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Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,723 ratings  ·  150 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 pra
Paperback, 234 pages
Published August 18th 2009 by Counterpoint (first published July 1st 2009)
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Nov 23, 2016 added it
if you are into michael pollan or the politics of food/farming/etc you are legally required to get down with wendell berry.
Charlotte Dungan
Jan 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
Nov 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Joseph Smith
Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Jun 14, 2017 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
Emily Bertholf
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Mar 09, 2019 rated it liked it
“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
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Important book. True, good, and beautiful, in typical Wendell Berry fashion.
Sara Hillegass
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Timeless truths here. I’m passing it on to my farmer brother who never reads books.
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: farming
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.
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Ian Caveny
Jul 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: agrarianism
(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,
Jacob Aitken
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 agricu
May 11, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Sep 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing

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.
Jan 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
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
Stephie Jane Rexroth
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"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
Rebecca Price
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah Ransom
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Janet Elsbach
Oct 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Kate Davis
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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 ...more
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 ...more
Jan 13, 2020 rated it liked it
As a conservationist, this book was a valuable read in terms of coupling the importance of protecting both the wilderness and the lands that we actively use. My eyes were opened to just how well a small farmer can know the land, where the shade is, how the water runs, how sheep can benefit from different types of land, and how people have bred different types of sheep, how even logging done by horse can be done with the succeeding generations in mind. How knowing the source of your food can help ...more
Aria Maher
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: school
A very thought provoking read about the food we eat and where it comes from. In our fast-paced day and age, we very rarely stop to consider our food except as a source of fuel. We never ask simple questions like where was it grown? How far away? How fresh is it? This book takes a good hard look at modern 'industrial farming', and explains what's wrong with it and how we can grow better food that not only helps us stay healthy, but helps the earth stay healthy too.
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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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