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Bill Moyers interviews Wendell Berry

Here: Wendell Berry on His Hopes for Humanity.

There are other reasons to leave the land and move to the big city, other reasons to decide to not be a farmer, but this is important:

BILL MOYERS: When you and I were born in 1934 there were almost seven million family farms in this country. There are now roughly around two million family farms and most of us are further away from the foundations of nature than we’ve ever been.

WENDELL BERRY: Well, there’s another tough problem. And so you have to look ahead a little bit. I don't like to talk about the future very much because it doesn’t exist, and we don’t know anything about it. But one thing we know right now is that people want to be healthy and to be healthy you have to have a diverse diet and diverse agriculture employs a lot more people than monoculture. So you imagine people moving out into the landscape because it will pay them to do it. It’ll be what we now vulgarly call job creation.

BILL MOYERS: But this will take a lot of patience, won’t it?

WENDELL BERRY: It’ll take a long time.

BILL MOYERS: Do we have time given what agribusiness is doing?

WENDELL BERRY: We don’t have a right to ask that question. We have to ask what’s the right thing to do and go ahead and do it and take no thought for the morrow.

BILL MOYERS: Resettling of America means….?

WENDELL BERRY: It means putting people on the land enough people on the land to take proper care of it and pay them decently for doing it. The fact that we and our families know the history of people having to leave the country because they couldn’t make a living there, is the history of rural America. But that they left because they couldn’t make a living is an indictment of our land policies. The idea that you have to go somewhere else, that you have to leave a fertile country in order to make a living is preposterous and it’s a result of the wrong idea of what we mean by making a living in the first place. To make a living is not to make a killing, it’s to have enough.

And I loved his description of going to the governor's office and staging a sit-in.


While you're there, check out the full show, and sample the links in the sidebar and the other segments. I like the idea of a 50-year farm bill, and while the story is a bit sappy and the music a bit too saccharine, the slow-motion videography in Dance of the Honey Bee is pretty cool.

That little robo-bee, do want.

Average: 5 (1 vote)


Submitted by lambert on


"A 50-Year Farm Bill," which has been in circulation now for more than three years, is a proposal by The Land Institute in Salinas, Kansas, with the concurrence of numerous allied groups and individuals. This bill addresses the most urgent problems of our dominant way of agriculture: soil erosion, toxic pollution of soil and water, loss of biodiversity, the destruction of farming communities and cultures. It addresses these problems by invoking nature's primary law, in default of which her other laws are of no avail: Keep the ground covered, and keep it covered whenever possible with perennial plants.

At present, 80 percent of our farmable acreage is planted in annual crops, only 20 percent having the beneficent coverage of perennials. This, by the standard of any healthy ecosystem, is absurdly disproportionate. Annual plants are nature's emergency medical service, seeded in sounds and scars to hold the land until the perennial cover is re-established. By this rule, our present agriculture, which gives 80 percent of our farmland to annuals, is in a state of emergency.

You can't run a landscape, any more than you can run your life, indefinitely in a state of emergency. To live your life, to live in your place, you have got to bring about a settlement that does not involve you continuously in worry, loss, and grief. And so "A 50-Year Farm Bill" proposes a 50-year schedule by which the present ratio of 80 percent annual to 20 percent perennial would be exactly reversed. The ratio then would be 20 percent annual to 80 percent perennial. And perhaps I need to say plainly here that the perennial crops would be forages and grains. Nobody at present is talking about the possibility of breeding and raising perennial table vegetables, though they should.

Or edible forests.

Submitted by hipparchia on

forests too, though we don't have to be limited to that.

feral pigs are well adapted to forests (and anywhere else), and are delicious to eat according to many of my friends, but they're a bit of a problem....

grasslands (and wildflower meadows!) are good for raising livestock (which in turn fertilize the ground they eat on) and are easier to plow up and replant than forests, because we do enjoy some of those annual crops too!