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Interview with Mary Berry and Leah Bayens on the Wendell Berry Farming Program and other good things

The fourth episode of The Membership, a podcast about the life and works of Wendell Berry, consists of an interview by John Pattison with Mary Berry, director of The Berry Center, and Dr. Leah Bayens, director of the Wendell Berry Farming Program of Sterling College.  It is a wide-ranging conversation about the ideas behind The Berry Center, the economic and cultural realities of small farming, and the Berry Farming Program.

Of that program, Mary Berry says, "We're trying to do what the culture has failed to do because the economy has wrecked farm culture. We're trying to get these kids not just the education that a citizen of this country ought to have,  but we're also putting them together with people who have the cultural knowledge, who can make a living on using and reusing and fixing and so on. So, you know, if we had the culture that my father grew up with there'd be no reason for this."

Listen HERE. And subscribe to the whole podcast for consistently great conversation about the work of Wendell Berry. And support the work of The Berry Center as best you can.

More on grant for the Wendell Berry Farming Program

“As you can imagine, we were thrilled,” Bayens said. “This gift makes so much possible for our community. Students will bring new life to our place, all the while learning from and about our rich history.”
With this grant, Sterling guarantees that students will not pay tuition, giving graduates better prospects to farm without relying on student loans, according to the release.
“We’re grateful to the NoVo Foundation for sharing our vision of educating a next generation of farmers to farm sustainably and build prosperous rural communities and healthy regional economies,” said Mary Berry.

Read all of "Berry Center receives $2.5M grant for college ag program" by Taylor Riley at Henry County Local

On Harlan Hubbard and Wendell Berry book covers

Have you ever wondered about the artwork that decorates the covers of so many of Wendell Berry’s books? I have, and so years ago I went digging to find out what I could about the pieces, and the man behind them. In doing so, I was introduced to one of those fascinating characters that hides behind the curtains of history.

Harlan Hubbard was born in 1900 in Bellevue, Kentucky. Although he would leave Kentucky several times in his life, first to live in New York and then to travel in a “shantyboat” down the Ohio River, Hubbard was as bound to farms and rivers of Northern Kentucky as a hobbit is bound to the Shire. He studied at the National Academy of Design in New York and later at the Cincinnati Art Academy. At the age of nineteen, however, he moved back to Kentucky with his mother, and he lived with her until he was married in 1943. 

Wendell Berry, in his book Harlan Hubbard: Life and Work, writes that Hubbard was an “odd young man” who, from very early on, viewed the world differently than most people. He was pretty much a failure in the world’s eyes. His art was not recognized, he earned his living as a day laborer, and he spent his spare time roaming the hills and riverways of Kentucky with his bicycle and painting tools.

Read all of "To Be Whole: A Call from the Fringe of Society" by Kevin Morse at The Rabbit Room.

Wendell Berry Farming Program announces large grant

The Berry Center has announced the acquisition of a large grant to The Wendell Berry Farming Program via Facebook:


It is rare that a press release feels like such a celebration, but we are delighted to be able to share the following with you. We have been keeping the details under wraps for a little while, but can now make public that thanks to a grant and fundraising challenge from our friends at the NoVo Foundation the Wendell Berry Farming Program of Sterling College will be open and running as a full-time, tuition-free undergraduate program right here in Henry County, Kentucky this fall.

This is a momentous step for the future of farming education and for our particular rural place and those like it in the region and the country.

See the complete press release HERE.

Recent Interview with Wendell Berry

You have written eloquently about how growing up in a farming community in northern Kentucky, where your family has lived for generations, shaped your life and work. Tell us about this experience and its influence on your life choices.

I grew up in Henry County, Kentucky, which at the time of my birth and for a while afterward was an agrarian county. The businesses in the towns were supported by agriculture, which they, in turn, supported. My father was a lawyer who all his life was also a farmer. He made sure that I learned farming, as well as the principles of the organization he served, the Burley Tobacco Growers Co-operative Association. By means of price supports and production controls, it maintained the small farmers of this part of the country for about six decades. Tobacco became indefensible after the 1965 Surgeon General’s report, but the principles of the Association remain right for agriculture.

My father, a principled agrarian, was concerned about having a writer for a son, afraid that I wouldn’t make enough money to feed my family. But two things happened. One was that I became gainfully employed; the other was that my writing, especially the Unsettling of America (1977), revealed to him how much I had inherited from him and how my work carried his values on into my own life and time.

Read all of "For Love of Place: Reflections of an Agrarian Sage" at Great Transition Initiative.