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September 2012
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Blog Watch: Wendell Berry cited on technology in farming

As Wendell Berry writes in Renewing Husbandry, “Mechanical farming makes it easy to think mechanically about the land and its creatures.” While we were at the Davis’ poultry farm, the brothers talked about the system that runs the chicken houses. The entire process is computerized, and it controls and monitors the feed, water, temperature, etc of the houses. If something goes wrong, an alert is sent to their phones so they know to go fix it. While this technology is great and allows them to raise a large number of chickens, it essentially detaches them from the farm. There is no real connection to the chickens. If they aren’t eating, a computer tells them. If the house is too hot, the computer saves the day. The computer does the basic observations that farmers used to be accountable for. However, the farmers estimated that their chicken operation probably feeds around 50,000 people a year. So, despite the lack of a connection between farmer and animal, it provides a service and provides food for a significant number of people.


On voting for Wendell Berry in a swing state

There is a Socialist, a Libertarian, a Constitution Party and a Green Party candidate on the presidential ballot. Plus there are seven qualified write-in candidates. Yes, one must be qualified to run as a write-in candidate in my state, which means that my two previous votes for Wendell Berry were literally wasted; they weren’t even counted.

Dang.  Mr Berry would have made a great president.


Blog Watch: Quoting Mr. Wendell Berry on Soil Loss

“Soil loss…is a problem that embarrasses all of our technological pretensions. If soil were all being lost int a huge slab somewhere, that would appeal to the would-be heroes of “science and technology,” who might conceivably engineer a glamorous, large, and speedy solution – however many new problems they might cause in doing so. But soil is not usually lost in slabs or heaps of magnificent tonnage. It is lost a little at a time over millions of acres by the careless acts of millions of people. It cannot be saved by heroic acts of gigantic technology, but only by millions of small acts and restraints, conditioned by small fidelities, skills, and desires. Soil loss it ultimately a cultural problem; it will be corrected only by cultural solutions.”

- Wendell Berry found in The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers–With information on building … feed, and working with poultry in the garden

via Chiot's Run

Wendell Berry to receive James Beard Foundation Leadership Award

To sum up Wendell Berry’s achievements is no easy task. A prolific author of more than 50 books of poetry, fiction, and essays, Berry is also a farmer, an academic, and a philosopher, as well as the recipient of countless honors and awards. The impact that his insights on sustainable agriculture and land use have had in shaping our food system during the past six decades cannot be overstated.

Speaking from his home in Port Royal, Kentucky, however, Berry is modest about the legacy of his career: “To imagine what it means to have my work noticed and appreciated means I have to imagine what it would mean not to have it noticed and appreciated,” he says. “So I’m very grateful on that account—it means my work has reached some people, and been useful in that way, and that’s what I meant it to be.”

Berry’s work has been useful largely because of its practicality. He believes in the power of community and family, in farming responsibly and in tune with nature, and in respecting a sense of place. His philosophies are simple in a beautiful way, and as a result, Berry has been able to connect with an unusually broad audience: farmers, politicians, scientists, and academics alike gravitate toward his work.


Wendell Berry addresses Louisvile gathering

Kentucky poet and farmer Wendell Berry advocated for a 50-Year farm bill at the 13th annual Healthy Food, Local Farms Conference this past weekend.

Farm bills are usually passed by Congress every five years. But Berry says a longer-term 50-year farm bill would be more beneficial to the environment.

Right now, 80 percent of farmable acreage is planted with annual crops, like vegetables. These crops require vast amounts of water and fertilizer and contribute to soil erosion, while the remaining 20 percent of acreage is planted with perennial crops of forages and grains.

via WFLP

This article contains a complete recording of Mr. Berry reading his speech and a recent short story.

Reading Wendell Berry's "Hannah Coulter"

The book’s thesis, or so it seems to me, is that small, organic communities—especially farming communities—are most conducive to love and human flourishing. It very effectively depicts how farming, tending the land, can improve both the land and the people who tend it. In this it reminds me of a line from an old Zionist song, “We came to the land to build and to be built.” Hannah grows up on a rather poor farm and winds up living her life on a more prosperous one. It is a life devoted to family, friendship, and work.

via The American Culture

Wendell Berry's advice

So, with my intense reading of Wendell Berry’s novels, essays, and poems, and with his convincing and Biblical ideas of our responsibilities of the stewardship of the land, which I have learned is also the native American Indian concept of the proper relationship between human beings and the land, I developed this romantic view of improving a patch of land. I went so far as to write Wendell Berry on the subject. How, exactly, Mr. Berry, is this to be done, by a small town boy who has never farmed? How could I, with my limited knowledge, at least not harm any land that we happened to acquire?
Of course, I cherish Mr. Berry’s response. He wrote on January 15, 1998, “Since I don’t know the place, I’m unable to give you any very particular advice. ... If you are not going to rent the land, you can either put it in grass and mow it once a year or plant it in trees. Either way, it will get better all the time with very little effort on your part.” With those few words, Wendell Berry taught me a great deal about how to, at least, not harm the land, how we might be stewards of the land.

Wendell Berry interviewed in The Guardian

Wendell Berry doesn't come to New York very often. The 78-year-old lives in Kentucky, where his family has farmed for five generations.

When he flies to the city next week, it's to collect a Leadership Award from the James Beard Foundation for over half a century of campaigning for better methods of food production. During his career, Berry has demonstrated against everything from Vietnam to nuclear power, from mountain-top coal mining to the death penalty. Most famously, he has campaigned against what he sees as bad farming methods, particularly industrialized farming.

"I'm a writer more than I am a talker," he says when I call him prior to his trip. In a life of extraordinary productivity, as well as his campaigning, Berry has authored more than 40 books of fiction, poetry and essays – he is most frequently compared to William Faulkner. And, in 2010, he received the National Humanities Medal.


Wendell Berry classic tops Best Agrarian Books

Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America is perhaps the most important book of contemporary agrarianism.  Without Wendell Berry agrarianism as it stands would not exist and this book set the stage for everything that came after in Berry’s work.  If someone asks me for one book to read on agrarianism, this is the one I recommend not only because it covers so much ground with so much wisdom, but also because if you The Unsettling of America you will inevitably want to read more.


Be sure to visit the complete article by Ragan Sutterfield at The Englewood Review of Books.