In Berry’s short story, “Sold,” the character Beulah Cordle Gibbs recounts the most recent place of dwelling that she and her husband Grover stayed in and owned (paragraph 31; middle of the article). Compared to the previous places in which they made a living from sharecropping, living in a home they owned felt more permanent and grounded. They lived their calm way of life the way they always had in the company of each other and their friends Big Ellis and Burley Coulter. When Beulah shares her experiences from her past, it makes me think about how a home persists in always having a place in our minds. I find it bittersweet that a place can continue to exist this way, even decades after it’s been abandoned. When a place you lived in for a while doesn’t exist anymore, it’s hard to relate how a community used to be to new generations or to people who have just moved in. However, it’s comforting knowing for certain that a place existed from having experienced it in one’s lifetime, and that the same place still exists in the thoughts of other members of that community that one grew up with. I think this also can be taken to relate to important figures in our lives. Last semester, I was pleasantly surprised to find my friend from home, who I don’t see when I’m at college, had sent me a package with cards and a poster she’d made specifically for me, which is about a comic we both read. The realization that I was in someone else’s thoughts even when I wasn’t physically there caught me unexpectedly. I was touched. I’d always assumed that my existence only stretched so far as to where I was and how frequent my interactions were with specific people. I can’t imagine being missed, or existing somewhere other than the present. I guess that in the same way one incidentally remembers a place through the memories made with special people there, one remembers a person when they do certain activities and remember how that person interacted with those activities.
In the essay, “An Argument for Diversity” from What Are People For? (last paragraph on page 114), Berry states that decisions dealing with how to attend to the land must be decided by the local residents and should take into account the care, not just the use of the land. Similar in idea to “The Work of Local Culture,” Berry pushes for particular care that is specific to one part of the land. Every environment has different needs to satisfy, and climates that suit certain forms of life better than others, even within a single region. Reading Berry’s ideal version of a community with a strong local economy caused me to envision local markets with exotic goods, such as one outdoor market I visited in Brazil where I drank sugarcane juice that I saw the vendors extracting from a raw sugarcane. My aunt’s family used to live next-door to the grounds of a small business that was always steaming with the scent of churrasco (meat on sticks) being made on the grill and sold directly. I think with local economy comes more variety, since local goods in contrast to manufactured ones, don’t have to be preserved over long distances and periods of time. You’d be more likely to find goods that cannot be produced in large quantities or that are rarer to find. I’d be willing to bet the vendors would have much regional knowledge about how to care for the crops they specialize in producing, and the right conditions to maintain in that specific environment.
Class Discussion Question:
What do you envision a farming community with a strong local economy to have? What are its processes? What are the positives and what can it lack?