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    Quotables: Home Economics

    February 2, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    Home Economics
    by Wendell Berry

    Agriculture deals with living things and biological processes, whereas the materials of industry are not alive and the processes are mechanical. That agriculture can produce only out of the lives of living creatures means that it cannot for very long escape the qualitative standard; that is, in addition to productivity, efficiency, decent earnings, and so on, it must have health. {p. 123}

    [T]he best farms have always been homes as well as workplaces. {p. 124}

    The best thing for any nation or people, obviously, is to grow its own food. {p. 124}

    There must be a decent balance between what people earn and what they pay, and this can be made possible only by control of production. When farmers have to sell on a depressed market and buy on an inflated on, that is death to farmers, death to farming, death to rural communities, death to the soil, and {to put it in urban terms} death to food. {p. 127}

    It is apparently easy to say that there are too many farmers, if one is not a farmer. This is not a pronouncement often heard in farm communities, nor have farmers yet been informed of a dangerous surplus of population in the “agribusiness” professions or among the middlemen of the food system. No agricultural economist has yet perceived that there are too many agricultural economists. {p. 129}

    With us, a resource is something that has no value until it has been made into something else. Thus, a tree has value only insofar as it can be made into lumber, and our schools, which are more and more understood and justified as dispensers of “job training,” are based on the implicit principle that children have no value until they have been made into employees. {p. 134}

    We are going to have to see that, if we want our forests to last, then we must make wood products that last, for our forests are more threatened by shoddy workmanship than by clear-cutting or by fire. {p. 143}

    [T]here is great danger in the perception that “there are too many people,” whatever truth may be in it, for this is a premise from which it is too likely that somebody, sooner or later, will proceed to a determination of who are the surplus. {p. 149}

    [W]hen farmers let themselves be persuaded to buy their food instead of grow it, they become consumers instead of producers and lose a considerable income from their farms. This is simply to say that there is a domestic economy that is proper to the farming life and that it is different from the domestic economy of the industrial suburbs. {p. 177}

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    1 Comment

  • Reply sara February 3, 2012 at 12:29 am

    That second to last one reminds me of that passage in A Christmas Carol. I’m sure you know the one.

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