counter create hit Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food

Availability: Ready to download

Only a farmer could delve so deeply into the origins of food, and only a writer of Wendell Berry’s caliber could convey it with such conviction and eloquence. Long before Whole Foods organic produce was available at your local supermarket, Berry was farming with the purity of food in mind. For the last five decades, Berry has embodied mindful eating through his land pra Only a farmer could delve so deeply into the origins of food, and only a writer of Wendell Berry’s caliber could convey it with such conviction and eloquence. Long before Whole Foods organic produce was available at your local supermarket, Berry was farming with the purity of food in mind. For the last five decades, Berry has embodied mindful eating through his land practices and his writing. In recognition of that influence, Michael Pollan here offers an introduction to this wonderful collection. Drawn from over thirty years of work, this collection joins bestsellers The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Pollan, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, as essential reading for anyone who cares about what they eat. The essays address such concerns as: How does organic measure up against locally grown? What are the differences between small and large farms, and how does that affect what you put on your dinner table? What can you do to support sustainable agriculture? A progenitor of the Slow Food movement, Wendell Berry reminds us all to take the time to understand the basics of what we ingest. “Eating is an agriculture act,” he writes. Indeed, we are all players in the food economy.


Compare
Ads Banner

Only a farmer could delve so deeply into the origins of food, and only a writer of Wendell Berry’s caliber could convey it with such conviction and eloquence. Long before Whole Foods organic produce was available at your local supermarket, Berry was farming with the purity of food in mind. For the last five decades, Berry has embodied mindful eating through his land pra Only a farmer could delve so deeply into the origins of food, and only a writer of Wendell Berry’s caliber could convey it with such conviction and eloquence. Long before Whole Foods organic produce was available at your local supermarket, Berry was farming with the purity of food in mind. For the last five decades, Berry has embodied mindful eating through his land practices and his writing. In recognition of that influence, Michael Pollan here offers an introduction to this wonderful collection. Drawn from over thirty years of work, this collection joins bestsellers The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Pollan, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, as essential reading for anyone who cares about what they eat. The essays address such concerns as: How does organic measure up against locally grown? What are the differences between small and large farms, and how does that affect what you put on your dinner table? What can you do to support sustainable agriculture? A progenitor of the Slow Food movement, Wendell Berry reminds us all to take the time to understand the basics of what we ingest. “Eating is an agriculture act,” he writes. Indeed, we are all players in the food economy.

30 review for Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food

  1. 4 out of 5

    Pete

    if you are into michael pollan or the politics of food/farming/etc you are legally required to get down with wendell berry.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Dungan

    I got this book from the library again just to I could quote this one section (page 35): "With industrialization has come a general depreciation of work. As the price of work has gone up, the value of it has gone down, until now it is so depressed that people simply do not want to do it anymore. We can say without exaggeration that the present national ambition of the United States is unemployment. People live for quitting time, for weekends, for vacations, and for retirement; moreover, this ambi I got this book from the library again just to I could quote this one section (page 35): "With industrialization has come a general depreciation of work. As the price of work has gone up, the value of it has gone down, until now it is so depressed that people simply do not want to do it anymore. We can say without exaggeration that the present national ambition of the United States is unemployment. People live for quitting time, for weekends, for vacations, and for retirement; moreover, this ambition seems to be classless, as true in the executive suites as on the assembly lines. One works not because the work is necessary, valuable, useful to a desirable end, or because one loves to do it, but only to be able to quit - a condition that a saner time would regard as infernal, a condemnation. This is explained, of course, by the dullness of the work, by the loss of responsibility for, or credit for, or knowledge of the thing made. What be the status of the working small farmer in a nation whose motto is a sign of relief: 'Thank God it's Friday?'" He discusses at length the importance of the family farm, the reason that they are fulfilling for both the farmer and the land and the community and our country. From the next page: "The family farm is failing because it belongs to an order of values and a kind of life that are failing." There is too much to quote here, but it is worth reading.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Susan Albert

    Bringing It to the Table is a treasure-house of Wendell Berry's work, an important collection of essays and excerpts gathered from his essays and fiction. A cantankerous, argumentative, eloquent writer who knows farming and food from field to table, Berry has been writing for more than forty years about the sadly declining state of American agriculture, the dangers of industrialized food farming, and the importance to the human community—and to the human body, mind, and soul—of good husbandry. I Bringing It to the Table is a treasure-house of Wendell Berry's work, an important collection of essays and excerpts gathered from his essays and fiction. A cantankerous, argumentative, eloquent writer who knows farming and food from field to table, Berry has been writing for more than forty years about the sadly declining state of American agriculture, the dangers of industrialized food farming, and the importance to the human community—and to the human body, mind, and soul—of good husbandry. If you've been reading Berry over the years (my husband and I chose an excerpt from The Unsettling of America for our wedding ceremony in 1986), you'll find some jewels here, all the richer for their association with other pieces in the collection. If you're new to Berry's work, you'll be astonished at his prescience: as Michael Pollan writes in his introduction, Berry is among the very first to point out the dangers of our American industrial agriculture and our disastrous separation of food production from food preparation and consumption. Bringing It to the Table is divided into three sections. In "Farming," the essays (1971-2004) provide a compelling review of the central argument of all Berry's work: that we must "adopt nature as measure" and create farming practices that deeply connected to the "nature of the particular place." Industrial agriculture arming ignores and attempts to overcome the natural limits of place, seasons, soils, and resources. It is, Berry warns, "a failure on its way to being a catastrophe." This place-focus continues in the second section, "Farmers." It includes seven elegiac essays that describe true farmers, not dependent on fossil fuels or large farm debt, in touch with their soils, their climates, their animals—people who understand and work within the limits of responsible husbandry. These farmers range from the traditional Amish to the Land Institute, where a radical new science adopts the natural ecosystem as "the first standard of agricultural performance." The third section, "Food," brings farm husbandry and farm housewifery together, with excerpts from Berry's fiction: people sitting down to eat the food they have planted, raised, harvested, cooked, and served. It is beautifully illustrated by the cover image: Grant Wood's Dinner for Threshers. The painting frames Berry's argument that "eating is an agricultural act," that we must eat what is grown locally and prepared in our own kitchens, not prepackaged, precooked, premasticated. It also demonstrates what, in Berry's view, is the central stablizing force and foundation of the agricultural partnership: that women and men work together to unite household and farm, and that "traditional farm housewifery"—helping with the work of the farm, preserving the harvest, and preparing the family's food—is the essential contribution of women to the farm household economy. Within this context, it is an honored contribution, not to be "belittled" as "women's work." As we face climate change, resource depletion, financial insecurity, and health issues created by poor food choices, the sustainable production and consumption of our food will undoubtedly be one of the most challenging issues of the twenty-first century. Wendell Berry has been trying to tell us this for many decades. It's high time we began to listen.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This was not what I expected, after seeing poetic Wendell Berry quotes all over for years. This collection of essays on Agriculture is a short, intense intro to Berry. And he is mad, frustrated and right. I'm super glad I read this (excepting part 3, which really could just contain his essay, "The Pleasures of Eating"), even though it wasn't an easy swallow. I feel more educated and aware of what I'm participating in, as an eater and human. And that's the start of any big change.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    I love this book. The middle section about Farming is the only section I wouldn't necessarily recommend to my foodie friends, but one which was valued by me. This book consisted of three sections: Farms, Farming and Food. The first section were essays which were mainly examples of good stewards of the land they were given. Many of the farmers' stories had the same theme: "I remember using horses and oxen", use tractors minimally if at all, practice permaculture and sustainability wherever possib I love this book. The middle section about Farming is the only section I wouldn't necessarily recommend to my foodie friends, but one which was valued by me. This book consisted of three sections: Farms, Farming and Food. The first section were essays which were mainly examples of good stewards of the land they were given. Many of the farmers' stories had the same theme: "I remember using horses and oxen", use tractors minimally if at all, practice permaculture and sustainability wherever possible, build up the soil and honor your family. These attributes are things that I would love to live by, but don't think I'll have a chance of in my lifetime. The best I think I can do is read and practice these ideas in an urban area and pass on the knowledge and philosophy to children. The second section is in regards to farming. This section has a lot of technical information about fertilizers, pest management, economics of the farm and marketing. Once you have the qualitative goals in mind after reading the first section, section two will add some quantitative factors to the mix. Finally, the third section about food. Wendell Berry admits that he isn't a great cook and has only written about food in his fiction writing. So this section is a number of excerpts from his fiction. I wasn't as much interested in this section except the fact that all of the stories are about sharing what you have with people who don't. It seems that the consumption part of agriculture is the biggest disconnect even after Jamie Oliver visits one's school. Sure, these kids now know what a tomato really looks like on a vine, but what about the emotional experience attached to preserving and preparing foods, and then sharing them with unexpected guests. The sharing experience is one that is almost gone from our culture. This is probably what most attracted me to agriculture from the roots - the result of hard work is a friendly experience reminiscent of "youth" for me. Youth is something that isn't as subjective as one would think. It's what it means to be taken care of. It's sharing mashed potatoes and Twix at a sleepover. Bringing It to the Table is a collection of essays from one of the finest writers on agriculture in recent history. Reading Wendell Berry is as easy as reading Dr. Seuss but as informative as Noam Chomsky. He is a true craftsman and an inspiration. While this book didn't change my life like other reviewers, it did add to the fire of getting back to peasantry.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Smith

    At times the portraits patined of farmers feel terribly idealistic and dismissive of the pain/uncertainty that lifetime farmers endure for most of their lives. There's a spiritual draft to most of the arguments that is never allowed to develop, leaving a few of the essays regrettably sentimental (and that's coming from a Port William fan). Even still, the poetic imagism of mid-century farming practices and the overview of routine decision-making on behalf of the land is refreshing and grounding. At times the portraits patined of farmers feel terribly idealistic and dismissive of the pain/uncertainty that lifetime farmers endure for most of their lives. There's a spiritual draft to most of the arguments that is never allowed to develop, leaving a few of the essays regrettably sentimental (and that's coming from a Port William fan). Even still, the poetic imagism of mid-century farming practices and the overview of routine decision-making on behalf of the land is refreshing and grounding. (pun un-intended :/)

  7. 5 out of 5

    John

    Wendell Berry is one of our most important contemporary writers, for his criticisms of the materialist worldview at the foundation of modern America. His criticisms focus on agriculture, place, and industrialism, symbolic of how we've wandered from the ways of our fathers. We moderns have sacrificed the intangible for what we perceive as tangible—believing more is always better, efficiency rules, and anyone who gets in the way is a luddite or crank. Our measures of success are in terms of GDP, do Wendell Berry is one of our most important contemporary writers, for his criticisms of the materialist worldview at the foundation of modern America. His criticisms focus on agriculture, place, and industrialism, symbolic of how we've wandered from the ways of our fathers. We moderns have sacrificed the intangible for what we perceive as tangible—believing more is always better, efficiency rules, and anyone who gets in the way is a luddite or crank. Our measures of success are in terms of GDP, dollars per share, test scores, and approval ratings. But there is an inherent compromise in accepting these terms. Berry writes, “To regard the economy as an end or as the measure of success is merely to reduce students, teachers, researchers, and all they know or learn to merchandise. It reduces knowledge to ‘property’ and education to training for the ‘job market.’” p. 171 But people aren’t merchandise, nor value mere economics. He writes that “if you want to evaluate the agriculture of a region, you must begin not with a balance sheet, but with the local water. How continuously do the small streams flow? How clear is the water? How much sediment and how many pollutants are carried in the runoff? Are the ponds and creeks and rivers fit for swimming? Can you eat the fish?” p. 177 Industrialists and agribusinesses do not want to measure these things because they conflict with their balance sheets. If they are accountable for the availability of water, the quality of it, the pollutants they spill into our waterways, or the fish that live in them, they would compromise they would lose their competitive balance. I write this, not as one advocating for further environmental regulation, but as one in favor of giving individuals and communities equal protection under the law, rather than favoring large corporations with special interest funds and agendas. Berry is a bit confused here—the role of government in the problem, and the solution to the industrialization of American culture. He does acknowledge that agribusiness is in bed with the government when he writes, “the advocates of factory farming are not advocates of farming. They do not speak for farmers. What they support is state-sponsored colonialism—government of, by, and for the corporations.” p. 15 Statements like this do approach the problem in the right way, in articulating the destructive nature of corporatism. But he also argues “the price of farm products, as they leave the farm, should be on a par with the price of those products that the farmer must buy. In order to achieve this with minimal public expense, we must control agricultural production; supply must be adjusted to demand. Obviously this is something that individual farmers, or individual states, cannot do for themselves; it is a job that belongs appropriately to the federal government.” p. 43 But the very next page he writes, “It may be that the gravest danger to farmers is their inclination to look to the government for help, after the agribusiness corporations and the universities (to which they have already looked) have failed them. In the process, they have forgotten how to look to themselves, to their farms, to their families, to their neighbors, and to their tradition.” p. 44 This is one of Berry’s most glaring weaknesses. He has a knack for seeing problems that we collectively ignore, but his worldview has some glaring inconsistencies, like this inability to fully understand the government’s role in fostering the industrialization of American agriculture. The disconnection of man from the land, which is what happened when millions of families moved away from family farms throughout the 20th century, has caused us to lose our sense of connectedness to the land and the production of food. Berry says it well, when he writes that the family farm, “died for want of people with the motivation, the skill, the character, and the culture to keep them alive. They died, in other words, by a change in cultural value.” p. 58 Berry doesn’t use the word “materialism” often, but it is clear this is his target. We think little of what we feed our livestock because they are “only calories.” We think little of what we put onto our crops, because they are “only chemicals.” We think little about what is in the soil, because it is only raw material. It is here that we begin to see some of the consequences: “For decades now the entire industrial food economy, from the large farms and feedlots to the chains of supermarkets and fast-food restaurants, has been obsessed with volume. It has relentlessly increased scale in order to increase volume in order (presumably) to reduce costs. But as scale increases, diversity declines; as diversity declines, so does health; as health declines, the dependence on drugs and chemicals necessarily increases. As capital replaces labor, it does so by substituting machines, drugs, and chemicals for human workers and for the natural health and fertility of the soil. The food is produced by any means or any shortcut that will increase profits. And the business of the cosmeticians of advertising is to persuade the consumer that food so produced is good, tasty, healthful, and a guarantee of marital fidelity and long life.” p. 231 We’ve traded freedom from farm life and the perceived drudgery of traditional farming for a decrease in health and an increase in health-care costs and reliance on pharmaceuticals. But farming should not be drudgery, but a life in harmony with the natural order. Here is where we see Berry at his best—describing the beauty of the pastoral life. His novels are a vivid picture of this in action: “Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. I have an idea that a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed, to live at least a part of their lives without a boss.” p. 74 It is hard to imagine agriculture returning to something like what it was, prior to the mass industrialization of it, but it is also difficult to imagine it continuing as it is. Modern farming is more “akin to mining” (p. 66) than it is to traditional farming. How can such a thing persist in perpetuity? What is the solution? I don’t think any individual has the answers, but we can learn together by assimilating the best ideas of men like Wendell Berry to build a future that is closer to the cadence set in motion by our Creator. That means slowing down and acknowledging, and working within the rhythms of God’s order, not man’s.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emily Bertholf

    While looking for books about gardening, I happened to pick up this book on a whim. I'd been familiar with Wendell Berry through some poetry and quotes of his work picked up over the years, but had never taken the time to read his work. In the pages of his collected essays on farming, food, and agriculture, I found well formed ideas, practices, fears and beliefs and frustrations I've heard from many once farming families in Wisconsin. I was surprised how moved I was, a city girl in Milwaukee, re While looking for books about gardening, I happened to pick up this book on a whim. I'd been familiar with Wendell Berry through some poetry and quotes of his work picked up over the years, but had never taken the time to read his work. In the pages of his collected essays on farming, food, and agriculture, I found well formed ideas, practices, fears and beliefs and frustrations I've heard from many once farming families in Wisconsin. I was surprised how moved I was, a city girl in Milwaukee, reading this book, but as he says, "To be interested in food but not in food production is clearly absurd." If you eat, you should read this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sassa

    “Bringing It to the Table” is an insightful compilation of essays written by Wendell Berry in which he emphasizes a loud warning about the state of the modern food we eat and how it is produced. The book is grouped into three sections: Farming, Farmer and Food. Berry describes in the first two sections how farming has changed over the last few generations, from small, land-loving, self-sufficient farmers and their families to large industrial farming whose chief concern is quantity and profit. Th “Bringing It to the Table” is an insightful compilation of essays written by Wendell Berry in which he emphasizes a loud warning about the state of the modern food we eat and how it is produced. The book is grouped into three sections: Farming, Farmer and Food. Berry describes in the first two sections how farming has changed over the last few generations, from small, land-loving, self-sufficient farmers and their families to large industrial farming whose chief concern is quantity and profit. The life source of the land is being abused and deteriorating quickly. What does Berry suggest we do? He is quite vocal and passionate about his answers. For example, on page 39, he writes, “As a nation, then, we are not very religious and not very democratic, and that is why we have been destroying the family farm for the last forty years—along with other small local economic enterprises of all kinds. ...We have said, ‘Get big or get out.’ We have said, ‘Adapt or die.’ And we have washed our hands of them.” He says this attitude must change. He further states, “The industrial farmer consumes more than he produces and is a captive consumer of the suppliers who have prospered by the ruination of such farmers. So far as the national economy is concerned, this kind of farmer exists only to provide cheap food and to enrich the agribusiness corporations, at his own expense.” Page 127. The last section, Part III, FOOD, contains excerpts from a variety of Berry’s novels and an essay “The Pleasures of Eating.” This section is very touching because it relates stories of the old farm life and the importance of good food. In his notes, Berry writes, “All the episodes from my stories and novels are not about food only, but about meals. You can eat food by yourself. A meal, according to my understanding anyhow, is a communal event, bringing together family members, neighbors, even strangers. At its most ordinary, it involves hospitality, giving, receiving, and gratitude.” Page 185. In the last essay, Berry writes, “ The current version of the ‘dream home’ of the future involves ‘effortless’ shopping from a list of available goods on a television monitor and heating precooked food by remote control. Of course, this implies and depends on a perfect ignorance of the history of food that is consumed...The dreamer in this dream house will perforce know nothing about the kind of quality of this food, or where it came from, or how it was produced and prepared, or what incidents, additives, and residue it contains...” Unless the dreamer wakes up! In short summary, Berry defends that consumers no longer understand where and how their food is produced. This is all to the detriment of the land, the livestock and the health of those who eat—that is you and me and our parents and our children. He passionately pleads that we should pay attention before it is too late. This book interested me because my husband is a retired farmer, a farmer who loves his land and is actively conserving it. I understand Berry’s viewpoint. Just look at the farms and the farming communities today. Do you see any resemblance to yesteryear? If this topic interests you and you would like to read Berry’s suggestions to farm on a small, self-sufficient manner, I recommend this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    I've recently begun my exploration of Berry's fiction, and have been loving (almost) every moment. So, of course Berry's nonfiction was going to follow as soon as the library re-opened. But if I'm being honest, I didn't love this one. Didn't even finish it. Not because Berry didn't have important things to say (he did), or because he didn't say them eloquently (he did), but because I can only process so many crises at once. What Berry has to say about farming and agriculture is valuable and shou I've recently begun my exploration of Berry's fiction, and have been loving (almost) every moment. So, of course Berry's nonfiction was going to follow as soon as the library re-opened. But if I'm being honest, I didn't love this one. Didn't even finish it. Not because Berry didn't have important things to say (he did), or because he didn't say them eloquently (he did), but because I can only process so many crises at once. What Berry has to say about farming and agriculture is valuable and should be widely read and considered, but we cannot all be passionate about all the issues that are facing our world today, and this one is not currently making my top five. Perhaps it should, and perhaps I will revisit the book someday. But it is not this day.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lexi

    Important book. True, good, and beautiful, in typical Wendell Berry fashion.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sara Hillegass

    Timeless truths here. I’m passing it on to my farmer brother who never reads books.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    A truly incredible book! Wendell Berry's essays really encourage me to be watchful and care for nature. When he speaks of the complexities in the soil and all the life that exists beneath our feed, I am reminded how foolish it is to claim to fully grasp God's hidden wonders in creation.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    This was a very interesting and scary book! This man wrote essays decades ago and what he said seems to be happening. When it involves food and the future, it is a scary thing that he talks about. What we have done to the land and the way we look at things is concerning. I think everyone should read this book. We need a wake-up call in this country.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ian Caveny

    (I'm not going to lie, I finished this one late on New Years' to get a jump on my 2018 Reading Challenge.) On no topic is Wendell Berry more succinct and persuasive than on the lived reality of food. The convincingness of his rhetoric is simple: everyone eats. Forget the Marxist discourses on "economic base" - however useful - and let us instead come to the semi-Aristotelean base which is food. Everyone eats. Everyone must eat. And eating informs a great deal of who we are. It isn't for nothing, (I'm not going to lie, I finished this one late on New Years' to get a jump on my 2018 Reading Challenge.) On no topic is Wendell Berry more succinct and persuasive than on the lived reality of food. The convincingness of his rhetoric is simple: everyone eats. Forget the Marxist discourses on "economic base" - however useful - and let us instead come to the semi-Aristotelean base which is food. Everyone eats. Everyone must eat. And eating informs a great deal of who we are. It isn't for nothing, for example, that the pinnacle of Christian worship is an act of eating. As such, a critique of culture that begins with agriculture is a critique that begins at the base of all culture, food. Berry, of course, knows all the philosophical lines involved in his work (his training was humanistic), but he writes not as a philosopher but as a farmer, and that is perhaps what makes him one of the single greatest public intellectuals of our day. He is not interested with "wow"-ing his readers with his supreme intellect or his persuasive rhetoric; he is interested in convincing us that food is the base of culture, and that we are in a food crisis. This particular collection shares in some essays that I have read before (in Citizenship Papers) and discusses many topics and turns-of-phrase with which readers of Berry will be familiar. The first major division, Farming, felt very familiar (maybe too familiar; but, then again, I've read a lot of Berry this year). It is the second major division, Farmers, though, that is the highlight for this book. Whereas in other collections Berry talks in terms of theory, politics, agricultural science, and the like, the Farmers section of Bringing it to the Table is a collection of anecdotes and stories of real farmers who are farming according to Berry's proposed "old" methods. It is a delight to hear of farms with biological diversity and livable overhead. Finally, in the last division, Food, Berry shares a more affective (as opposed to instructive) set of texts: excerpts from his Port Williams stories that involve food. The result is a little here-and-there - some stories do a great job of expressing the nigh-sacramental perspective Berry exposits on food, while others are not so effective - but, nevertheless, they all convey a radical departure with late modern American food practices. The whole book could be taken as a critique of McDonald's. As always with Berry, I recommend this text for anyone who is interested in the problems of food and farming in our country; but for those who have read a lot of him (like me), I would recommend simply reading the middle division and its stories of real farmers and not bother with re-hashing what we've already heard from Berry in the other sections.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    I wept as I read every page. The warnings of Agrarian writers are now too familiar (if too readily ignored). Berry admits he is not an economist--which is why he can see the problem correctly and offer the only real solution. His thesis is relatively simple: the closer food remains to the land, the better it is for the person and the land. This thesis restructures what community and farming are. If this thesis is rejected, which is the dominant religion of America, by the way, then farming becom I wept as I read every page. The warnings of Agrarian writers are now too familiar (if too readily ignored). Berry admits he is not an economist--which is why he can see the problem correctly and offer the only real solution. His thesis is relatively simple: the closer food remains to the land, the better it is for the person and the land. This thesis restructures what community and farming are. If this thesis is rejected, which is the dominant religion of America, by the way, then farming becomes industrialized and food is produced simply to be mass-produced. When food is mass-produced the land from which it is produced is cheapened. In the natural order, one uses resources wisely and the "waste" goes back into the land as fertilizer for the next cycle. In industrialism, artificial waste is imported into the land and then dumped into it after the farming. One may rebut this, though: but does not industrial farming and mass-production give us a lot of food and allay starvation? Not really. Yes, we may get cheap food (let's loosen our definition of "food" for the moment) but all the while we are making the land from which we derived the food unsustainable. We now have to go somewhere else to get our "cheap food." This is why most of the top-soil in America is gone (please google the podcasts of Fr Matthew Raphael Johnson on agrarianism on this point). So what should we do today? The Empire is in its death-throes. Those who have laughed at me on Agrarianism for almost ten years can no longer seriously maintain that the "City" will provide their salvation. In a time of economic turmoil (and probable revolution) where will your safety lie: the city of the countryside/small town community? As Wendell Berry said, "Practice Resurrection."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    I was reminded of Wendell Berry from a Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson from Parks & Rec) interview. I had heard a little about him previously, but figured if he's good enough for Offerman/Swanson, I should give him a go. The recommendation was definitely a good one, as I thoroughly enjoyed Berry's commonsense and plain (in a very good way) writing. Berry writes in fairly simple language, but his ideas are wrapped in his own experience and those whose stories he shares. He approaches farming and agricu I was reminded of Wendell Berry from a Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson from Parks & Rec) interview. I had heard a little about him previously, but figured if he's good enough for Offerman/Swanson, I should give him a go. The recommendation was definitely a good one, as I thoroughly enjoyed Berry's commonsense and plain (in a very good way) writing. Berry writes in fairly simple language, but his ideas are wrapped in his own experience and those whose stories he shares. He approaches farming and agriculture with an earth-first attitude, while showing that this attitude does not decrease production of viability of the land. It is a refreshing approach to the green/organic/slow food concept in that he does not rail against factory farming so much as show how much better stewards we could be of the land. In a time when polarizing and attacking language is the norm, I am thankful for Berry's voice. I get the sense that rather than wanting to tell our society that it is wrong in how it sees agriculture he is amazed at how much better we could do things, if we were more conscious. For example, suggesting that we try to look at food and imagine where it might have come from. The McDonald's hamburger doesn't come from a hamburger factory, but from an animal, which is born, raised, and slaughtered in very specific ways, ways designed to treat that animal as an object rather than a living thing. Extrapolate that thinking to the land and the earth - Berry exhorts us to see the land not as a factory, but as our provider of everything essential for life. A good reminder and one that we would do well to hold in the front of our minds.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    I was going to rate this two stars, but it finally had part of what I was seeking on the 232nd page out of 234 pages. The first 1/2 of this book explains repeatedly the problem with big business farms. I'm well acquainted with the problems. So glad the subject changed. The next 1/3 of the book told how great small farms are. I appreciate this, but this I already know. The last portion shared how people look at food. Finally, near the last page was what I was seeking: solutions for changing the pro I was going to rate this two stars, but it finally had part of what I was seeking on the 232nd page out of 234 pages. The first 1/2 of this book explains repeatedly the problem with big business farms. I'm well acquainted with the problems. So glad the subject changed. The next 1/3 of the book told how great small farms are. I appreciate this, but this I already know. The last portion shared how people look at food. Finally, near the last page was what I was seeking: solutions for changing the problem. Except they were only for individuals. Nothing on how to improve the situation of getting large farms to become better managed or smaller farms. For that neglect, I was very disappointed. If there's a problem, please seek a solution. Don't keep beating a long dead and stinking horse.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    When I've told a couple of people so far how excited I am about this book, they've said "so you want to become a farmer?" Tempting as that idea might be, the answer is no. The amazing thing about this book is that through the lense of looking at agriculture, Berry describes a positive, sane and workable way of looking at life that could be applied to any "profession"--seeing the work, the worker, the family, the place, the community, and larger political scene as one inseparable, interdependant When I've told a couple of people so far how excited I am about this book, they've said "so you want to become a farmer?" Tempting as that idea might be, the answer is no. The amazing thing about this book is that through the lense of looking at agriculture, Berry describes a positive, sane and workable way of looking at life that could be applied to any "profession"--seeing the work, the worker, the family, the place, the community, and larger political scene as one inseparable, interdependant whole, and figuring out how to resist the way our current industrial economy strives to divide and conquer that whole for the sake of short-term profit.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Josh Barkey

    Snap! A three-part exploration of what we eat and how. Part one is a collection of essays on farming methods, good and bad. Part two is a collection of case studies of good farmers and their antithesis, and part three is a collection of fictional excerpts from Berry's novels that explores the inherent value in the act of preparing and eating food in a farm context, topped off at the end with an essay on "The Pleasures of Eating," with a few helpful hints for change. Brilliant, as usual.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    Many of these are republished pieces, but still Berry is at his best. An important book for those of us who spend little time thinking about where all of this food comes from and how the American farm as we know it is nearly becoming obsolete.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andi

    I loved this book. Loved the science in it. Loved the art in it. Loved the last chapter about the politics of food especially. Great for anyone who thinks about what it means to farm, about what it means to live locally, and what it means to eat mindfully.

  23. 4 out of 5

    FoodBooks

    I will preface this review by saying that I am deeply involved in Food Studies— academically, habitually, every facet of my life revolves around food systems understanding. I wanted this book to be so much; admittedly, I had high hopes after reading reviews and knowing the Berry name. But this book just fell so, so flat for many reasons, of which I detail below. 1. Almost no mention of the importance of indigenous/traditional foodways, knowledge, farming, etc., Berry even goes so far as to say “Th I will preface this review by saying that I am deeply involved in Food Studies— academically, habitually, every facet of my life revolves around food systems understanding. I wanted this book to be so much; admittedly, I had high hopes after reading reviews and knowing the Berry name. But this book just fell so, so flat for many reasons, of which I detail below. 1. Almost no mention of the importance of indigenous/traditional foodways, knowledge, farming, etc., Berry even goes so far as to say “There is no longer a considerable number of people knowledgeable enough to look at the country and see that it is not properly cared for”—completely erasing indigenous farmers and communities (of which, Arizona leads the way in number & it shows in our local food economy). 2. Almost no mention of the staunch inequities leveled against POC farmers/land owners/workers that is systemic and in fact reinforced through our Ag. policy; including historical discriminatory lending practices at the national level. 3. The notion that the Family Farm is dying is just untrue; in fact the data (compiled from the USDA ERS) shows that the number of white farmers has remain unchanged—at roughly 3.2 million—since 1920, but the number of black farmers has declined from 200,000 to 45,000 today. 4. Berry, apparently, yearns for everyone to own land—only a few acres though because we wouldn’t want to become *gasp* Corporate—and farm it, completely ignoring not only the fact that not everyone has the means to do this, but that this would actually be wholly unsustainable and potentially create an even more unjust food system. Land pocked with small farmers does not a scalable system make, and in digesting these nuances it becomes clear that what Berry truly yearns for is the Puritan, Christian values so present in the early 19th century that was intertwined with homesteading. 5. The arguments made in favor of “returning to the old timey family farm” are misguided, but also ill-researched. The Homestead Act enabled eastern-dwelling city folk to move west and grab land for themselves (at the high cost of indigenous lives and livelihoods) in an attempt for politicians to curry favor. Berry makes little mention of this, and instead opts for a more romanticized view of homesteading—one with a garden patch, a few chickens, maybe a cow and some meat hogs, and plenty, *plenty* of children because, well, hired labor is just so taboo and the land *must* be tilled by blood-relatives only. But I digress; ”ye olde family farm” was never as widespread and systematic as Berry would have us believe, and instead he would have done better discussing and shedding light on tenant farms (of which they were as numerous if not more so than southern farms), something that is rarely discussed, I suspect because it’s not so marketable an image as “the family farm”. Finally, this book *does* have some good information, but mostly I think it misses so many marks that Berry’s voice becomes lacking in credibility from belaboring points that have more to do with false nostalgia than reality-driven solutions based on systems approaches. For those who want to read about positive, community driven farms that are doing the work to feed their people while empowering not just those lucky enough to own land, I suggest reading Leah Penniman’s “Farming While Black”.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephie Jane Rexroth

    "Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can provide. I "Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can provide. I have an idea that a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed, to live at least a part of their lives without a boss. And so the first thing farmers as conservationists must try to conserve is their love of farming and their love of independence... But farmers obviously are responsible for conserving much more than agrarian skills and attitudes. I have already told why farmers should be, as much as any conservationists, conservers of the wildness of the world – and that is their inescapable dependence on nature. Good farmers, I believe, recognize a difference that is fundamental between what is natural and what is man-made. They know that if you treat a farm as a factory and living creatures as machines, or if you tolerate the idea of 'engineering' organisms, then you are on your way to something destructive and, sooner or later, too expensive. To treat creatures as machines is an error with large practical implications. Good farmers know too that nature can be an economic ally. Natural fertility is cheaper, often in the short run, always in the long run, than purchased fertility. Natural health, inbred and nurtured, is cheaper than pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Solar energy – if you know how to capture it and use it: in grass, say, and the bodies of animals – is cheaper than petroleum. The highly industrialized factory farm is entirely dependent on 'purchased inputs.' The agrarian farm, well integrated into the natural systems that support it, runs to an economically significant extent on resources and supplies that are free. It is now commonly assumed that when humans took to agriculture they gave up hunting and gathering. But hunting and gathering remained until recently an integral and lively part of my own region's traditional farming life. People hunted for wild game; they fished the ponds and streams; they gathered wild greens in the spring, hickory nuts and walnuts in the fall; they picked wild berries and other fruits; they prospected for wild honey... As the countryside has depopulated and the remaining farmers have come under greater stress, these wilderness pleasures have fallen away. But they have not yet been altogether abandoned; they represent something probably essential to the character of the best farming, and the should be remembered and revived. Those, then, are some reasons why good farmers are conservationists and why all farmers ought to be." – from a 2002 essay, "Conservationist and Agrarian" "The form of the farm must answer to the farmer's feeling for the place, its creatures, and its work. It is a never-ending effort of fitting together many diverse things. It must incorporate the life cycle and the fertility cycles of animals. It must bring crops and livestock into balance and mutual support. It must be a pattern on the ground and in the mind. It must be at once ecological, agricultural, economic, familial, and neighborly. It must be inclusive enough, complex enough, coherent, intelligible, and durable. It must have within its limits the completeness of an organism, or of any other good work of art. The making of a form begins in the recognition and acceptance of limits. The farm is limited by its topography, its climate, its ecosystem, its human neighborhood and local economy, and of course by the larger economies, and by the preferences and abilities of the farmer. The true husbandman shapes the farm within an assured sense of what it cannot be and should not be. And thus the problem of form returns to that of local adaptation." – from a 2004 essay, "Renewing Husbandry" "Elmer Lapp is eminently a traditional farmer in the sense that his farm is his home, his life, and his way of life – not just his "work place" or his "job." For that reason, though his farm produces a cash income, that is not all it produces, and some of what it produces cannot be valued in cash. In obedience to the traditional principle, the Lapps take their subsistence from the farm, and they are as attentive to the production of what they eat as to the production of what they sell. The farm is expected to make a profit, but it must make sense too, and a part of that sense is that it must feed the farmers. And so a pattern of subsistence joins, and at certain points overlaps, the commercial pattern. ... For a man giftedly practical, Mr. Lapp justifies what he has and does remarkably often by his 'likes.' One finally realize that on the Lapp farm one is surrounded by an abounding variety of lives that are there, and are thriving there, because Elmer Lapp 'likes' them. And from that it is only a step to the realization that the commercial enterprises of the farm are likewise there, and thriving, because he likes them too. The Belgians and Guernseys are profitable, in large part, because they were liked 'before' they were profitable. Mr. Lapp is as fine a farmer as he is because liking has joined his intelligence intricately to his place. And that is why the place makes sense. All the patterns of the farm are finally gathered into an ecological pattern; it is one 'household,' its various parts joined to each other and the whole joined to nature, to the world, by liking, by delighted and affectionate understanding. The ecological pattern is a pattern of pleasure." - from the 1979 essay, "Elmer Lapp's Place" "Harmony between our human economy and the natural world—local adaptation—is a perfection we will never finally achieve but must continually try for. There is never a finality to it because it involves living creatures who change. … The work of adaptation must go on because the world changes; our places change and we change; we change our places and our places change us. The science of adaptation, then, is unending." – from a 2004 essay, "Agriculture from the Roots Up" "She was being extravagant with the sugar for my sake, as I was more or less aware, and I took it for granted. But knowledge grows with age, and gratitude with knowledge. Now I am as grateful to her as I should have been then, and I am troubled with love for her, knowing how she was wrung all her life between her cherished resentments and her fierce affections. A peculiar sorrow hovered over her, and not only for the inevitable losses and griefs of her years; it also came from her settled conviction of the tendency of things to be unsatisfactory, to fail to live up to expectations, to fall short. She was haunted, I think, by the suspicion of a comedown always lurking behind the best appearances. I wonder now if she had ever read 'Paradise Lost.' That poem, with its cosmos of Heaven and Hell and Paradise and the Fallen World, was a presence felt by most of her generation, if only by way of preachers who had read it. Whether or not she had read it for herself, the lostness of Paradise was the prime fact of her world, and she felt it keenly." — excerpt from the novel 'Andy Catlett' "There is, then, a politics of food that, like any politics, involves our freedom. We still (sometimes) remember that we cannot be free if our minds and our voices are controlled by someone else. But we have neglected to understand that we cannot be free if our food and its sources are controlled by someone else. The condition of the passive consumer of food is not a democratic condition. One reason to eat responsibly is to live free." – from a 1989 essay, "The Pleasures of Eating"

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rainbowgardener

    Really this should be five stars. It is a collection ofa some of Wendell Berry's most impassioned and hard hitting essays over the years from mid 1990's to I think 2008. They are mostly about the need for a humane sustainable agriculture, which uses nature as a model. This kind of agriculture is very particular to the location and only grows things that can and should be growing in that location and climate. (I read and write in several gardening/ homesteading/ farming groups. I'm always seeing Really this should be five stars. It is a collection ofa some of Wendell Berry's most impassioned and hard hitting essays over the years from mid 1990's to I think 2008. They are mostly about the need for a humane sustainable agriculture, which uses nature as a model. This kind of agriculture is very particular to the location and only grows things that can and should be growing in that location and climate. (I read and write in several gardening/ homesteading/ farming groups. I'm always seeing questions like why aren't my tomato plants producing here in the blazing hot Nevada desert? I pour water on them every day.). His vision of agriculture cares for the soil and increases it's health and fertility. It cares for the animals. Even if they are raised to be killed, their lives have dignity and meaning and they have sentience. They should live in as close to natural conditions as possible and their gifts should not be wasted. This includes manure which can help build soil fertility, but when concentrated in huge "lagoons," becomes toxic waste. This type of agriculture cares for the plants, which are given what they need in natural form without poisons or petroleum based chemicals. They are not grown in vast corn deserts, but exist in very diverse plant communities. Most of all this agriculture cares for the farmer. Rather than basically being an indentured servant of Big Ag companies, the farmers own their land and havevgenerational ties to it. They know every corner of it, how much sun each part gets in each season, what weeds and pests to expect when, what thrives there and what does not. The farmers are not isolated but live in vital supportive communities. There is so much here, this only scratches the surface. If I were newer to these topics, this would definitely be five stars. It just us less of a revelation to me since I've spent decades immersed in them . Recommended for anyone who grows food or eats it!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Price

    This book is an important contribution to the necessary dialogue we must have about food and conservation ”Eaters, that is, must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.” Berry makes idealistic arguments about the importance of recognizing that nature is inherently involved in agriculture. To farm well requires an implicit commitment to conservation - as This book is an important contribution to the necessary dialogue we must have about food and conservation ”Eaters, that is, must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.” Berry makes idealistic arguments about the importance of recognizing that nature is inherently involved in agriculture. To farm well requires an implicit commitment to conservation - as both agricultural products and the health of land is essential to human communities. Further, he advocates for consumers to begin to take an active role in demanding sustainable products and practices. Some may find Berry’s views as unpragmatic, yet they represent a keen voice in the increasingly important conversation about food production, food consumption, and resource protection.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Ransom

    Wow...a friend asked me if I wanted to expand my understanding of agriculture. When I replied yes, this was the book he allowed me borrow and read. I never thought I'd enjoy a book on farming, agriculture and life - this one kept me turning pages. Berry writes from a completely honest place, he holds no punches. Laying out the issues in farming, agriculture and rural life and sharing the joys of these topics. His views are relevant, and it draws the reader into a desire to get up and get busy ab Wow...a friend asked me if I wanted to expand my understanding of agriculture. When I replied yes, this was the book he allowed me borrow and read. I never thought I'd enjoy a book on farming, agriculture and life - this one kept me turning pages. Berry writes from a completely honest place, he holds no punches. Laying out the issues in farming, agriculture and rural life and sharing the joys of these topics. His views are relevant, and it draws the reader into a desire to get up and get busy about restoring our lands and caring more about the world around us. Being a Christian, I deeply appreciate how Berry doesn't exclude God from his solutions. God created all things and gave instructions on how to care for the earth - Berry draws many of his principles from those of God. I HIGHLY recommend this book - it'll change the way you view agriculture - and if you're anything like me...make you want to take up farming!! :) It was a GREAT read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Janet Elsbach

    Michael Pollan, in his introduction to this book, describes using Berry's writing as a kind of tonic; he keeps a volume or two on the shelf nearest his desk so whenever he is stuck in his own writing process he can take a paragraph or two of Berry as a bracing set-me-to-rights dose of clarity of thought and grace. Berry writes chilling things about the present and future and lost history of farming and food and yet he is so compellingly forthright and trustworthy that you just have to keep readi Michael Pollan, in his introduction to this book, describes using Berry's writing as a kind of tonic; he keeps a volume or two on the shelf nearest his desk so whenever he is stuck in his own writing process he can take a paragraph or two of Berry as a bracing set-me-to-rights dose of clarity of thought and grace. Berry writes chilling things about the present and future and lost history of farming and food and yet he is so compellingly forthright and trustworthy that you just have to keep reading and figuring out a way you can participate. I get the same feeling reading him as I do when I read E.B. White's One Man's Meat; that I'd very much like following him around on his farm for a day, though he likely wouldn't put up with that kind of mooning.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kate Davis

    First section on farming is fantastic, clearly explaining the dangers of our current agribusiness setup. The second section, on farmers, is more detailed looks at individual farms; I found it mostly skimmable, as it was more detail than I was interested in. The final section, on food, is mostly selections from his fiction writings -- interesting to see context of the previous generation's interactions with food and each other, but it is fiction out of context, so I also moved to skimming that pr First section on farming is fantastic, clearly explaining the dangers of our current agribusiness setup. The second section, on farmers, is more detailed looks at individual farms; I found it mostly skimmable, as it was more detail than I was interested in. The final section, on food, is mostly selections from his fiction writings -- interesting to see context of the previous generation's interactions with food and each other, but it is fiction out of context, so I also moved to skimming that pretty quickly. The final essay is the most valuable (at least as a city dweller), offering guidance for how to eat more sustainably and have a more holistic (that is, contextually rooted) relationship with food and land (which, Berry reminds us, are inseparable).

  30. 5 out of 5

    Philip Bailey

    I have not read many Wendell Berry books that I have not left questioning food, farming and then have taken the idea to other areas of our life. I am troubled by the industrialization of life in America. Just as in agriculture the business plan has become the goal, I think farming and education, are hurt by the focus on social and ecological interactions becoming means to an end rather than ends in themselves. There are so many quotable and memorable lines from this set of essays one doesn;t kno I have not read many Wendell Berry books that I have not left questioning food, farming and then have taken the idea to other areas of our life. I am troubled by the industrialization of life in America. Just as in agriculture the business plan has become the goal, I think farming and education, are hurt by the focus on social and ecological interactions becoming means to an end rather than ends in themselves. There are so many quotable and memorable lines from this set of essays one doesn;t know where to begin or end. Jst keep the book on hand.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.