Wendell Berry's "The Farm" republished and reviewed

The newly released book The Farm by Wendell Berry is a worthwhile purchase simply for its beauty. A trade reprint of the hard-to-find letterpress edition by Kentucky’s Larkspur Press, this new book retains the elegance of the original in both its design and its monochrome drawings by Carolyn Whitesel.

The sole content of the book is the long poem that gives the book its title, which is at once a depiction of a farm and its workings (presumably based on Berry’s own farm), and rich wisdom on how to run a farm sustainably – from maintaining woodlands to cultivating cornfields to keeping a garden.

The intermingling of biodiverse relationships between humans, land, plants, and animals in this poem, is reminiscent of what I experienced on my grandparents’ small-to-medium-sized Iowa farm a generation ago. Berry’s vision of the farm, while frank about the intensive labor it requires (“There is no end to work — /… / One job completed shows / Another to be done.”), is compelling in the image of farm life that it conjures.

Read the complete review by C. Christopher Smith at The Englewood Review of Books.


A Wendell Berry-inspired podcast to begin soon

The Membership is a podcast inspired by the life and work of Wendell Berry, the Kentucky farmer, poet, novelist, essayist, activist, and thinker. 

Our goal at The Membership is to curate great conversations that contribute to the health of the land and the health of our communities.

Join hosts Jason Hardy, John Pattison, and Tim Wasem as we discuss Berry's life and writings. We’ll also interview other folks—farmers and makers, writers and artists, and community practitioners of all kinds—who are responding to Wendell Berry's writings in their own places.

Visit The Membership and sign up to receive updates.


Wendell Berry on the Farm Bill

Gracy Olmstead: The Farm Bill usually promotes short-term economic gains over long-term ecological health (something the 50-year Farm Bill seeks to fix). How do we get Washington politicians to support more sustainable forms of agriculture?

Wendell Berry: The problem here is not so much that of the shortness of the term of planning or of shortsightedness as it is of ecological and agricultural ignorance and a sort of moral blindness. The problems we ought to be dealing with are not problems because they are going to cause us trouble in the future. They are problems because they are obviously and clearly causing trouble right now. We ought to be doing our best to solve them right now.

If politicians and journalists want to know about the problems of agriculture, they are not likely to go out into “rural America” to observe the condition of the fields and the waterways or to talk to the farmers and the ex-farmers, the ex-merchants of the small towns, or to talk to the mayors and county judges of rural counties. Instead, they are very likely to talk to academic and bureaucratic experts, who are tightly bound within the industrial structure of agriculture, agri-science and agribusiness.

Alan Guebert was right when he said in one of his columns that this farm bill will be much like the last one insofar as it will not address the real problems of agriculture. Those problems, as you know, are soil erosion, soil degradation, the pollution of waterways by sediment and toxic chemicals, various ecological damages, the elimination of small farms, the destruction of the cultures of husbandry and the ruin of country towns and communities. And maybe we should add specifically the curse of overproduction, which at present, as often before, is the major and the cruelest problem.

Those problems could be summed up as the triumph of industrialism and industrial values over the lives of living creatures, and over the life of the living world. The preferences and choices of industrialism do not imply a limit of any kind. They rest instead upon the premises of limitless economic growth and limitless consumption, which of course implies limitless waste, and finally exhaustion.

Nothing can take form except within limits. No cure is possible, either in policy or practice, except within understood limits, which is to say within a correct diagnosis. This requires patience. A good solution has to begin with a description of the problem that is full, clear, and reliable.

Read all of "Wendell Berry's Right Kind of Farming," an interview with Gracy Olmstead at The New York Times.