John Klar did not try to convey this to the reader. He clearly said he is not in favor of getting rid of big farms, as people would starve if this were to happen. What Klar did say was something along the lines of this, “small local farms might not feed the world but they will feed locally. “

    “Nor does it explain how millions of people working in America’s vast food creation, processing and distribution system can find other ways to make a living. “

    I think this is irrelevant to the purpose of John Klar’s book. And besides, even if America was all small farms, ( which Klar never suggested would ever happen), we all have seen in the past, when America changes people do as well and they will find new ways of making a living. Perhaps many of these people will be working on small farms or at new businesses created because of these small farm enterprises. Who knows.