cover_bringing_it1“I LIVE IN A PART OF THE COUNTRY that at one time a good farmer could take some pleasure in looking at,” Wendell Berry intones in the opening essay of his new collection, Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2009); a little farther down the page he continues, “Now the country is not well farmed, and driving through it has become a depressing experience.” This somber tone-setting essay, “Nature as Measure,” was written 20 years ago. Poet-essayist-novelist Berry—now in his mid-70s and who has farmed a hillside in his native Henry County, Kentucky, for more than 40 years—has had plenty to rail against when it comes to Big Ag, the politics of indifference and our alienating post-industrial age; but he also has had plenty to celebrate in clear-eyed observations of humankind interacting with nature, the value of true hard work (diametrically opposed to the digitally and plutocratically enabled “work” of accumulating phantom wealth) and the rewarding simplicity of sharing, of family, of community.

An out-of-touch cranky neo-luddite screeching for a return to prelapsarian times? Hardly. Berry’s vision is that of a hardy-yet-hoary realist, tinged by both optimism and pessimism (ah, the foibles of humanity!), attempting to show us a path out of our befoulment, a steaming, festering swamp we teeter face-first ever closer toward. And Berry’s prose? Gracefully worn and weathered to a burnished beauty, like a glacier-cast erratic, transfigurative in its straightforward simplicity. Read More »

OGO LogoHQ‘To be interested in food but not in food production is clearly absurd.’ —Wendell Berry

WE’RE AT THE OUTER EDGE OF SUMMER, TEETERING TOWARD FALL, the autumnal equinox mere days away, and celebrating, here in Oregon, another Organically Grown in Oregon Week, now in its twenty-first year. With 425 certified organic farms and organic production covering more than 115,000 acres, Oregon has been a longtime leader in the organic agriculture charge toward sustainability and “good food for all.” And now with an organic vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House (raising a big the-day-has-finally-come HURRAH! from Alice Waters; not so much from Monsanto) and everywhere you turn talk of simple, slow, local, organic and boy, do we ever need to change our nation’s eating habits, let’s hope this movement can gain serious momentum, and requisite backing, to make a real difference in the way food is grown, harvested, sustained and eaten.

As Michael Pollan writes in the introduction to a new collection of essays by Wendell Berry, Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2009), “Certainly these are heady days for people who have been working to reform the way Americans grow food and feed themselves—the ‘food movement’ as it is now often called. Markets for alternative kinds of food—local and organic and pastured—are thriving, farmers’ markets are popping up like mushrooms, and for the first time in more than a century the number of farmers tallied in the Department of Agriculture’s census has gone up rather than down.” Read More »

Jimella1ABOUT HALFWAY UP THE LONG BEACH PENINSULA on the southwest Washington coast, in rather unprepossessing territory*, you’ll happen across Jimella’s Seafood Market & Cafe, gemlike yet equally low key, a keen practitioner of things local, fresh, organic, slow and sustainable. And let’s add REMARKABLY FLAVORABLE to the list (sure, why not, in all caps). You see, the owners, Jimella Lucas (she cooks) and Nanci Main (she bakes), own and ran the critically acclaimed Ark restaurant up the road in Nahcotta for more than 20 years. Worth the trip if you’re in this Lewis-and-Clark end-of-the-trail windswept-and-wild landscape? Absolutely. And it’s off the scale in green goodness! “Thank you for buying local,” a sign above the front door reads, “we’ll pay it forward.” Read More »