Wendell Berry: Farmer, Ecologist and Author

A Plowboy Interview with author, educator, farmer and environmentalist activist — Wendell Berry.

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    Wendell Berry

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If you've never heard of Wendell Berry, it's probably only because the man hasn't been too worried about becoming famous. It's a certainty, however, that Berry's work as a farmer, neighbor, citizen, activist, teacher, poet, novelist and essayist is one of those rare collections of experience that touches each of us deep in our own lives.

Wendell lives — by deliberate choice — on a Port Royal, Kentucky farm that he considers his "rightful place in the world " ... but he does not allow this strong sense of location to draw a curtain of provincialism across his view of life.

Instead, Berry seemingly manages to devote the full measure of his attention both to the well-being of his family and community and to the matters which affect and afflict the whole earth. His concern alternates, as he says, between "the doorstep and the planet".

Wendell Berry's anguish about the greed and hate that too often blight the human spirit, and the warm pleasure that he takes in the earth's natural beauty are captured —t o varying degrees — in his five volumes of poetry, four books of essays and three novels. Berry's devotees particularly recommend The Unforeseen Wilderness, about a journey by canoe and foot through the intricate delights of a lovely river gorge threatened by "progress"; The Hidden Wound, an accounting of his own heritage of racism; Farming, A Handbook, poetry not "incompatible with barns and gardens and fields and woodlands"; A Place On Earth, Wendell's richly textured and warmly moving second novel; The Long-Legged House, and A Continuous Harmony, hooks of essays ranging from his indictment of strip mining in Kentucky, to "A Statement Against The War In Vietnam" to his attempts to discover the importance of his ancestors in bringing him to the place where he is today. Wendell's "language of permanence" in his most recent book of poetry, The Country Of Marriage, and his reviews of Farmers Of Forty Centuries and An Agricultural Testament in the Last Whole Earth Catalog are also warmly mentioned in any gathering of Berry followers.

Wendell Berry — a man who increasingly seems to articulate the hopes and fears and dreams of people committed to a saner world — rarely grants interviews. He not only agreed to the following exchange with Bruce Williamson, however, but sacrificed much personal time and energy to make sure that the conversation — and the article which resulted from it — was as informative, concise and precise as possible. Here, then, is Wendell Berry ... exactly as Bruce Williamson found him in the study of his Port Royal, Kentucky home.

Mr. Berry, for some time now you've been writing about the meaning of farming in your own life and its importance to the modern world ... and more and more people seem to be coming around to your point of view. Do you think that small-scale farming is finally being reaccepted as a viable and necessary contribution to the stability of both urban and rural life?



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