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Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  967 ratings  ·  94 reviews

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 prac
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 18th 2009 by Counterpoint (first published July 1st 2009)
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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara KingsolverAll Creatures Great and Small by James HerriotFarm City by Novella CarpenterThe Dirty Life by Kristin KimballHit by a Farm by Catherine Friend
Down on the Farm
28th out of 97 books — 158 voters
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Locavore Reading List
35th out of 55 books — 188 voters

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Community Reviews

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Susan Wittig 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 ...more
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.
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 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 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 ag
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 ...more
This book is a collection of essays from Wendell Berry on issues regarding food production- including; ecology, conservation, consumerism, natural resources, and the need for sustainable farming/ranching/logging/eating. He argues that with the growth of industrial agriculture we humans have strayed from our important bond to nature and community.

I love his assertion that "the processes of agriculture, if they are to endure, have to be analogous to the processes of nature. If one is farming in a
Wendell Berry writes essays about food and eating; not going to the grocery store and buying ready-made, cheap subversions for food made cheaply for the sole purpose of making a profit but about “eating with the fullest pleasure-pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance…”. Bringing It To The Table: On Farming and Food is the third collection of Berry’s essays that I have read and the theme remains the same. What is different and makes this collection special is the addition of excerpt ...more
The immediate predecessor to current ecologically-minded farmers, Berry hits the nail on the head, summarizing all of the most crucial ideas that the likes of Michael Pollan are discussing still today. A great introduction to the problems of the industrial mindset in agriculture.

This book--and others like it--also intrigues me because of its interesting location on the political spectrum. Most of the ideas Berry espouses are normally identified with environmentalism (and thus, liberalism), even
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
Sally Lamping
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.
I've read a lot about Berry because he is constantly referenced by other food writers, especially Michael Pollan who wrote the intro to this book. I thought this would be a good introduction to his work since it is a collection of essays, and that was mostly true. It was broken into sections of farming, farmers, and food. Berry's school of thought when it comes to farms is definitely not mainstream, and he advocates for very small family run farms with minimal gas-powered technology, which for a ...more
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 ...more
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
Sarah Clement
I enjoy Wendell Berry's essays, though I do often have to remind myself to accept the romanticism and idealism he weaves throughout. I agree with his philosophies about food, in principle, even as I recognise their unlikeliness in this modern context - for social, political, and economic reasons. He argues strongly and eloquently for a food system that many (if not most) of us would agree would make the world a better a place and repair our environment in the process. However, I found this volum ...more
Mar 14, 2010 Marielle marked it as to-read
This book will really make you think before you put anything in your mouth again. It spoke to me directly, because like Mr. Berry, we grew up surrounded by a lot of little farms. And then a decade later, most of them are gone, having been built over by a housing development. I think that I was also under the illusion that since I lived close to these farms, that I was eating their food. I hardly think that is the truth. The Giant Eagles, and the Walmarts usually get their food from bigger suppli ...more
Another book to be treasured from Wendell Berry. The book is composed of essays Berry has written over many years and is in three sections. The first lays out what a real farm should look like and how it should be run thinking in terms of its viability over time. That involves studying and coming to know the actual land the farm is on, animals and crops and ways of farming need to be adapted to that particular piece of land. In other words, farming involves having eyes wide open and thinking. Be ...more
Andrew Dekkinga
This was my first book on agriculture. Being somewhat uneducated on these matters, this book provided an eye-opening experience to the philosophy of agribusiness and the lost benefits of local organic farming. Berry morosely tells the tragic tale of local farmers being run out of business by the competitive and greedy fervor of industrial agriculture. He emphatically states that farming in sync with the local ecosystem is the only way to maximize yield while not having to resort to nature-degra ...more
Not only is this is a first class critique of the industrial model of agriculture, it also lays out clear principles for healthy farm husbandry as Wendell Berry calls it. What makes it stand out from other similar books is the author's perspective as a traditional farmer, as a lover of home grown meals and an insightful, broad based vision of a healthy society. This is really a compilation more than a book, of previously published articles, some short and others fairly lengthy. As such, it works ...more
Sep 08, 2010 Martin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of Michael Pollan (Omnivore's Dilema, IN Defense Of Food)
Wendell berry is a writer of fiction, poetry and (here) non fiction, who also happens to have worked a farm in Kentucky for the better part of the last 50 years. I was aware of him by reputation and through running across a few poems and short stories in anthologies and journals here and there. But did not know of his work as a sustainable farming advocate, which is probably how he is best known.

In reading the Omnivore's Dilemma a little while back, Berry was referenced several times, and at fir
Reading these essays makes me want to hug a farmer and plant more beans. Here are a few favorite quotes so far:

"We assume that we can have an exploitive, ruthlessly competitive, profit-for-profit's sake economy, and yet remain a decent and a democratic nation, as we still apparently wish to think ourselves. This simply means that our highest principles and standards have no practical force or influence and are reduced merely to talk." (p. 38)

"Domesticity and wildness are in fact intimately conne
A great selection of essays demonstrating the depth and breadth of Wendell Berry's wisdom. Though the collection is ostensibly about food and farming, Berry's view of the natural world, including humans, as one deeply interconnected and interdependent system extends his reach far beyond that realm. The final section included some non-fiction-- excerpts from Berry's novels and short stories that centered around meals-- and I have to say that his writing is not put to its best use in fiction. I'll ...more
Ellen Bell
Given that many of my favorite books quote Wendell Berry, I've been really excited about finally reading some of his work. I really, really, really wanted to love this book, but I had such a hard time getting into it. I found the essays to be slow and tedious, full of complex ideas (awesome ideas, but complex nonetheless) wrapped in even more complex sentences. Even worse, the essays weren't able to hold my attention. I'd be reading along, and then realize that my mind had been wandering, and th ...more
This was the first I've ever read of Wendell Berry. The essays on farming and agriculture were [mostly] accessible to a non-farmer, though I did have to look up quite a few farming specific terms relating to crop cultivation and different equipment. The last section is a collection of scenes revolving around food and meals in his fiction.
Reading Wendell Berry - novels, poems, short stories, and now essays - makes me want to be a farmer. Or at least to live on and love a particular piece of land and its immediate neighbors, human and non.

There are plenty of technical details here that blew past me in a blur of partial understanding, but Berry's mantra comes through loud and clear: industrial agriculture is not the way to farm for the future. With essays on farming, portraits of farms and farmers who are doing things well, and fic
Part I was pretty good, though it started to get repetitive -- many of the articles were making the same or similar points. Part II was a bit too farming intensive for me and it lacked the political voice that was present in Part I. I was disappointed that Part III, the part about food, was just excerpts from some of his fiction rather than really being about food.
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.
AdultNonFiction Teton County Library
TCL Call# 630.973 BERRY W

Adam - 5 stars
While I regret not having seen Berry speak when he came to Jackson through the library's Page to the Podium in October, this book provides a great sampling of his writings, both in essay and short story format related to the "family farm." Berry's position as both farmer and academic gives him the authority and the eloquence to communicate in an intelligent, yet easy-to-read manner. This is a great introduction, for someone like myself who is interested in
Aug 17, 2012 Katie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: food
A delightful series of essays about farming and farmers. Some essays are nearly 30 years old, but are still pertinent to today. Wendell Berry has a wonderful, lyrical way of writing that draws you in just for the sound of his language.

My only disappointment was part 3- Food. Berry has only written one essay on food specifically so the editors filled in the rest of the section with various passages from his fiction books that marginally relate to food. Although his fiction is also enjoyable, it r
I admire Wendell Berry and I agree with his ideas and politics. But I found these essays repetitive and a little too idealistic and romantic for a simple past where women were docile and cooked food for the hungry men and that was the ultimate goal in life. I know I'm oversimplifying now but the point is these pieces were just a little too based in a conservative religious ideology that just doesn't exist anymore. Ultimately, women's progress aside, the root of these essays is supremely relevant ...more
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Wendell Berry is a conservationist, farmer, essayist, novelist, professor of English and poet. He was born August 5, 1934 in Henry County, Kentucky where he now lives on a farm. The New York Times has called Berry the "prophet of rural America."
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“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: "Love. They must do it for love." 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.” 50 likes
“Good farmers, who take seriously their duties as stewards of Creation and of their land's inheritors, contribute to the welfare of society in more ways than society usually acknowledges, or even knows. These farmers produce valuable goods, of course; but they also conserve soil, they conserve water, they conserve wildlife, they conserve open space, they conserve scenery.” 40 likes
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