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The Great Jerusalem Artichoke Circus

The Buying and Selling of the Rural American Dream

1993
Author:

Joseph A. Amato
Foreword by Paul Gruchow

The Great Jerusalem Artichoke Circus

In 1981, near the end of America’s second post-World War II energy crisis, and at the onset of the nations most recent farm crisis, American Energy Farming Systems began to sell and distribute what it deemed a “providential plant” destined to be a new and saving crop—the Jerusalem Artichoke. This volume recounts this story of the bizarre intersection of evangelical Christianity, a mythical belief in the powers of a new crop, and the depression of the U.S. farm economy in the 1980s.

In 1981, near the end of America’s second post-World War II energy crisis, and at the onset of the nations most recent farm crisis, American Energy Farming Systems began to sell and distribute what it deemed a “providential plant” destined to be a new and saving crop—the Jerusalem Artichoke. This volume recounts this story of the bizarre intersection of evangelical Christianity, a mythical belief in the powers of a new crop, and the depression of the U.S. farm economy in the 1980s.

The Great Jerusalem Artichoke Circus is as compelling as a good novel. Amato reminds us that scientific, economic, and religious history are not separate academic disciplines but are integral parts of the culture of ordinary Americans. This is local history at its best because it inspires the reader to consider how this complex and explosive culture has informed the entire history of the American public.

David Noble, University of Minnesota

In 1981, near the end of America’s second post-World War II energy crisis, and at the onset of the nations most recent farm crisis, American Energy Farming Systems began to sell and distribute what it deemed a “providential plant” destined to be a new and saving crop—the Jerusalem Artichoke. This volume recounts this story of the bizarre intersection of evangelical Christianity, a mythical belief in the powers of a new crop, and the depression of the U.S. farm economy in the 1980s.

The Great Jerusalem Artichoke Circus

Joseph A. Amato is professor of history at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minnesota. He is the author of several books of regional history, including When Father and Son Conspire: A Minnesota Farm Murder and Servants of the Land: The Trinity of Belgian Economic Folkways in Southwestern Minnesota.

The Great Jerusalem Artichoke Circus

A well written and funny history of a business scam. The book deals with the formation of AEFS at Marshall, a company founded about a dozen years ago to sell Jerusalem artichoke seed to farmers for the theoretical purpose of processing the crop into ethanol energy and food products. An important contribution to understanding rural economic development issues, modern agriculture and contemporary Minnesota history. Best of all, its entertaining.

Lee Egerstrom, St. Paul Pioneer Press

Occasionally one comes on a writer so well versed in his subject, his writing so fluid that the reader imagines the author is telling his story aloud. Amato has accomplished this rarity by researching tons of records, the huge files of the bankruptcy court and hundreds of hours of interviews. Amato’s encompassing deftness shows his professionalism and deserves recognition. The book, for all its polish as history, is a joyously funny read.

Ray Howe, Minneapolis Star Tribune

The University of Minnesota Press had done a commendable job for the state—and for general readers anywhere—by bringing us this well-told, timely and readable book about our favorite subject—money.

Bill Holm, Minnesota Calls

Joseph A. Amato has done a thorough and impressive job of researching and assembling the story of the American Energy Farming Systems. Amato has achieved an understanding of a complex group of machinations, and he writes in a vigorous, engaging style, particularly strong in characterization. The result is a praiseworthy history of some shoddy doings.

American Historical Review

Historian Joseph A. Amato’s The Great Jerusalem Artichoke Circus: The Buying and Selling of the Rural American Dream tells the story of the failed attempt by a less-than-honest businessman to turn what farmers had considered a weed into a major cash crop. The result is local history at its creative best.

Minnesota History

The Great Jerusalem Artichoke Circus is as compelling as a good novel. Amato reminds us that scientific, economic, and religious history are not separate academic disciplines but are integral parts of the culture of ordinary Americans. This is local history at its best because it inspires the reader to consider how this complex and explosive culture has informed the entire history of the American public.

David Noble, University of Minnesota