Wendell Berry
On Industrial Ag

Dateline: 17 October 2005

The following quotations from Wendell Berry compliment what I was saying in my previous blog entry. Reference information is at the end.


“The effects of this process of industrialization have become so apparent, so numerous, so favorable to agribusiness corporations, and so unfavorable to everything else, that by now the questions troubling me and a few others in the ‘60s and ‘70s are being asked everywhere.”


“The tractor’s arrival had signaled, among other things, agriculture's shift from an almost exclusive dependence on free solar energy to a total dependence on costly fossil fuel. But in 1950, like most people at that time, I was years away from the first inkling of the limits of the supply of cheap fuel.

We had entered an era of limitlessness, or the illusion thereof, and this in itself is a sort of wonder. My grandfather lived a life of limits, both suffered and strictly observed, in a world of limits. I learned much of that world from him and others, and then I changed; I entered the world of labor-saving machines and of limitless cheap fossil fuel. It would take me years of reading, thought, and experience to learn again that in this world limits are not only inescapable but indispensable.”


“Once one's farm and one's thoughts have been sufficiently mechanized, industrial agriculture's focus on production, as opposed to maintenance or stewardship, becomes merely logical. And here the trouble completes itself. The almost exclusive emphasis on production permits the way of working to be determined not by the nature and character of the farm in its ecosystem and in its human community, but rather by the national or the global economy and the available or affordable technology. The farm and all concerns not immediately associated with production have in effect disappeared from sight. The farmer too in effect has vanished. He is no longer working as an independent and loyal agent of his place, his family, and his community, but instead as the agent of an economy that is fundamentally adverse to him and to all that he ought to stand for.”


Our recent focus upon productivity, genetic and technological uniformity, and global trade -- all supported by supposedly limitless supplies of fuel, water, and soil -- has obscured the necessity for local adaptation. But our circumstances are changing rapidly now, and this requirement will be forced upon us again by terrorism and other kinds of political violence, by chemical pollution, by increasing energy costs, by depleted soils, aquifers, and streams, and by the spread of exotic weeds, pests, and diseases. We are going to have to return to the old questions about local nature, local carrying capacities, and local needs. And we are going to have to resume the breeding of plants and animals to fit the region and the farm.”


The above quotations were taken from an article titled Renewing Husbandry by Wendell Berry in the Sept/Oct issue of Orion magazine. I recommend that you read the article.

My thanks to Rick Saenz at Cumberland Books for posting a link to the article at his web site.


Scott Holtzman said...

Thanks for the article links and your contributions on Agrarian thought.

David McCrory said...

I love reading Berry's work, along with the Twelve Southern Agrarians. And Richard Weaver is indespensiable.

Oh that had a love of the land that they tried to impart to their readers. I can't get enough of them.


David McCrory said...

Oh that "we" had...


The Settler said...

Thanks for the link and your comments. There is an old Farmall H out in the barn that was conveyed with our property. It apparently only needs a governor to run properly, but I'm wondering if the best home for it might not be with an antique tractor collector.

Herrick Kimball said...


Those H's are good tractors.

Perhaps you could trade it for a work horse. ;-)

Missouri Rev said...


Great quotes from Wendell. “Bigger and better” farm machinery . . . more powerful herbicides and fertilizers . . . hybrid seeds and GMOs . . . are all futile efforts by mankind to overturn the creation. He is paying a most dreadful price for it. Fallen man, in ever seeking to ascend above his Creator, refuses to submit to the limiting scale God put into His creation, where families submitted to Him, by His grace, are to be the chief property owners (under God) and stewards of the land that they may diligently care for it through biblically sustainable agriculture. Instead, fallen man seeks to amplify his dominion and power by morphing himself by the use of the the corporation, which, being the virtual bastard child (artificial person - see Black’s Law Dictionary) of his own invention, is not subject to the restraining cords and bonds of God’s Law and, thus, is “protected from liability” in the temporary for the massive destruction and harm it has done to the earth and mankind, as we see with Monsanto, Con-Agra, etc. Debt-based, corporate industrialism is a curse from hell; the epitome of man’s rebellion in the Garden. The sooner believers depart from it the better. BTW, great blog! I finally got around to putting a link to it in mine.