Monday, August 22, 2011

Problems Down on the Farm

Aside from the silliness of Obama's "Contact the D of Ag" and the D of Trans' "CDL's for ALL!!!", there are longer-running and deeper problems down on the farm.  This from the Russell Kirk page:

One key proponent of wise stewardship of the land is Wendell Berry, a Kentucky farmer and man of letters whose short treatise The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (1977) is a minor classic. In this closely argued work, Berry examines with sorrowful rage the transition of the American farm into a factory, an entity based upon productivity, statistics, and management from a bureaucracy high above the dark fields of the Republic: a world away from the family farm, with its perpetual striving for balance between the needs of man and nature. Egged on by arrogant individuals at the top of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American farmer has been encouraged to abandon the principles of conservation—crop rotation, organic fertilization, topsoil nourishment, and small-holding in general—for what might be called “giantism”: farming run on a grand scale at a great distance by efficiency experts and self-promoting busybodies. For what purpose? At best, to achieve economies of scale, resulting in low prices for the consumer. At worst, to achieve surpluses that can be used against nations overseas in a cause that angers Berry deeply: “Food as a weapon.”

But the main effect of this top-down management of the American farm is a loss of something deeper and more costly: the time-honored, almost spiritual bond between the good land and the people who live on it and work it. This goes beyond the now-cliché phenomenon of city-bred children believing that milk comes from a factory. That is a symptom of something much more serious: a world in which the land is viewed as a sort of giant facial tissue, to be used and discarded, with more people working the land in an increasingly thoughtless manner, poisoning the earth with inorganic chemicals, growing foodstuffs of questionable nutritional value, and enriching a relative handful of agribusinesses at the expense of the smallholder, creating a vast gulf between the grower and the consumer. And all the while, there is promoted the general sense that smallholding is a mug’s game that is best abandoned for the more lucrative attractions of small-town and urban life. The overall result is a loss of orientation, the understanding of who man is and what his place is in the world. Humility, hope, a sense of pilgrimage on the earth, and the role of stewardship are replaced by a prideful, no-holds-barred domination.

The essay--which is controversial--reminds us that the question we argue over is "balance".  Some--Codevilla's "Ruling Class"--are convinced that all that is known is concentrated in Capitals, whether national or State.  Others simply do not believe that, and can adduce plenty of evidence to their contrary position.

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