Wendell Berry and Beautiful Places

On humanity:

“The interesting thing is to solve the problem, not escape it.”

On measuring our worth:

“What we can do is judge our behavior, our history and our present situation by a better standard than efficiency or profit or those measures that are still being used to determine economic decisions.”

On scale:

“It seems to me it all depends on our ability to accept limits. The system doesn’t even acknowledge limits. If we acknowledge the existence of limits, then the necessity of honoring them is possible to imagine an economy that takes care of the good things that we have in our immediate neighborhood.”

On globalization:

“The global economy, almost by definition, is not subject to regulation. This gives us the idea that if we don’t have something here, we can get it somewhere else. It’s the stuff of fantasy.”

This makes all the world a colony.

We should fulfill our needs and export the surplus. We should never export the necessities of our own lives.

The ultimate test is whether or not we live in beautiful places. Wherever ugliness has crept in, we have the first symptom of exploitation and exhaustion.

(Still) In distrust of movements:

“Movements tend to be specialized. There is a movement about climate change and it has become extremely specialized. And the actual solution of a problem like that is to have an economy that takes care of everything; an inclusive economy.

“Localism would cease to be an ism as soon as local people went to work locally. One of the things wrong with these great movements is that they are not telling people to go home and go to work in good ways to prove things.

Resistance and renewal simultaneously?

You are asking in addition to my insistence on the importance of local context and local work, do I believe in policy changes? Of course I do. Wes Jackson and his people at The Land Institute produced a farm policy called The 50 Year Farm Bill and what that proposes essentially is converting agriculture from the current 80% annual crops and 20% perennials to the opposite. That change would cure a lot of problems, including global warming to a large extent. That is a policy change.  It would have to be applied however in different ways in different places and that relies on, to a high degree, on local knowledge and local intelligence.

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The Seer: A Portrait of Wendell Berry by Laura Dunn — Kickstarter

I know many of this blog’s readers will be thrilled to support  this great project.

 

“Rural culture coming down…”

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.

John Berry Farmer Collateralization Fund

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.

Happy Birthday Wendell Berry

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.”

The Agrarian Standard | Wendell Berry

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.

The Agrarian Standard | Wendell Berry | Orion Magazine.

“Where Farmers Markets and CSAs Fall Short” An interview with Mary Berry

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.