On the Work of the Berry Family and the Berry Center

Mary’s work is steeped in her family’s past in more ways than one. The Berry Center is housed in what was her grandfather’s law office beginning in 1927, an historic building in downtown New Castle. To inform her own practices and the work of the future, important archival work is happening there. Big John was a fervent documentarian. In his career, he kept records of his efforts in law and in farming, as well as proof of the progress and problems around him. His sons followed suit, both continuing to observe the agrarian world where they were immersed. Combined, the efforts of the three offer a keen insight into rural, agrarian life in Kentucky, though much of their work has been lost and scattered in trash bins and forgotten files. But through the Berry Center, their writings are being assembled and organized for pressing work. 

Using the writings of her family members and her own vast experiences, Mary is going to pilot a program she hopes will restore what was lost in her hometown. 

Applying the principles of the Burley Tobacco Program, Mary Berry hopes to make local cattle agriculture thrive. As it stands, Kentucky has the most beef cattle of any state east of the Mississippi. Still, it’s uncommon for family farms to make a living on cattle alone.

The Local Beef Initiative will begin by taking a group of up to six farmers and placing them in a co-op, similar to the one established by the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative. Farmers in the co-op will be required to raise the cows on grass and without antibiotics or hormones, in return for access to parity pricing — achieved by maintaining a relationship with a processor and distributor. 

In this scenario, the Berry Center would play the role that the federal government did in the Burley Tobacco Program, putting mechanisms into place, establishing parity pricing, taking the farmers involved out of competition with each other and preventing them from overproducing. 

“My hope is that once we get the Local Beef Initiative going that young farmers who are involved will say to their friends, ‘You know, I've done this with the Berry Center ... and I've made some money. You should have a look.’ You could convince farmers that way a lot faster than any of us could convince them just going and knocking on their door.” 

Read the complete article by Jodi Cash at The Bitter Southerner.


Wendell Berry and others on BBC Radio 4

On Start the Week Andrew Marr talks to the American writer, poet and farmer Wendell Berry. In his latest collection of essays, The World-Ending Fire, Berry speaks out against the degradation of the earth andthe violence and greed of unbridled consumerism, while evoking the awe he feels as he walks the land in his native Kentucky.

His challenge to the false call of progress and the American Dream is echoed in the writing of Paul Kingsnorth, whose book Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist eschews the grand narrative of a global green movement to focus on what matters - the small plot of land beneath his feet.

Kate Raworth calls herself a renegade economist and, like Berry and Kingsnorth, challenges orthodox thinking, as she points to new ways to understand the global economy which take into consideration human prosperity and ecological sustainability.

Listen to the very good conversation at BBC Radio 4.


Wendell Berry Supports Senate Candidate

Wendell and Tanya Berry, along with Mary Berry and Steve Smith have written a letter to the Louisville Courier-Journal in which they express their support of Democratic U. S. Senate candidate Sellus Wilder. He is running against incumbent Republican Rand Paul. The Berrys and Smith write, in part,

We approve of his platform, which we know that he is offering as a promise to his constituents to try in good faith to do what he has told them he will try to do. We are particularly grateful for his commitment to clean soil, clean water and clean air, though he understands the long-term difficulty of that commitment.

See the complete letter HERE.


Mary Berry Speaks to Global Leaders

Remarks Presented by Mary Berry
The Louisville Harmony and Health Initiative Convening of Global Leaders In Honor of His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Wales Louisville, Ky.  March 20, 2015

The Berry Center is putting my father’s writing to work by advocating for farmers, land- conserving communities and healthy economies. Food is a cultural product and we must work on a culture that supports good farming, one that allows farmers to afford to farm well. We must institutionalize agrarianism. That involves some practical, slow, tedious work. It also involves the most necessary life affirming work I can think of except for the work of good farming itself.

The Berry Center is working to create an economic sector in which small and medium size farms can compete, make a decent living, and build thriving rural communities. We have many projects and partners including The Berry Farming Program at St. Catharine College where we address the desperate need for more farmers. Two of our projects seem to me to fit the purposes of this meeting very well. 

Read Mary Berry's complete statement HERE (pdf)


Wendell Berry at I Love Mountains Rally

Noted poet, essayist and novelist Wendell Berry was on hand again this year, but he said he doesn’t expect much response by Kentucky’s elected officials.

He said he’s been protesting surface mining and the effects on the land since 1964 but not much has changed.

“It has been hopeless so far,” Berry said of his decades’ long fight against strip mining. He noted the efforts by Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers to reinvigorate the economy of eastern Kentucky – an economy that has relied for decades almost exclusively on the coal industry.

“But it is futile to try to do something for people while you let the land be destroyed beneath their feet,” Berry said.

via nature-news-network

also at dailyindependent.com


Mary Berry interviewed by In These Times

Small farmers must select which stones to throw at Big Ag. And Mary Berry, Wendell’s daughter, is helping them take aim as executive director of the Berry Center in New Castle, Ky.

Why did you and your father create the Berry Center?

The Berry Center’s goal is to institutionalize agrarian thought and make a movement towards cultural change. We’ve been developing a four-year farm degree at St. Catherine College in Washington County, Kentucky. We're also working on a farm school, in Henry County, to help new or existing farmers learn what they need to know to get out of the commodity economy and into a local food economy. We're talking about everything farmers and landowners can produce on their land—from timber to tomatoes—and how to keep them secure, and out of a boom and bust economy.

Read more at In These Times


Wendell Berry and others to protest road construction

A number of prominent Kentucky artists are joining together to protest a potential road that would link US 27 in Jessamine County to I-75 in Madison County, commonly referred to as the I-75 Connector.


“OFF THE ROAD! A Rally Against the I-75 Connector” will take place at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 19 and will feature prominent Kentucky authors Wendell Berry and Barbara Kingsolver, who will express their opposition to the potential project at the Lyric Theatre, according to a press release about the event. Other Kentucky artists and musicians taking part include Crystal Wilkinson, Richard Taylor, Maurice Manning, Erik Reece, Eric Scott Sutherland, Matt Duncan, the Northside Sheiks and Tee Dee Young.

via southsidermagazine.com

SEE ALSO

I-75 Connector

"I-75 connector protest rally planned for Sept. 19" (The Richmond Register)


Berry speaks at Louisville rally

If we want to stop the impoverishment of land and people we ourselves must be prepared to become poorer. If we are to continue to respect ourselves as human beings, we have got to do all we can to slow and then stop the fossil fuel economy. But we must do this, fully realizing that our success if it happens will change our world and our lives more radically than we can now imagine. Without that realization, we cannot hope to succeed.

To succeed we will have to give up the mechanical ways of thought that have dominated the world increasingly over the last 200 years. And we must begin now to make that change in ourselves. For the necessary political changes will be made only in response to changed people. We must understand that fossil-fuel energy must be replaced not just by clean energy but also by less energy.

via blogs.courier-journal.com

SEE ALSO

"Questionnaire" and Event Photos (Blue in the Bluegrass blog)


Wendell Berry supports anti-frac campaign in MN

The following letter was written by Wendell Berry, author, farmer and environmentalist, to John Heid (formerly of Winona), in support of the Catholic Worker campaign against frac sand mining.

Dear John,

You have offered me the privilege of joining by letter with you and your friends in Winona in opposition to "frac sand mining." and I am happy to accept.

I will say, first, that there is never, for any reason, a justification for doing long-term or permanent damage to the ecosphere. We did not create the world, we do not own it, and we have no right to destroy any part of it.

See the complete letter HERE.


Wendell Berry on Civil Disobedience (The Progressive)

I have always been suspicious of people who seem to devote their entire lives to forms of protest. We all ought to have better things to do. Ken Kesey once said that the reason not to resist evil is that such resistance is dependent on evil; it makes you dependent on evil. He was right. And Edward Abbey said that saving the world is a good hobby—though he worked hard to save at least parts of it. As for me, the older I get, the less happy I am to leave home. All the places I go seem to be getting farther away. Frankfort, Kentucky, now appears as far off as the planet Saturn, and I wish it more remote.

via www.progressive.org