This week, some of the nation’s top names in movements promoting sustainable environmental and agricultural practices will gather in Kentucky to assess the building influence of the book.
Three and a half decades after its publication, “it is remarkable how current and relevant the book is in its critique of industrial culture and in its proposals for a better way forward,” said Norman Wirzba, professor of theology, ecology and rural life at Duke Divinity School.
Berry’s daughter, Mary Berry, an organizer of the conference on “From Unsettling to Resettling,” said that when her father wrote the book, he had barely any allies outside his family.
“And now look,” said Berry, who, like her 78-year-old father, operates a farm in Henry County, Ky. “Good people have this on their minds everywhere.”
People are far more concerned now about supporting local food markets, knowing what’s in their food and preserving the land, Mary Berry said. Still, at the same time, the losses in family farms and topsoil continue.
This is the kind of book that makes you want to give up your job, your career, everything, and go to a small town that you haven't heard of before, buy a small house, and listen to the sound of the wind as it passes through the tall grass. It is the kind of book that reminds you that there is more to this world than can be explained or that can be understood.
A few days before Tropical Storm Irene roared through Vermont, Ryan came across this passage from Wendell Berry: "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 careless acts of millions of people. It cannot be solved by heroic feats of gigantic technology, but only by millions of small acts and restraints."
If Mr. Berry had visited our farm during Irene, he would have had the rare opportunity to see soil being lost in "heaps of magnificent tonnage." We watched in disbelief as the Mill River topped its banks and cut a new permanent riverbed through our fields, ripping away our crops, our equipment, our land, and our livelihood.
Exsultate!, a chorale located in Venice, Florida, has commissioned composer David Brunner to expand the collection of Wendell Berry poetry that he set to music. Titled A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems, 1979-1997, the collection already included “The Circles of Our Lives," “The Wheel," and “We Clasp Hands." First published in 1998, it can be sampled at http://davidbrunner.com/samples/music-for-mixed-choirs/
On April 14th, Exsultate! will perform the Berry-based pieces by David Brunner along with Randall Thompson's Frostiana.
Grace United Methodist Church, 400 East Field Ave. at Avenida del Circo, Venice, Florida
But is it only a game? I don't think so. At least, for me, it isn't only about the game itself.
Wendell Berry is a farmer and writer from Kentucky, a state that knows a thing or two about basketball.
Through essays, novels and poetry, he focuses on the importance of local community and laments the loss of local memory. His voice has been in the back of my mind while traveling to and from games this year.
In his important essay "The Work of Local Culture," Berry makes a keen observation: "When a community loses its memory, its members no longer know each other. How can they know each other if they have forgotten or have never learned each other's stories? If they do not know each other's stories, how can they know whether or not to trust each other? People who do not trust each other do not help each other, and moreover they fear each other."
I don't want to understate the complexity of our time or the complicated nature of the problems facing our communities, but I think Mr. Berry is pointing us in a good direction.
Author-activists Eboo Patel and Wendell Berry will be among the presenters at the 2013 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, which will be held June 19 to 23 in Louisville, Ky.
The theme of this GA is “From Promise to Commitment,” said Jan Sneegas, the UUA’s director of General Assembly and Conference Services. “This theme is expressed in a variety of content areas including environmental justice, immigration, and congregational life, including growth and stewardship.”
Environmental justice sessions will include ones on poverty in Appalachia, the “true cost of coal,” compassionate consumption, local food production, and climate change.
Voces Novae will perform a concert of music based on the poetry of Wendell Berry on Thursday, April 4, 2013, 7:00 pm, at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 S. Fifth St., Louisville.
The world premiere of six songs composed by Andrew Maxfield will begin the program, with additional music by Harry Pickens and Giselle Wyers.
Berry has the soul of a poet, the pen of a novelist, the barbed insight of an essayist.
His literary output features the construction of a community and all its inhabitants, Port William. Over the course of his long career he has fleshed out that fictional world, creating of whole cloth a microcosm of the human condition.
About the same time I watched his interview with President Carter, I saw his name appear in the Dallas Morning News book section. There on the list of ten must-read books was his latest novel at the time, a beautiful volume with the wonderful title, Jayber Crow.
A farmer in her own right since 1981 and the director of the Berry Center, Mary Berry spoke Saturday at Gaining Ground Mississippi’s annual sustainable living conference.
“She is dedicating her life’s work to preserving and promoting the legacy of what many of us think is America’s preeminent family for sustainable agriculture, sustainable communities and sustainable lives,” said Johnny Wray, president of Gaining Ground Mississippi.
Berry said the ecological, economic and human costs of industrial farming are unsustainable. After World War II, she said, the industrial farming model called for “the displacement of nearly the entire farming population and the replacement of their labor and good farming practices with machines and toxic chemicals.”
Berry said the survival of farmers requires them to adopt methods that minimize commercial inputs while preserving soil fertility, water quality and other environmental values. One model of that is the “50-Year Farm Bill” devised by Wendell Berry and Land Institute founder Wes Jackson, which promotes moving largely to farming based on perennial (permanent) crops that require no plowing.