Wendell Berry and Tim DeChristopher converse In Orion Magazine

In the summer of 2019, the climate activist Tim DeChristopher sat down with Wendell Berry. Berry is a poet and activist, author of over forty books, a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, a 2013 Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a celebrated advocate for localism, ecological health, and small-scale farming. DeChristopher, as Bidder 70, disrupted a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction in 2008 by outbidding oil companies for parcels around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah. Imprisoned for twenty-one months for his actions, he has used his platform to spread the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for bold, confrontational action to create a just and healthy world.

TD: OK, now we’re recording.

WB: Have we got a limit on this thing?

TD: Eventually.

WB: You mean it’ll wear out eventually?

TD: It’s a big limit.

See "To Live and Love with a Dying World" in Orion Magazine.


Mary Berry interviewed by Library of America

Library of America: In practical terms, how do you see the work you do at the Berry Center extending or perpetuating your father’s legacy?

Mary Berry: I started the Berry Center in 2011 to continue the work of my family for small farmers and land conserving communities, and to improve the culture of agriculture. My father says that his father, John Marshall Berry, did the important work and he and his brother, John Marshall Berry, Jr., just took it up. We have now taken it up at the Center, advocating for ways to put a stabilizing economy under good farming and to foster a culture that will support it.

We started with an archive of my family’s papers, papers that tell the story of how the agrarian mind works when put into service of a particular place. My grandfather, John Marshall Berry, was a lawyer, farmer, and principal author of the only farm program in the history of our country (the Burley Tobacco Growers Co-Operative Association) that served the people it was supposed to serve—the small family farmer. His papers highlight the program and a way of life that he honored. We have to change the way we judge and understand the history of agriculture in this country. These papers give us a way to do that.

Read all of  "Mary Berry: Extending Wendell Berry’s legacy is 'the most hopeful work I can think of'” at Library of America.


Wendell Berry comments on UK fresco controversy

Of a controversial fresco at the University of Kentucky, Mr. Berry writes,

If the O’Hanlon fresco at the University of Kentucky depicts historical events that actually happened, then it can be understood to be teaching what is true. It is not possible to justify a student’s objection to learning what is true. If, on the contrary, the fresco falsifies history, that is a lesson of another kind that a student also should learn. 

The only intellectually responsible question raised by the students’ objection to the fresco is that of its truth to history. 

If the university still has a history department, then a further question is why President Capilouto would conduct a long discussion about the fresco without calling in at least a couple of history professors to deal with the relevant historical questions. Would not that have been educational? 

The most important case that the objecting students have made, perhaps unintentionally, is for a course in Kentucky history to be mandatory for all students.

Read all of  "Wendell Berry: At UK, truth, history, law — and what ‘cannot be forgiven’" at the Lexington Herald-Leader.

See also: "UK protestors end hunger strike ..." at the Herald-Leader.


Wendell Berry calls for dairy solutions, production quotas, Walmart boycott

“The Farmer’s Pride” for March 15 features a heartbreaking story by Carilynn Coombs about the “termination” by Dean Foods of its “milk procurement contract” with her family —  along with more than a hundred other dairy farmers in Kentucky.

In that issue several articles deal with this subject, all pointing to calamity for families whose lives as farmers and whose farms are at stake. For its mistreatment of its until-now faithful suppliers, Dean Foods passes the responsibility to Walmart, which has built its own milk-bottling plant and, as usual, is competing against everybody.

The problem is a surplus of milk. Sharon Burton’s editorial, also in “The Farmer’s Pride” of March 15, and on the same subject, contains a penetrating insight: “I’m not talking about dairy farmers…I’m talking about rural America.” She is right. The story of Dean Foods’ cancelled contracts is a representative piece of the story of rural America since the 1950s, when Eisenhower’s Secretary of Agriculture told farmers to “get big or get out.”

Read all of "Dairy Farmers Need Solutions" by Wendell Berry at Edible Louisville.


On the Work of the Berry Family and the Berry Center

Mary’s work is steeped in her family’s past in more ways than one. The Berry Center is housed in what was her grandfather’s law office beginning in 1927, an historic building in downtown New Castle. To inform her own practices and the work of the future, important archival work is happening there. Big John was a fervent documentarian. In his career, he kept records of his efforts in law and in farming, as well as proof of the progress and problems around him. His sons followed suit, both continuing to observe the agrarian world where they were immersed. Combined, the efforts of the three offer a keen insight into rural, agrarian life in Kentucky, though much of their work has been lost and scattered in trash bins and forgotten files. But through the Berry Center, their writings are being assembled and organized for pressing work. 

Using the writings of her family members and her own vast experiences, Mary is going to pilot a program she hopes will restore what was lost in her hometown. 

Applying the principles of the Burley Tobacco Program, Mary Berry hopes to make local cattle agriculture thrive. As it stands, Kentucky has the most beef cattle of any state east of the Mississippi. Still, it’s uncommon for family farms to make a living on cattle alone.

The Local Beef Initiative will begin by taking a group of up to six farmers and placing them in a co-op, similar to the one established by the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative. Farmers in the co-op will be required to raise the cows on grass and without antibiotics or hormones, in return for access to parity pricing — achieved by maintaining a relationship with a processor and distributor. 

In this scenario, the Berry Center would play the role that the federal government did in the Burley Tobacco Program, putting mechanisms into place, establishing parity pricing, taking the farmers involved out of competition with each other and preventing them from overproducing. 

“My hope is that once we get the Local Beef Initiative going that young farmers who are involved will say to their friends, ‘You know, I've done this with the Berry Center ... and I've made some money. You should have a look.’ You could convince farmers that way a lot faster than any of us could convince them just going and knocking on their door.” 

Read the complete article by Jodi Cash at The Bitter Southerner.


Wendell Berry and others on BBC Radio 4

On Start the Week Andrew Marr talks to the American writer, poet and farmer Wendell Berry. In his latest collection of essays, The World-Ending Fire, Berry speaks out against the degradation of the earth andthe violence and greed of unbridled consumerism, while evoking the awe he feels as he walks the land in his native Kentucky.

His challenge to the false call of progress and the American Dream is echoed in the writing of Paul Kingsnorth, whose book Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist eschews the grand narrative of a global green movement to focus on what matters - the small plot of land beneath his feet.

Kate Raworth calls herself a renegade economist and, like Berry and Kingsnorth, challenges orthodox thinking, as she points to new ways to understand the global economy which take into consideration human prosperity and ecological sustainability.

Listen to the very good conversation at BBC Radio 4.


Wendell Berry Supports Senate Candidate

Wendell and Tanya Berry, along with Mary Berry and Steve Smith have written a letter to the Louisville Courier-Journal in which they express their support of Democratic U. S. Senate candidate Sellus Wilder. He is running against incumbent Republican Rand Paul. The Berrys and Smith write, in part,

We approve of his platform, which we know that he is offering as a promise to his constituents to try in good faith to do what he has told them he will try to do. We are particularly grateful for his commitment to clean soil, clean water and clean air, though he understands the long-term difficulty of that commitment.

See the complete letter HERE.


Mary Berry Speaks to Global Leaders

Remarks Presented by Mary Berry
The Louisville Harmony and Health Initiative Convening of Global Leaders In Honor of His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Wales Louisville, Ky.  March 20, 2015

The Berry Center is putting my father’s writing to work by advocating for farmers, land- conserving communities and healthy economies. Food is a cultural product and we must work on a culture that supports good farming, one that allows farmers to afford to farm well. We must institutionalize agrarianism. That involves some practical, slow, tedious work. It also involves the most necessary life affirming work I can think of except for the work of good farming itself.

The Berry Center is working to create an economic sector in which small and medium size farms can compete, make a decent living, and build thriving rural communities. We have many projects and partners including The Berry Farming Program at St. Catharine College where we address the desperate need for more farmers. Two of our projects seem to me to fit the purposes of this meeting very well. 

Read Mary Berry's complete statement HERE (pdf)


Wendell Berry at I Love Mountains Rally

Noted poet, essayist and novelist Wendell Berry was on hand again this year, but he said he doesn’t expect much response by Kentucky’s elected officials.

He said he’s been protesting surface mining and the effects on the land since 1964 but not much has changed.

“It has been hopeless so far,” Berry said of his decades’ long fight against strip mining. He noted the efforts by Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers to reinvigorate the economy of eastern Kentucky – an economy that has relied for decades almost exclusively on the coal industry.

“But it is futile to try to do something for people while you let the land be destroyed beneath their feet,” Berry said.

via nature-news-network

also at dailyindependent.com


Mary Berry interviewed by In These Times

Small farmers must select which stones to throw at Big Ag. And Mary Berry, Wendell’s daughter, is helping them take aim as executive director of the Berry Center in New Castle, Ky.

Why did you and your father create the Berry Center?

The Berry Center’s goal is to institutionalize agrarian thought and make a movement towards cultural change. We’ve been developing a four-year farm degree at St. Catherine College in Washington County, Kentucky. We're also working on a farm school, in Henry County, to help new or existing farmers learn what they need to know to get out of the commodity economy and into a local food economy. We're talking about everything farmers and landowners can produce on their land—from timber to tomatoes—and how to keep them secure, and out of a boom and bust economy.

Read more at In These Times