Wendell Berry: begin with natural resources and local cultures

October 13, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism, writers.

If you aren’t familiar with Wendell Berry, poet, essayist, and most of all farmer, this article by Gracy Olmstead in the New York Times is a good introduction, and you should take your time and read it.

Berry is an ecologist who has long been critical of the way in which we farm.

Mr. Berry argues that healthy forms of agriculture require intentional cultivation on the part of both consumers and farmers. Americans presume there will always be enough — money, clean soil, healthy water — to fulfill our desires. But our ravenous economic disposition goes against the very nature of our world and its finite resources. Advocates for sustainable agriculture argue that we ought to recognize the limits of our world and, as Mr. Berry writes, “live in it on its terms, not ours.” Source: Opinion | Wendell Berry’s Right Kind of Farming – The New York Times

Berry has a long list of problems with today’s agriculture system that include “are soil erosion, soil degradation, the pollution of waterways by sediment and toxic chemicals, various ecological damages, the elimination of small farms, the destruction of the cultures of husbandry and the ruin of country towns and communities. And maybe we should add specifically the curse of overproduction, which at present, as often before, is the major and the cruelest problem.”

Berry is critical of today’s politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, who have embraced big agricultural interests to the detriment of small farms and farmers who serve their local areas.

Berry is the soul brother of Gene Logsden, farmer and writer who tackled many of the same issues. Logsden (The Contrary Farmer), who died in 2016, wrote that an ecologically balanced farm consisted of four things: pasture, garden, woods, and water (pond or creek). Those four things, working together, would sustain itself and the people who worked and lived near it.

But in today agri-business model, it’s 500 acres or corn (or soybeans, or whatever). And nothing else.

No wonder our honeybees are in trouble.


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