Wendell Berry Tells It Like It Is

Craig McCord

Craig McCord › Craig possesses 23 guitars and cannot play any of them. He likes fresh grilled sardines with a ...


Wendell Berry has been a visionary about food and agriculture (among other things) for as long as I can remember. My 1971 edition of the Whole Earth Catalog featured an excerpt from Mr. Berry’s The Long-Legged House. In it was this:

Man cannot be independent of nature.

In one way or another he must live in relation to it, and there are only two alternatives: the way of the frontiersman, whose response to nature was to dominate it, to assert his presence in it by destroying it; or the way of Thoreau, who went to the natural places to become quiet in them, to learn from them, to be restored by them.

So it was with a mixture of surprise and relish that I watched Bill Moyers interview Wendell Berry. This is indeed a rare television appearance by Mr. Berry and I could not have asked for a better, more insightful interviewer than Mr. Moyers. This is Mr. Moyers writing on the Huffington Post to promote the segment:

Wendell Berry, one of America’s most influential writers who has written more than 40 novels, books of poetry, short stories and essays, has become an outspoken advocate for revolution. He’s calling for immediate action to end industrial farming and return to the sustainable farming methods of years past. In his interview with Bill, Berry says: “People who own the world outright for profit will have to be stopped; by influence, by power, by us.”

This is a conversation that we all should watch, pay attention to, and, ultimately, act upon. Wendall Berry has been telling it like it is for a long, long, time.

Man cannot be independent of nature.

Berry is not an ivory tower writer. Far from it. He lives and works on his family’s farm in Kentucky where generations of Berrys have worked the land for over 200 years.

He also practices what he preaches. He is not afraid to engage in civil disobedience to show his adamant opposition to big ag. At the same time, he is one of the biggest and most eloquent supporters of sustainable farming and the local food movement.

Mr. Berry has this to say about the current state of affairs:

It’s mighty hard right now to think of anything that’s precious that isn’t endangered. There are no sacred and unsacred places; there are only sacred and desecrated places. My belief is that the world and our life in it are conditional gifts. We have the world to live in on the condition that we will take good care of it. And to take good care of it we have to know it. And to know it and to be willing to take care of it, we have to love it.

And with that I will quit writing because, as usual, Mr. Berry says it all very well.

Have you ever read anything written by Wendell Berry? Do you agree with his stances?

Photo credit: Staci Strauss