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Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food by Wendell Berry
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Bringing it to the Table Quotes (showing 1-30 of 59)
“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.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“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.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“This massive ascendancy of corporate power over democratic process is probably the most ominous development since the end of World War II, and for the most part "the free world" seems to be regarding it as merely normal.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“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 ambition seems to be classless, as true in the executive suites as on the assembly lines. One works not because the work is necessary, valuable, useful to a desirable end, or because one loves to do it, but only to be able to quit - a condition that a saner time would regard as infernal, a condemnation.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“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.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“To husband is to use with care, to keep, to save, to make last, to conserve. Old usage tells us that there is a husbandry also of the land, of the soil, of the domestic plants and animals - obviously because of the importance of these things to the household. And there have been times, one of which is now, when some people have tried to practice a proper human husbandry of the nondomestic creatures in recognition of the dependence of our households and domestic life upon the wild world. Husbandry is the name of all practices that sustain life by connecting us conservingly to our places and our world; it is the art of keeping tied all the strands in the living network that sustains us.

And so it appears that most and perhaps all of industrial agriculture's manifest failures are the result of an attempt to make the land produce without husbandry.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“Agriculture must mediate between nature and the human community, with ties and obligations in both directions. To farm well requires an elaborate courtesy toward all creatures, animate and inanimate. It is sympathy that most appropriately enlarges the context of human work. Contexts become wrong by being too small - too small, that is, to contain the scientist or the farmer or the farm family or the local ecosystem or the local community - and this is crucial.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“As Gill says, "every man is called to give love to the work of his hands. Every man is called to be an artist." The small family farm is one of the last places - they are getting rarer every day - where men and women (and girls and boys, too) can answer that call to be an artist, to learn to give love to the work of their hands. It is one of the last places where the maker - and some farmers still do talk about "making the crops" - is responsible, from start to finish, for the thing made. This certainly is a spiritual value, but it is not for that reason an impractical or uneconomic one. In fact, from the exercise of this responsibility, this giving of love to the work of the hands, the farmer, the farm, the consumer, and the nation all stand to gain in the most practical ways: They gain the means of life, the goodness of food, and the longevity and dependability of the sources of food, both natural and cultural. The proper answer to the spiritual calling becomes, in turn, the proper fulfillment of physical need.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“A farmer, as one of his farmer correspondents once wrote to Liberty Hyde Bailey, is "a dispenser of the 'Mysteries of God.'"

The husband, unlike the "manager" or the would-be objective scientist, belongs inherently to the complexity and the mystery that is to be husbanded, and so the husbanding mind is both careful and humble.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“...nor do I want to suggest that the Amish are perfect people or that their way of life is perfect. What I want to recommend are some Amish principles:
1) They have preserved their families and communities.
2) They have maintained the practices of neighbourhood.
3) They have maintained the domestic arts of kitchen and garden, household and homestead.
4) They have limited their use of technology so as not to displace or alienate available human labour or available free source of power (the sun, wind, water, and so on).
5) They have their farms to a scale that is compatible both with the practice of neighborhood and with the optimum use of low-power technology.
6) By the practices and limits already mentioned, they have limited their costs.
7) They have educated their children to live at home and serve their communities.
8) They esteem farming as both a practical art and a spiritual discipline.

These principles define a world to be lived by human beings, not a world to be exploited by managers, stockholders, and experts.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“Some of the most memorable, and least regrettable, nights of my own youth were spent in coon hunting with farmers. There is no denying that these activities contributed to the economy of farm households, but a further fact is that they were pleasures; they were wilderness pleasures, not greatly different from the pleasures pursued by conservationists and wilderness lovers. As I was always aware, my friends the coon hunters were not motivated just by the wish to tree coons and listen to hounds and listen to each other, all of which were sufficiently attractive; they were coon hunters also because they wanted to be afoot in the woods at night. Most of the farmers I have known, and certainly the most interesting ones, have had the capacity to ramble about outdoors for the mere happiness of it, alert to the doings of the creatures, amused by the sight of a fox catching grasshoppers, or by the puzzle of wild tracks in the snow.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“Out of context,” as Wes Jackson has said, “the best minds do the worst damage.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
“We have bought unconditionally the economists’ line that competition and innovation would solve all problems, and that we would finally accomplish a technological end-run around biological reality and the human condition.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“Industrial agriculture, built according to the single standard of productivity, has dealt with nature, including human nature, in the manner of a monologist or an orator. It has not asked for anything, or waited to hear any response. It has told nature what it wanted, and in various clever ways has taken what it wanted. And since it proposed no limit on its wants, exhaustion has been its inevitable and foreseeable result. This, clearly, is a dictatorial or totalitarian form of behavior, and it is as totalitarian in its use of people as it is in its use of nature. Its connections to the world and to humans and the other creatures become more and more abstract, as its economy, its authority, and its power become more and more centralized.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“To eat responsibly is to understand and enact, so far as one can, this complex relationship. What can one do? Here is a list, probably not definitive: 1. Participate in food production to the extent that you can. If you have a yard or even just a porch box or a pot in a sunny window, grow something to eat in it. Make a little compost of your kitchen scraps and use it for fertilizer. Only by growing some food for yourself can you become acquainted with the beautiful energy cycle that revolves from soil to seed to flower to fruit to food to offal to decay, and around again. You will be fully responsible for any food that you grow for yourself, and you will know all about it. You will appreciate it fully, having known it all its life. 2. Prepare your own food. This means reviving in your own mind and life the arts of kitchen and household. This should enable you to eat more cheaply, and it will give you a measure of “quality control”: You will have some reliable knowledge of what has been added to the food you eat. 3. Learn the origins of the food you buy, and buy the food that is produced closest to your home. The idea that every locality should be, as much as possible, the source of its own food makes several kinds of sense. The locally produced food supply is the most secure, the freshest, and the easiest for local consumers to know about and to influence. 4. Whenever possible, deal directly with a local farmer, gardener, or orchardist. All the reasons listed for the previous suggestion apply here. In addition, by such dealing you eliminate the whole pack of merchants, transporters, processors, packagers, and advertisers who thrive at the expense of both producers and consumers. 5. Learn, in self-defense, as much as you can of the economy and technology of industrial food production. What is added to food that is not food, and what do you pay for these additions? 6. Learn what is involved in the best farming and gardening. 7. Learn as much as you can, by direct observation and experience if possible, of the life histories of the food species. The”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
“But these assumptions could not accomplish much on their own. What gave them power, and made them able finally to dominate and reshape our society, was the growth of technology for the production and use of fossil fuel energy. This energy could be made available to empower such unprecedented social change because it was “cheap.” But we were able to consider it “cheap” only by a kind of moral simplicity: the assumption that we had a “right” to as much of it as we could use. This was a “right” made solely by might. Because fossil fuels, however abundant they once were, were nevertheless limited in quantity and not renewable, they obviously did not “belong” to one generation more than another. We ignored the claims of posterity simply because we could, the living being stronger than the unborn, and so worked the “miracle” of industrial progress by the theft of energy from (among others) our children.

That is the real foundation of our progress and our affluence. The reason that we are a rich nation is not that we have earned so much wealth— you cannot, by any honest means, earn or deserve so much. The reason is simply that we have learned, and become willing, to market and use up in our own time the birthright and livelihood of posterity.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“Too many land users and too many conservationists seem to have accepted the doctrine that the availability of goods is determined by the availability of cash, or credit, and by the market. In other words, they have accepted the idea always implicit in the arguments of the land-exploiting corporations: that there can be, and that there is, a safe disconnection between economy and ecology, between human domesticity and the wild world. Industrializing farmers have too readily assumed that the nature of their land could safely be subordinated to the capability of their technology, and that conservation could safely be left to conservationists. Conservationists have too readily assumed that the integrity of the natural world could be preserved mainly by preserving tracts of wilderness, and that the nature and nurture of the economic landscapes could safely be left to agribusiness, the timber industry, debt-ridden farmers and ranchers, and migrant laborers. To”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
“Soon the majority of the world’s people will be living in cities. We are now obliged to think of so many people demanding the means of life from the land, to which they will no longer have a practical connection, and of which they will have little knowledge. We are obliged also to think of the consequences of any attempt to meet this demand by large-scale, expensive, petroleum-dependent technological schemes that will ignore local conditions and local needs.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
“Children learned about the adult world by participating in it in a small way, by doing a little work and making a little money—a much more effective, because pleasurable, and a much cheaper method than the present one of requiring the adult world to be learned in the abstract in school. One’s”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
“the greatest destroyer of the small economies of small farms has been the doctrine of sanitation. I have no argument against cleanliness and healthfulness; I am for them as much as anyone. I do, however, question the validity and honesty of the sanitation laws that have come to rule over farm production in the last thirty or forty years. Why have new sanitation laws always required more, and more expensive, equipment? Why have they always worked against the survival of the small producer? Is it impossible to be inexpensively healthful and clean?”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“It has become increasingly clear that the way we farm affects the local community, and that the economy of the local community affects the way we farm; that the way we farm affects the health and integrity of the local ecosystem, and that the farm is intricately dependent, even economically, upon the health of the local ecosystem. We can no longer pretend that agriculture is a sort of economic machine with interchangeable parts, the same everywhere, determined by “market forces” and independent of everything else.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
“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.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
“Our present agriculture, in general, is not ecologically sustainable now, and it is a long way from becoming so. It is too toxic. It is too dependent on fossil fuels. It is too wasteful of soil, of soil fertility, and of water. It is destructive of the health of the natural systems that surround and support our economic life. And it is destructive of genetic diversity, both domestic and wild. So”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
“All the episodes from my stories and novels are not about food only, but about meals. You can eat food by yourself. A meal, according to my understanding anyhow, is a communal event, bringing together family members, neighbors, even strangers. At its most ordinary, it involves hospitality, giving, receiving, and gratitude.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
“I now suspect that if we work with machines the world will seem to us to be a machine, but if we work with living creatures the world will appear to us as a living creature.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
“When “husbandry” becomes “science,” the lowly has been exalted and the rustic has become urbane. Purporting to increase the sophistication of the humble art of farming, this change in fact brutally oversimplifies it.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
“A farmer, as one of his farmer correspondents once wrote to Liberty Hyde Bailey, is “a dispenser of the ‘Mysteries of God.’” The mothering instinct of animals, for example, is a mystery that husbandry must use and trust mostly without understanding. The husband, unlike the “manager” or the would-be objective scientist, belongs inherently to the complexity and the mystery that is to be husbanded, and so the husbanding mind is both careful and humble. Husbandry originates precautionary sayings like “Don’t put all your eggs into one basket” and “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” It does not boast of technological feats that will “feed the world.” Husbandry,”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
“We see how everything—the whole world—is belittled by the idea that all creation is moving or ought to move toward an end that some body, some human body, has thought up.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
“When I think of the meaning of food, I always remember these lines by the poet William Carlos Williams, which seem to me merely honest: There is nothing to eat, seek it where you will, but of the body of the Lord. The blessed plants and the sea, yield it to the imagination intact.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
“However, we must try to see, and the best place to begin may be with the fact that the family farm is not the only good thing that is failing among us. The family farm is failing because it belongs to an order of values and a kind of life that are failing. We can only find it wonderful, when we put our minds to it, that many people now seem willing to mount an emergency effort to “save the family farm” who have not yet thought to save the family or the community, the neighborhood schools or the small local businesses, the domestic arts of household and homestead, or cultural and moral tradition—all of which are also failing, and on all of which the survival of the family farm depends.”
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food

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