- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: COUNTERPOINT (6 Jun. 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1582434840
- ISBN-13: 978-1582434841
- Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 2.3 x 20.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 467,889 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Gift of Good Land, The Paperback – 6 Jun 2009
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"These books ["Recollected Essays "and "The Gift of Good Land"] are the kind that you sp months with, hate to give up, and plan to return to soon and often. There is much pure pleasure in them, both in the spare and crafted eloquence of their prose, and in the breadth and depth of their content. They're reference works of the body and soul..." --"The Washington Post Book World"
"These pieces are angry, urgent, courageous, joyous and reaffirming." --"Philadelphia Inquirer"
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Totally relevant; it was a real problem to put it down. I am so busy, but I set the clock for 04:45hrs to get a few sections in before the madness of the day started! It was a revelation, it made me question currently what I am doing; it has set in progress change for me and my dependents.
A manifesto that brings back sanity to farming sustainably, but also what is necessary for humanity to live sustainably on this non-renewable planet. It reminds you of the things that we have forgotten are important.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The glue that holds these essays together is Wendell Berry's love and concern for 'good' farming. To Berry's way of thinking, good farmers mimic natural ecosystems. That is, they cultivate a diversity of crops, both plant and animal. The diversity is not random but rather it is a patchwork quilt that is lovingly matched to the idiosyncrasies of the land. The Gift of Good Land focuses on people and cultures that have somehow managed to remain good farmers in spite of economic pressures. Ironically, many of these cultures exist in brittle climates. Hostile environments kill stupid economics just as quickly as it kills stupid people.
The thing I liked best about The Gift of Good Land is that Wendell Berry genuinely LIKES the people he interviews! He treats them gently, with dignity and respect. Many authors would see Berry's people as "subjects" that are stupidly struggling to maintain the basest existence. Berry sees them as people who are heirs to thousands of years of cultural evolution, living lives that are a heroic testament to human adaptability. I prefer to see through Berry's eyes.
Attached are a few of Berry's observations that I think are particularly acute:
(In Europe)"...'marginal' farms and their farmers are looked upon as vital resources that will be needed in times of crisis, and so policies have been evolved to keep them productive."
(In the Peruvian Andes) "I wanted to see ancient American agriculture that has been carried on continuously for...4500 years... (on) steep, rocky, and otherwise 'marginal' land." "What seemed so alluring and charmed then, and seems so hard to recover now, is a live sense of contrasting scales. The scale of that landscape is immense....This way of farming that has obviously had to proceed by small considerations. It has had to consider dirt by the handful. Every seed and stem and stone has been subjected to the consideration of touch - picked up, weighed in the hand, and laid down."
(In the Sonoran Desert) "In response to their meager (arable) land, the Papago developed a culture that was one of the grand human achievements. It was intricately respectful of the means of life, surpassingly careful of all the possibilities of survival."
(In the Mid-West) "A bad solution is bad, then, because it acts destructively upon the larger patterns in which it is contained."
(At home) "One of the ideas most ruinous to the small farm has been that the farmer "could not afford" to produce his own food....What is your time worth? Though often asked, I do not think this question is answerable. It is the same as asking what your life is worth."
(On children) "...parenthood is not an exact science, but a vexed privilege and a blessed trial, absolutely necessary and not altogether possible."
(In West Virginia from the seat of a bulldozer) "...it is virtually impossible to see what you're doing..... He (the person being interviewed) still seems a little awed to think that so large a machine has to be run so much by guess." And that is a fine metaphor for life.
Consider buying this book if this kind of writing appeals to you. Otherwise, save your money.
This series of essays goes a long way towards describing how agriculture and rural life in general could be made sustainable. Today's 'modern' agriculture is decidedly not sustainable.
The book suffers a little for the passage of time. Some of the essays that I'm sure were topical in 1979 seem a little dated as far as content is concerned. Berry's lyrical writing rescues them, however.
If you have any interest in the food you eat and how it is produced, you should read this book (then join a Community Supported Agriculture farm).
All in all, these are excellent essays, but as many of them were drawn from farming journals, may find less of an audience. However, that should not stop anyone, suburbanite nor city dweller, from reading this fine, fine collection. "To see and respect what is there is the first duty of stewardship." --from "The Native Grasses and What They Mean."