It’s not every day that a farmer and poet packs an auditorium so full that security has to turn people away. But that’s exactly what happened when Wendell Berry showed up at the University of Virginia last week, according to Ted Strong of the National Catholic Reporter.
In his lecture, Berry outlined the need for small-scale landholders to involve themselves in forestry and farming, and argued that both rural culture and the environment are being damaged by large-scale corporate operations:
Farm and timber economies that simply export raw materials for processing elsewhere kill towns because they also export jobs, he said. “And then you will be exporting your young people to take those jobs,” he said…
“Our tendency has been to fasten upon one product and allow that one to determine the local land economy.”
Berry is one among many calling for reforms to the farm bill. Among other things, he advocates for a switch to “majority perennial crops”:
“It would take cattle, hogs and poultry out of the animal factory and put them back on farms, where they belong,” he said.
He further believes that we must return to old agrarian ideals, which will require a cultural shift:
“Good and responsible use of family-sized holdings cannot be expected of people with the subservient mindset of corporate employees,” he said.
I can’t think of a better place to bring this message than to the university campus.