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Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  1,333 Ratings  ·  119 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 practi
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Published July 28th 2009 by Counterpoint LLC (first published July 1st 2009)
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Elizabeth
Nov 03, 2014 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
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.
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
Mar 13, 2010 Ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: agriculture
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
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Charlotte Dungan
Jan 15, 2011 Charlotte Dungan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Pete
if you are into michael pollan or the politics of food/farming/etc you are legally required to get down with wendell berry.
John
Jun 14, 2017 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
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
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Faith
Feb 28, 2017 Faith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jacob Aitken
Aug 04, 2011 Jacob Aitken rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Jamie
Aug 02, 2012 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, health
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
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Kim
May 11, 2014 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Bradley
Sep 21, 2012 Bradley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grown-up-books
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
Josh Barkey
Mar 27, 2011 Josh Barkey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Andi
Jun 01, 2015 Andi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sally Lamping
Jan 30, 2010 Sally Lamping rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Janet Elsbach
Oct 27, 2016 Janet Elsbach rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Marielle
Feb 01, 2010 Marielle marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
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
Wade
May 29, 2015 Wade rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
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
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Justin
Sep 26, 2012 Justin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: environment
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
Mark
Feb 01, 2015 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Martin
Nov 25, 2009 Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Matthew Hansen
The last chapter was worth the whole book
Patti
Sep 11, 2009 Patti rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jonathan
Jan 10, 2017 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bringing it to the Table, like all of Berry’s work, contains a multitude of profound wisdom. While most of Berry’s essay collections cover a diverse range of topics relating to politics, culture, and farming, this one mines 40 years of his previous work to arrange together in one place some of his best work on how food gets from the soil to our stomachs and what has gone wrong with that process today. It’s a measure of both the conciseness and depth of Berry’s thought that I filled up 12 pages o ...more
Feisty Harriet
I'm not sure what I was expecting, but not exactly the contents of this book. The first 100 pages are essays written by Wendell Berry over the course of 30+ years that focus on Farming and agriculture and the ills of agribusiness (and, though not specifically mentioned, the enormous factory farms and the way companies such as Monsanto and Cargill have drastically altered farming in this country). The next 80 pages are essays about individual farmers, and this section was--by far--my favorite. I ...more
Jonathan
Mar 20, 2014 Jonathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Andrew Dekkinga
Jan 04, 2013 Andrew Dekkinga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tori
Mar 15, 2012 Tori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Heidi
May 27, 2010 Heidi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction-misc
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
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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."
More about Wendell Berry...

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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.” 61 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.” 55 likes
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