Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
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Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food

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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  807 ratings  ·  83 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 pract
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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
29th out of 89 books — 146 voters
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Locavore Reading List
34th out of 55 books — 180 voters


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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...more
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...more
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...more
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 ag...more
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...more
Jonathan
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...more
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...more
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.
Rachel
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...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...more
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
Marielle
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
Patti
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
Justin
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
Martin
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...more
Heidi
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...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
Liz
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.
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...more
Katie
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...more
Taylar
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
Annalea
This is one of the most profoundly touching books I have ever read. Berry speaks on topics fundamental to a human-being's happiness . . . and shows us how to recreate our communities, our local food supply, and our health. Berry, a literary rarity, writes whole books as tightly as modern poetry . . . his prose reaches out into the heart of the reader because he writes from a deep love of his own: that of true farming.

And to know what "farming" really is (it's not the huge, mechanized, chemical-r...more
Nathan Douthit
This doesn't get five stars because I agree with everything in it, but because I couldn't put it down. Berry makes his case eloquently and forcefully through many essays. One I wouldn't mind reading again in the future.
Gloria
Anyone who likes the writings and causes supported by Michael Pollan will like Wendell Berry. Berry is working here to help the average person understand how food actually makes it to your table. He feels there is a major disconnect between the farmer and the consumer and because people don't understand the food industry, government is causing all kinds of problems (erosion, dependence on oil, and much more). Berry is into sustainable farming with an eye to the future. The writing is essay-like,...more
Leslie Fields
I've not finished, but it's quintessential Berry. If you have his other books you don't need this one, but it's a great place to start reading Berry, particularly if you're interested in Agricultural, land use, food issues. While I don't agree with him on everything, I'm always enriched by his perspective. There are few voices urging us to slow--even stop--this consumptive machine of technology as brilliantly as Berry. We can't all go back to the plow and the horse, but maybe we can consider whe...more
Aharon
great book of essays on farming, farmers, and food.
joshua
This book is great in all its three distinct sections. Berry outlines the plight of the family farm in an age of industrialization and the rise of monocultures. Bringing land, food production, the farm's husband, and livestock as the community of soil is a healing image. We can change the way we're going. Finishing off part 3 - fictional short stories and excerpts from his novels revolving around meals (as opposed to merely eating) - Berry offers very practical answers to the constant question o...more
Jill
Kinda boring and very wordy
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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.” 40 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.” 31 likes
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