Berry believes that the existence and the quality of farming has deteriorated in modern times. One of the main ideas he stresses in “Nature as Measure” is the idea that a piece of land cannot be farmed in the same manner as any farm–someone, who is accustomed to the local area and knows what practices would be best for the climate of that particular place and what crops or animals would thrive, would be needed. He has been disenchanted with his observation of the number of misused lands across the country that have gone to waste because of bad farming practices. Not only is Berry pointing out that commoners and manufacturers no longer place a high priority on caring for the land, but also neither do churches. He quotes Genesis 1:28, which states that God passes the responsibility and discretion to the people on Earth on how they choose to use the land. The churches, however, have related Christian service to how much one can contribute monetarily, or how much service one can devote to make up for not contributing as much. He states that there is an “economic valuation in spiritual things” and that they do not recognize the importance and self-sufficiency of farming communities. In the middle of all of Berry’s observations, however, he has an optimistic view of how society can change. “A Practical Harmony” details multiple accounts that share the same thinking that the best way of farming is by studying the nature of the land. The ideal environment would have no waste; instead, the waste would be used in a way that works with what will be produced and thriving.
I found Berry’s nostalgic thoughts about how the remnants of good farms are still visible from its remains to be inspiring. Reading these essays has allowed me to see that farming is a beautiful practice and putting one’s life work into it as part of a farming community is worth the long run. I thought it related somewhat to his essays about the decline of local culture, since his discussion about the interdependence of farming communities made me think of how diverse and developed the skills that each member of the community must have for a community to be as complete and elaborate as described. There is a hope that the land can be built to what it used to be, but I agree that it is a far-fetched hope since more and more buildings will be built in the future. I don’t think that the building of more structures is necessarily bad for the environment, but an integration of nature with architecture could work, which has been theorized and experimented with modern architecture. It pains me that there exists land, however, that is just laying in waste and is forgotten. New communities could be centered around these places. It would be a great experience to live in a self-contained community such as that of a farm’s.
Class Discussion Question:
Have you been able to see different landscapes outside of your local community that either show bountiful farms or used land?