With its fertile soil, temperate climate and central location,
Kentucky would seem to be a great place to capitalize on this trend.
Plus, Kentucky is the home of writer Wendell Berry, one of the global
gurus of sustainable agriculture.
This fall, St. Catharine
College, a Catholic school founded by the Dominican Sisters in
Washington County, started offering bachelor's degrees in farming and
St. Catharine's Berry Farming Program
incorporates Berry's sustainability philosophies and was developed in
conjunction with his family's Berry Center in the Henry County town of
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.
In Wendell Berry’s essay “Two Economies,” he explains his thoughts on the important differences between a money economy or some “little” economy when compared to what he refers to as “The Great Economy.” This difference is vital to understand especially when humans consider the components and processes of creation.
Should humans see creation’s components and processes as resources, as the extractive mindset sees them? Or should humans see them as co-residents of The Great Economy. For my purposes here, soil is the great co-resident – something that resides with – that is of utmost importance for the survival of the human species even beyond the exploitation of other components of creation, such as fossil oil or fossil water.
The small farmer is chiefly concerned with caring for the land; not
over-farming it and preserving it for future generations. He shapes it
with his work and intelligence, and it shapes and supports him: his
body, his food, his emotions, his self-esteem, even his sense of
immortality. Long after he is dead and forgotten, the land he cared for
will remain. The symbiotic relationship is like a marriage. On the other
hand, the agro-businessman with his chemical fertilizers and pesticides
quickly exhausts the natural fertility of the soil, while suburbanites
and city people see land in terms of real estate value
It isn’t just that people who do not value the land destroy it, but
that they ultimately destroy themselves. Though the small farmer is as
desperate to make a profit as anyone else, he knows he can only make
money through his responsible love for the land. On the other hand,
those who can only see the land in terms of money, and not love, end up
seeing themselves and the people around them in primarily economic
terms: whether or not a couple stays married, how many children they
have, how they deal with their neighbors, how they treat elderly
parents, and how they care for their own bodies is determined by
an unconscious (or sometimes conscious) cost-benefit analysis.
St. Catharine College in rural Washington County, Ky., is looking for three international students to join the school’s nascent Berry Farming Program on scholarships.
program is based on the life work of Kentucky farmer and writer Wendell
Berry, and will teach students about sustainable agriculture. The first
students begin this week at the campus in Washington County. Program
coordinator Leah Bayens said the Berry Farming Program will merge both
arts and science—including “culture” as well as “agriculture.”
[Mary Berry's] ominous report reignited the mood of urgency in the room, where some
fifty people gathered to discuss the opportunities that their lands, and
their orders, might have for setting examples of sustainability and
blessings from the good earth. Before the lunch break they broke into
small groups of six or seven at round tables.
The questions they were asked were these:
What does your community's land mean to you
personally? How has that land helped shape your personal spirit,
commitment and sense of mission?
Why has your congregation held onto its land so
long (if it has) or divested its land (if it has)? What theological
values underlie the relationship between your congregation and your
land? How might this theology be of use to our world?