I am a retired physician, now farming. I have been a part of CFSA for more than 35 years. I was at the first organizational meeting of CFSA. I’d love to share a story about that meeting.
But first I need to tell you just how I happened to be there. In my second year of Duke Medical School a grateful patient gave me a book of poetry: “Farming, A Handbook,” by Wendell Berry. The book changed the course of my life.
Berry was honored at a black-tie dinner nestled among the book stacks at the Central Library, and he spoke at a public presentation the next morning.
In discussing the honor, Berry noted: "This issue of honor disappears into the presence of generosity. This has been for me an occasion of extraordinary generosity - I like everybody I met. I don't find anything wrong with any of you."
Wendell Berry visited Grinnell College when I was a student there in the early 1980s. It was thrilling to have a famous writer/farmer on our campus for a few days, an engaging and inspiring speaker, and a poet to boot. He participated in a student/faculty dinner at Grinnell House (which to this day I can't believe I got invited to, and unfortunately drank a little too much red wine at) gave the weekly convocation as well as a poetry reading, and dropped in over at Tofu House (where I was living at the time) to mingle with students as we engaged in our usual revelry on Saturday night.
Norman Wirzba is one of the leading voices in the agrarian movement. As the research professor of ecology, theology and rural life at Duke Divinity School, Wirzba has set about on a massive project to integrate holistic thinking about food and the environment into Christian theology. He is the author of The Paradise of God: Renewing Religion in an Ecological Age, Living the Sabbath: Discovering the Rhythms of Rest and Delight, Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating and co-author of Making Peace with the Land: God’s Call to Reconcile with Creation. He has also edited The Essential Agrarian Reader: The Future of Culture, Community, and the Land and The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry.
via Everyday Liturgy
"You can drive for miles through such country and never see another human being at work. And the people you see at work, if you see any at work anywhere, almost certainly will be inside the cabs of tractors. Their contact with the soil beneath them having become almost entirely mechanical."
Berry was in town to receive the Tulsa Library Trust's 2012 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, given annually to internationally acclaimed authors who have written a distinguished body of work and made a major contribution to the field of literature and letters.
Wendell Berry is a writer and farmer. No, really. And this month, he's being honored for his work as the former. Not the farmer.
The Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award, given by the Tulsa Library Trust, serves to recognize authors of renown who have produced a distinguished body of literary work.
Berry is this year's recipient, and by becoming so, he joins a very elite set of fantastic writers, among them Joyce Carol Oates, Neil Simon, Ray Bradbury, and a great many more. That's pretty heady company, and Berry knows it.
"You don't write in order to get an award," he said. "But an award like this does raise the question of whether you deserve it or not. Of course, you're not the one who decided, so you're better to decide it's something to live up to, rather than worry about whether you deserve it."
We like headlines like this. Our enthusiasm validates the hyperbole.