Renewing Husbandry

Writer Wendell Berry lives and farms in his home state of
Kentucky. He grew up helping his father and grandfather work their
fields using mule teams and eventually tractors. He’s witnessed
firsthand the mechanization of agriculture — the shift toward
maximized production and away from responsible stewardship. In an

, excerpted from his upcoming book, The Way
of Ignorance
, Berry envisions a return to the ways of
pre-industrial farming.

To Berry, it’s blatantly apparent that mechanized farming
strains rural life and overtaxes ecosystems, while largely
benefiting agribusiness corporations that have built their empires
on blind faith in a limitless supply of cheap fossil fuels. He
believes the time has come for the structure to change
fundamentally: ‘We can no longer pretend that agriculture is a sort
of economic machine with interchangeable parts, the same
everywhere, determined by ‘market forces’ and independent of
everything else.’ As a means to tempering the rigid, industrial
thinking that governs many of today’s farms, he prescribes a
healthy dose of husbandry.

‘To husband is to use with care, to keep, to save, to make last,
to conserve,’ Berry writes. He wants farmers to resume practicing
their art, to manage resources frugally and sensibly, to develop a
strong bond to the land, the crops, the soil, and the livestock, to
consider a farm in its natural context and cultivate accordingly.
He lobbies for the reinstatement of the farmer as ‘an independent
and loyal agent of his place, his family, and his community.’
Archie Ingersoll

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