Sage Advice

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to educate myself more about ecology, farming and gardening, and the name that keeps popping up in many books and articles that I have read in the past year is Wendell Berry – so (following the advice of all those sources who say that to make a resolution an achievable goal rather than a wish that will never come true, you must make it concrete), I have resolved to read at least 1 book by Wendell Berry this year.

In the meantime, I was thrilled to find an Op-Ed piece co-authored by him in the New York Times: “A 50-Year Farm Bill” takes a serious look at the shameful shortsightedness of our current farm bill and encourages us to think ahead:

Clearly, our present ways of agriculture are not sustainable, and so our food supply is not sustainable. We must restore ecological health to our agricultural landscapes, as well as economic and cultural stability to our rural communities.

For 50 or 60 years, we have let ourselves believe that as long as we have money we will have food. That is a mistake. If we continue our offenses against the land and the labor by which we are fed, the food supply will decline, and we will have a problem far more complex than the failure of our paper economy. The government will bring forth no food by providing hundreds of billons of dollars to the agribusiness corporations.

I hope that the incoming administration (with all else it needs to address!) will take these sobering words to heart and start us down the road to that 50-year farm bill. In the meantime, I hope that we will all try to educate ourselves more fully about our fragile planet, our dependence on it and each other, and that we will learn to appreciate more the acts of cooking and eating at home – acts that are becoming more and more political as well as economical.

To end on a more positive note, or perhaps this is the same thought more positively stated, here is another quote from Berry, which I found in Michael Pollan’s section on rituals (such as blessings) performed before eating (in Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto):

Eating with the fullest pleasure – pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance – is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.

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