Wendell Berry on industrialisation

“Like the rest of us, farmers have believed that they might safely live a life prescribed by the advertisers of products, rather than the life required by fundamental human necessities and responsibilities.” (A Defence of the Family Farm, 1986)

Quite apart from the point he’s making about industrialising agriculture, what I love most about this quote is how it exemplifies Berry’s ability to take a very specific issue (the one about industrial agriculture) and fits that into a much broader social context. His essays do this as part of their overall structure, and as part of the smaller structures (sections, paragraphs, sentences) within that.

Another example:

“An economic program that encourages the unlimited growth of individual holdings not only anticipates but actively proposes the failure of many people… It is a fact, I believe, that many people have now lost their farms and are out of farming who would still be in place had they been willing for their neighbours to survive along with themselves.” (A Defence of the Family Farm, 1986)

I’m in awe of his use of language and structure. Brilliant.

A post script on supporting farmers

Given that I’m reading Wendell Berry’s arguments for appropriately supporting the people who grow our food, I was sad to read this today over at the Youth Food Movement blog:

The Australian Farm Institute released research that found only 28% of Victorian farms made enough profit to support their own families. That’s crazy!

Its even scarier when put like this: 72% of Australian family farms don’t earn enough to support the family on them.

The piece I was quoting yesterday was written in the 80s. How sad that twenty years later it’s still so appropriate an argument.


Read the full YFM post here.
Unfortunately, access to the full study by the Australian Farm Institute requires a paid membership, but you can read a detailed report on it here.