Maverick to Mainstream, A History of No-Till Farming, is a magnum opus by Frank Lessiter, founding editor of No-Till Farmer magazine.
November 20, 2018 By Jerry Carlson — You may call this full-color, glossy volume a “coffee table book.” At our house, we keep Maverick on the kitchen table. My wife Jill and I browse a few pages at a time. For us it’s somewhat of a reunion with longtime friends shown on those 416 pages. And it’s a reminder of how fast five decades have blurred past in farming. Frank, the first and current editor of No-Till Farmer, helped publisher Roy Reiman start the magazine in 1972, the same year Merrill Oster and I launched Professional Farmers of America. Frank bought No-Till Farmer in 1981.
For someone new to farming, Maverick to Mainstream offers a rich perspective on a major advance in production agriculture. No-till, strip-till and cover crops have literally laid the groundwork for entering an era of building soil biology for healthier crops and healthier people. Maverick presents discoveries and refinements from 54 writers and editors over a half-century.
If you’ve farmed a couple of generations, the book gives you major milestones of significant tillage discoveries and developments. It chronicles how agriculture changes gradually, testing each fresh idea.
Frank Lessiter is also rare among editors for braving controversial subjects. (Such as those which threaten advertising revenue.) No-Till Farmer was among the first commercial publications to document weed resistance to glyphosate. In March 2010, the magazine published a major feature, Are We Shooting Ourselves in the Foot with a Silver Bullet? We told that “back story” on this website in November 2017, including how the magazine had just published a report on glyphosate’s soil-health impact. Frank told us that “We got a lot of pushback” from the corporate powers-that-be for questioning glyphosate. But his journalistic principles prevailed.
This is a classy volume, not just cut-and-paste from old No-Till Farmer issues. Honorable mention should go to Jayne Laste and Jeff Lazewski for book design and layout. Frank tells me his team found many of the original 35mm color images preserved in the magazine’s archives. “We scanned and enhanced them digitally,” he said.