Saturday, September 5, 2015

Bringing it to the table - On farming and food by Wendell Berry


I've heard about Wendell Berry from my American friends on Twitter for some time now. But it was only a couple of months ago that I decided to order this book, and I certainly did not regret it. 

What prompted me to buy it was a secret desire of mine to create a farm in urban Singapore (impossible as it may sound) and I wanted to read about how to do it in a sustainable manner that also contained a Christian element to it. 

In this book, Berry elaborates on how modern agribusiness has destroyed the productivity of the land and of the small scale farmer with its excessive use of machines, fertilisers and monocultures to achieve economies of scale. He advocates farming by the individual instead and explains how it has proven to be very successful (the Amish are one example he quotes), who cultivate the land as opposed to exploiting it. Only in this way can the land be used for decades and lift the individual out of poverty as instead of keeping him in it, which is what the modern agribusiness seem to be doing.

My sister commented that if I'd a farm, that I had to go to university again to get a degree in agriculture. Berry advises that the farmer himself possesses knowledge that professors do not have by virtue of the fact that the former has intimate knowledge of the land that he works on day after day. I should go be an apprentice of his instead. 

A prophet who had already predicted in the '80s how America would find itself with a food crisis on its hands, he continues to exhort the masses on how they can play a part in the farming. City dwellers can choose to eat responsibility, choosing fresh produce from sustainable sources and purchasing from farmer's markets instead of supporting the monopolies that produce processed food. (I have been inspired and shall attempt to incorporate this in my life as an urbanite.)

I particularly enjoyed the last section where he included some passages from works of fiction that he had previously written, together with some essays on the pleasures of eating. To read about how people truly enjoy eating is joy indeed. 

I would recommend this book to those interested in being a more responsible consumer to read this book to understand how modern agribusiness is harmful to not only the environment, but also to the farmer and the consumers too. It is a delightful read of essays that are intelligent and well-written. 

Can't wait to purchase my next Wendell Berry book!

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