I know many of this blog’s readers will be thrilled to support this great project.
Mary Berry of The Berry Center:
The urban excitement around local food is not matched by farmers in the countryside. This is a serious debit and an economic one. We have several problems, not the least being that the demand for local food going up in cities has met the rural culture coming down. The economic lives of the people who grow our food and do the work of getting it to our tables must no longer be ignored. I think we know this now. We need more farmers. They need to know how to farm well and to be able to afford to farm well. And, they need to be able to have land to farm on. Land that is not so debt-encumbered that they are instantly in an emergency…
…If what has happened to our farmers and to our country’s rural landscapes is the result of decisions made in places of power far removed from the places harmed, then different decisions can be made.
An earlier blog post of mine links to one of my fav opinion pieces from Mary Berry that everyone in food systems should check out.
And also makes me think of a post I had written about refraining from jumping to new “solutions” in food system work and the need for balance in food organizing.
posted on Orion Magazine’s FB page:
Happy Birthday to our esteemed contributing editor Wendell Berry! Still truckin’ at age 80 and keeping his fans on their toes: the so-called father of sustainable agriculture (not his words) stopped by the Bay Area studios of KQED this week and called the word sustainability ‘useless,’ but then expanded a bit: ” So this issue of sustainability requires a lot of careful thought about ways of work and kinds of materials and it’s a conversation that we’ve just begun. The thing that we’re most needing to sustain is the health of the ecosphere, which is a big job. It then divides itself naturally into the need to sustain local ecosystems. The great fact of our time is that while our conversation about sustainability is trying to get started, we’re destroying the health of the local ecosystems.”
Recently, I was working on a piece for The Nature of Cities blog, and wanted to re-read something that Wendell Berry had said about the agrarian culture; I found the 2002 Orion Magazine essay in which he reflects on the 25th year of publication of The Unsettling of America. I think the paragraph below is enormously descriptive of the tension that those of us involved in creating an alternative agrarian world work and live in:
To the corporate and political and academic servants of global industrialism, the small family farm and the small farming community are not known, not imaginable, and therefore unthinkable, except as damaging stereotypes. The people of “the cutting edge” in science, business, education, and politics have no patience with the local love, local loyalty, and local knowledge that make people truly native to their places and therefore good caretakers of their places. This is why one of the primary principles in industrialism has always been to get the worker away from home. From the beginning it has been destructive of home employment and home economies. The economic function of the household has been increasingly the consumption of purchased goods. Under industrialism, the farm too has become increasingly consumptive, and farms fail as the costs of consumption overpower the income from production.
Be forewarned-if you know me, you are going to hear and see excerpts from this link many, many times in the future. An articulate and necessary interview with Mary Berry of the Berry Center (yes, daughter of our agrarian apostle* Wendell Berry) on the shortcomings (or pitfalls if you prefer) of our good food work so far. I think all of her points are spot on and all have potential actions to take to push forward.
In These Times
*Don’t worry-The term “apostle” is used here in the Classical Greek context of messenger. No idle idolatry intended.