Despite college closing, the Berry Farming Program will continue

We are very sorry to learn of the decision on July 1 to close Saint Catharine College, a school near Springfield, Kentucky that has been sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Peace since 1931.      

The announcement also means the St. Catharine College Berry Farming Program, launched in 2013 to offer two bachelor's degree programs in sustainable agriculture and rural leadership modeled on the teachings of author Wendell Berry, is searching for a new host university or college in Kentucky.

"The program will continue," said Berry's daughter, Mary Berry, on Wednesday. Berry's writing on farming has made him a moral authority among those concerned about climate change, the dwindling number of family farms, and healthy food and soil.

The degree program was founded by The Berry Center, a nonprofit institute located in Newcastle,  "to meet the urgent need for bolstering rural communities, small farm production and local markets."

In May, the first six graduates gained bachelor degrees from St. Catharine College in disciplines devoted to sustainable land use, plant and soil stewardship, rural community leadership and environmental arts and humanities, said Leah Bayens, chair of the Earth Studies department.

That leaves 19 undergraduates in the Berry Farming Program curriculum now facing abrupt transfer to other institutions, Bayens said.

Read more at Courier-Journal.

Concerning this closure and The Berry Farming Program, The Berry Center stated on Facebook,

We are deeply saddened by today’s announcement of the pending closure of St. Catharine College, a school located in the heart of the state and at the heart of the Washington County, Kentucky community. Though St. Catharine College is closing the Berry Farming and Ecological Agrarianism Program will continue based upon the ideals that were established in its foundational years. John Turner, St. Catharine College Board of Trustees chairman, said that the closure comes as a result of decline in enrollment caused by the federal Department of Education’s admitted wrongful withholding of student aid on several key academic programs. He said further that the decline in enrollment has proven to be too difficult to manage with the debt obligation that has been assumed by the college in recent years. 

Mary Berry, Founder and Executive Director of The Berry Center, was moved to establish the Berry Farming and Ecological Agrarianism Program at St. Catharine College when asked by faculty members and trustees how The Berry Center’s work fit with the four pillars of Dominican life. She thought that it was the right question and wanted to tie The Berry Center’s educational imperative to something established and sacred.

The first cohort of students enrolled in the Berry Farming and Ecological Agrarianism Program graduated on May 14, 2016. These students provided an example of what The Berry Center hoped for – a mix of rural and urban students deeply rooted in their places devoted to life on the land. 

We would like to thank St. Catharine College and the Dominican Sisters of Peace for giving a home to our program and for their encouragement throughout its development. The Berry Farming and Ecological Agrarianism Program will continue based on the solid footing that we have achieved at St. Catharine College.

On Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow and Donald Trump

Jayber Crow must answer the question “How does one keep faith when a place is killed by urbanization and industrialism?” Many of us are faced with a different and possibly more difficult question: “How does one keep faith when a place succeeds according to the terms of urbanization and industrialism?” To keep faith with Port William, Jayber must simply go on living as he always has in the town, honoring its life and caring for its dwindling number of members. And when Jayber departs from the world, so will much of the memory of Port William save what lives on in the work and life of the Branch family who are, in most ways, the sole modern heirs of Port William in Berry’s fictional universe.

But most of us have not been tied to places like Port William. We are not members of the small towns, neighborhood churches, and small local organizations that have been driven into extinction by the cruel forces of capitalism unhinged from anything save greed and ambition. Rather, we are tied to the sorts of places and communities that have often grown and become more successful (in a manner of speaking) thanks to those things.

Read the whole, thoughtful piece by Jake Meadow at Mere Christianity

Dreher on Wendell Berry, The Seer, and Donald Trump

Rod Dreher has posted "A Letter from Trump's America" in which, after reading said letter and viewing an advance copy of an unnamed film (what a reader may presume is Laura Dunn's The Seer), he writes:

This is Wendell Berry 101. The film shows us older Kentucky farmers talking about what they and their communities have lost — dying towns, for example — and how the system — big agribusiness, the banks, etc. — is stacked against them.

Toward the end of the film, a bizarre thought occurred to me: Donald J. Trump, who is probably the least Berryan figure in the country, is the only one of the GOP candidates who is talking to and for Republican voters who are living in the maelstrom. Don’t misunderstand me: Trump is absolutely not the standard-bearer of Berryan politics! (And that’s the understatement of the year.) But how incredibly weird is it that in 2016, the candidate that speaks most to the condition of those conservatives displaced by the economics and the wars of the Establishment is the loudmouth New York billionaire? Whether or not he has solutions to their condition is a secondary issue. He’s the one who sees, or who at least intuits, that something very wrong has happened, and that the neoliberal order built by the Republican and Democratic Establishment has broken some fundamental things.

Read the complete article at The American Conservative

Wendell Berry Cited on The Use of Symbols

“The problem with wars is that they don’t end,” Kentucky writer Wendell Berry told the American Association of State and Local History conference in Louisville in September (2015). “We’ve still got the Civil War.”

Berry and state historian James Klotter of Georgetown College addressed the gathering as part of a discussion about the relevance of history. The Charleston shootings and the ensuing debates over Confederate flags and statues became a focal point of their conversation.

“I understand about the Confederate flag and the problem it raises,” says Berry. “I don’t think that flag is a symbol so much as it is a finger… I think after the south was defeated in the Civil War, all it had left was spite and it understands how to use symbols in a spiteful way.”

Perspective is another crucial element, adds Klotter. He contends without a knowledge of history, people operate in a vacuum without a sense of where they’ve been or how they got where they are today. And from that grounding, Klotter says history gives individuals a new sense of both identity and objectivity.

“You see things in a different light,” Klotter says. “You’re more understanding of diversity, you’re more understanding of conflict, [and] more understanding of things that teach empathy.”

Berry says that anyone is capable of falling into indifference. He cautions that reducing either side – liberal or conservative, Union or Confederate, black or white – to its stereotypes involves a great risk.

“It’s easy to deal in symbols, it’s easy to deal in generalities, but what we lose then is the sense of the humanity that’s involved,” says Berry.


Audio of Wendell Berry at AASLH, September 2015

The 2015 Annual Meeting Plenary [of the American Association for State and Local History] was a discussion with author Wendell Berry and Kentucky State Historian Dr. James C. Klotter, moderated by KET personality Renee Shaw. Berry and Klotter discussed the importance of studying the past as a way to prepare for the future. Berry is an author and Kentucky treasure, famous for his writings on nature and ecology. Klotter received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Kentucky. He is the author, co-author, or editor of almost twenty prize-winning books, including the standard works on Kentucky used at the elementary, secondary, and college level. Shaw is the host of Connections with Renee Shaw on Kentucky Educational Television.

Listen to or download the conversation HERE,

Why We Need Wendell Berry

Following the hottest year on record for Earth, as we talk again about rolling back air-quality standards or building the Keystone XL Pipeline, we need to be reminded why we need Wendell Berry. This writer-thinker-farmer from Kentucky has been making his case now for over fifty years—in fiction, poetry, essays, interviews, and speeches—that we need to change our thinking and our living if we want to continue to live. His message is cautionary and instructive; his tone is always hopeful. Indeed, in the introduction to his collection of essays The Way of Ignorance (2005a), he writes that all his work is “motivated…by fear of our violence to one another and to the world, and by the hope that we might do better” (p. x). We need to listen to him. Steeped as we all are in the narrow, compartmentalized analysis of industrialism, our culture has been taught to value quantity over quality, competition over cooperation, efficiency over effectiveness, standardization over diversity, and the ease of today over the possibility of tomorrow. We have been taught to disregard natural limits and disdain what is small. These are the lessons for despair and our eventual ruin. What we need instead are the lessons of Wendell Berry, the lessons of hope.

Read the complete essay by Jane Schreck at The Journal of Sustainability Education

Wendell Berry Comments on Racism and President Obama

A good many people hoped and even believed that Barack Obama’s election to the presidency signified the end of racism in the United States.  It seems arguable to me that the result has been virtually the opposite:  Obama’s election has brought about a revival of racism.  Like nothing since the Southern Strategy, it has solidified the racist vote as a political quantity recognizable to politicians and apparently large enough in some places to decide an election.

 I grant the polite assumption that not one of the elected officers of the states or the nation is a racist.  But politicians do not need to be racist themselves in order to covet, to solicit, or to be influenced by the racist vote.  This is shown by the pronounced difference between two by now established ways of opposing the President.

Read more at The Courier-Journal

Wendell Berry's "Manifesto" Inspires "16 Thoughts"

Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
In the steamy summer of 1948, E. B. White, on guest assignment for the New Yorker, spent a few days strolling his former hometown. The essay was released in 2000 as the slim volume, Here is New York, which The New York Times calls one of the ten best books ever written about the city.

One of White’s most perceptive observations, in my opinion, is this:

New York is peculiarly constructed to absorb almost anything that comes along…without influencing the inhabitants; so that every event is, in a sense, optional, and the inhabitant is in the happy position of being able to choose his spectacle and so conserve his soul… I sometimes think that the only event that hits every New Yorker on the head is the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade, which is fairly penetrating — the Irish are a hard race to tune out, there are 500,000 of them in residence, and they have the police force right in the family.

I wonder if an unintended progress, of sorts, resulting from an event like the terrorist attacks on 9/11 — an event which penetrated every New Yorker so completely they’re still looking at the skies for wayward aircraft and checking skyscrapers for fire exits — is neighbors noticing each for a literal fear of dying.

It may be that the only good to come from each wave of tragedy we experience is the way neighbors share a conversation. Boston, West, Newtown — neighbors experiencing the same story. Neighbors making certain someone’s going to notice if the ground opens up beneath their feet.

Read all of Tamara Murphy's reflection at This Sacramental Life

Dreher cites Wendell Berry on unfairness toward traditionalists

Wendell Berry, on “tolerance and multiculturalism,” from his essay “The Joy of Sales Resistantce”:

Quit talking bad about women, homosexuals, and preferred social minorities, and you can say anything you want about people who haven’t been to college, manual workers, country people, peasants, religious people, unmodern people, old people, and so on.

He is being sarcastic, of course. But this came to mind when thinking about the wisdom of Wal-mart (and other big corporations) joining the crusade for gay rights even above religious liberty. I will give the corporate leaders credit for being sincere, but it’s a terrific business move. Join the crusade for gay rights, and you can do whatever you like on the business front without much complaint from progressives. [edit]

Wendell Berry, let me make clear, came out a few years ago in favor of same-sex marriage, which startled many of his fans, including me. I want to make that clear before I say what I’m going to say here, which is this: one of the most striking aspects of the whole gay rights public argument, one that is in full display in the Indiana pageantry, and that I find so chilling, is the degree to which the voices of the overculture — big media, big corporations, national Democratic politicians — speak of their fellow Americans who hold traditional religious convictions as if they were freaks and threats to the common good. Yes, this discourse is heard on the right too, but not at the same level. You see it on more or less the fringes of the right, but there is nobody at the same level of influence and of the same elite status on the right speaking in the same way as legions of people do on the left — people with very loud voices and very large bullhorns.

Read more by Rod Dreher at The American Conservative

See also "The Prejudice Against Country People"

Wendell Berry quoted on Community

We live in a world that runs on incessant communication. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, chatting, FaceTime spill together an endless pooling of words, pictures, audio clips, videos. The Economist reported Thursday that people ages 16 to 24 use their smartphones for nearly four hours a day. But the incessant nature of our communication does not necessarily turn dialogue into community rapport. Something more is required to build a real community. Wendell Berry, in a recent interview, told me this:

… Community is not made just by communication. It is a practical circumstance. It is composed of people who have a place in common. But it is made by people’s willingness to be neighbors, good and faithful servants, to one another. It survives by its members’ recognition of their need for one another, if only to keep the small children from getting lost or run over, or to keep their trash out of the streams and roads. My guess is that a healthy community would be indivisible from its own, its local, economy.

Read more by Gracy Olmstead at The American Conservative