Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry

By Woody Woodruff

Our Conservation Associate, Woody Woodruff, at a Wendell Berry book signing

When I graduated from college my Agricultural degree was from the College of Science and Art. A lot of us enrolled in that Agricultural program were focused on the principles of being a sound, well rounded farmer. We saw the value in a free lifestyle to choose, and each day being a new adventure. This vision in the freedom to farm was being passed down from generation to generation.

One of Woody’s favorite nightly rituals, reading poems by Wendell Berry by the fire.

I graduated just prior to the great farm crisis of the 1980s. During that time period farmers were told they had to get big or get out, because more land means more profit. Most farmers reacted to the message and invested in borrowing money and buying more land and machinery. Shortly after they invested all their savings and more, the price dropped out of commodity prices never to return.  Also after that, colleges made a shift in there Agricultural degrees from a focus on Science and Arts to Science and Business. It was a time of great loss for me and my farming community. To me, this chaos in farming shifted the focus from creating a healthy, well connected, functioning, rural community to profit as the bottom line.

I could spend a lot of time now explaining this value verses profit shift, but fortunately a new documentary has just been released on Netflix entitled; Look & See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry. Over the years, reading Wendell’s books and his poetic views on the crisis in agriculture, has helped to shape my views of how unsustainable, industrial, and profit-driven agriculture has become, and how important the value of being a well-rounded farmer is. Do me a favor and watch this piece on the life of Wendell Berry. We hope you find it as insightful and impactful as we did.