Archives For Agrarian

 

On Wednesday November 10, 2010, Indiana University hosted a conversation with Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson that was moderated by Bloomington’s own agrarian writer Scott Russell Sanders.

Click for our reviews of:

What follows is part two (of two) of a good quality audience recording of this very special event…

PART ONE of this interview is available here, if you missed it…

Enjoy!

[display_podcast]

 

“From Soil to Soil:
Gene Logsdon on the Backside of Agriculture”

A review of
Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind

By Gene Logsdon

Reviewed by Ragan Sutterfield.

Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind
By Gene Logsdon

Paperback: Chelsea Green, 2010.

Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Holy Shit - Gene LogsdonShit.  The word carries a certain sense, a sort of incredulity, skepticism, disdain.  It comes in different shapes and sizes—there can be loads of it, tons of it, piles of it, bags of it, people can even be full of it.  But Gene Logsdon wants us to rethink all of that and to see it as holy, set apart, a special gift that will play a key role in saving humus-kind.

Gene Logsdon should know.  As he says in the preface to Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind, “I grew up literally knee-deep in the stuff at times.”  Logsdon was a farm kid who was well acquainted with the ways of manure, a man who grew up and continued to farm and deal, day in and day out, with shit (the productive kind they have on farms, not the other kind that tends to go on in offices), eventually becoming “The most experienced and best observer of agriculture we have,” as none other than Wendell Berry put it.  Logsdon has written more than two dozen books on everything from wildlife to alcohol, and in every one he brings a sense of humor and deep purpose to showing a world that is losing its way, back to the soil from which it came.

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“The Gospel of the Land”

A review of
Consulting the Genius of the Place:
An Ecological Approach to the New Agriculture
.
By Wes Jackson.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Consulting the Genius of the Place:
An Ecological Approach to the New Agriculture
.
By Wes Jackson.

Hardback: Counterpoint, 2010.

Buy now: [ Amazon ]

CONSULTING THE GENIUS OF THE PLACE - Wes JacksonWes Jackson, founder of The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, has been of the leading voices of the agrarian movement over the last four decades.  And yet, his books are relatively unknown.  This fate, however, is perhaps about to change, with the recent release of what is perhaps his finest work, Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to the New Agriculture.   The themes of place, biodiversity and the virtues of perennial plants that have abounded in Jackson’s previous books converge in Jackson’s thorough argument for a new approach to agriculture that is dictated not by market economies or agribusiness but rather by the land and ecology of a given place.  Jackson’s argument is fairly simple: humanity needs to learn to shift our agricultural efforts away from large-scale monoculture operations which contribute to the catastrophic effects of erosion and of the chemicals in the fertilizers and pesticides that such monocultures demand.  Instead, he argues, we should return to diverse plantings that include perennial crops and that fit with the land, climate and other ecological features of our particular places.  He says in the book’s preface:  “As our minds sweep over the past and back to the present, I want them to center on the natural ecosystems still with us as our primary teachers.  They are our source of hope.  Reduced in number and limited in scale, they still hold answers to countless questions we have not yet learned to ask” (xi).  The primary natural ecosystem, of course, that Jackson and others at The Land Institute have trained their focus – given their home base in Kansas – is that of the prairie.

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Food Art Manifesto

A Contest for Artists and Writers


THE VEGETABLE GARDEN

As a follow-up to the Manifesto for a New Food Art (Click link to read), The Englewood Review is sponsoring FOOD ART MANIFESTO, an art and writing contest to encourage reflections by artists related to current conversations on food, place and the new agrarianism.

ABOUT:

Read the Manifesto for a New Food Art.

While this document by no means calls for specific aesthetics or media, it does ask for artists to consider some basic ideals that have been associated recently with food, and particularly the new agrarianism (fresh, local, sustainable, etc.), as normative also for art-making.

SUBMISSIONS:

Visual artists: Open to all media, although bear in mind that winning entries will appear in print, so some mediums may not translate as well to print. Send up to three (3) images as JPGs, 300 dpi, 6 inches in the largest dimension (save files as Yourlastname-1.jpg) to brent [at] englewoodreview [ d o t ] org, along with the attached entry form.

Writers: Writing entries may be poetry, fiction or non-fiction. Send up to three (3) entries, no longer than 1500 words each, as Word or RTF documents (save files as Yourlastname-1.doc) to brent [at] englewoodreview [ d o t ] org, along with the attached entry form.

NOTE: Previously published works will be accepted under the condition that the artist owns the rights to the work and grants permission (should the work be selected as a winner) for us to republish it.

ENTRY FORM:

Your name_______________________________________

Title of work______________________________________

Category:  Visual: ______________ OR Writing: __________

Dimensions (if applicable)_____________________________

Email___________________________ Phone___________

(Copy and paste for additional entries).

PRIZES: The top three visual art submissions and top three writing submissions will be published in the Lent 2011 print issue of the Englewood Review of Books. One first place winner in each category will be awarded a one year subscription to the print ERB.  In the event that we are swamped with top-notch submissions, additional winners may be announced.  (Any first place winners that are already subscribers will have an extra year added to the term of their subscription.)


TIMELINE:

  • November 19: FOOD ART MANIFESTO contest announced
  • January 8 (midnight) : Submissions due by email
  • Mid-January: Winners notified
  • Lent 2011: Winners published in Issue #2 of the Englewood Review of Books

QUESTIONS: Contact Brent Aldrich, brent [at] englewoodreview [ d o t ] org

 

On Wednesday November 10, 2010, Indiana University hosted a conversation with Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson that was moderated by Bloomington’s own agrarian writer Scott Russell Sanders.

Click for our reviews of:

What follows is part one (of two) of a good quality audience recording of this very special event…

Enjoy!

[display_podcast]

 

A Review ofNew Covenant Bound.
T(ony) Crunk.
Paperback: UP of Kentucky, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Thomas Turner.

The young poet T. Crunk’s latest work is a mixture of poetry and prose that tells the epic story of a family adversely affected by progress and the longing for an agrarian past. The words form a tangle of longing and the haunting of an old way of life that peruses the depths of Kentucky’s soul.

Crunk navigates the rising waters of a Tennessee Valley Authority project that displays scores of families with dam building, all for the sake of “progress.” Juxtaposed in the text are the old ways and new ways of living for a family that has lived the same way since they first touched Kentucky soil, and their inability to sail safely through the waters of progress and change are the focus of Crunk’s keen sense of place and time.

The sense of place is Crunk’s most dramatic arc, as the family must move from their old town to New Covenant. Bound for this new town, the family wrestles with the loss of a farm that served as their whole identity: when you are born and buried in the same place you live and work, place and identity have a way of becoming the same thing. The family’s hard life of farming seems cursed, and their curse doubles as their whole existence will soon be placed under billions of gallons of water:

Our only sin was being born where we were. And not giving up on
a land that often spited us.

Our only sin was not having what they thought was enough. And
being forced to take what they call help. (52)

What the government called help was diversion to an internment camp and not much else. What seemed like an opportunity for a fresh start for hundreds of subsistence farmers in Appalachia soon turned into a cynical view of government, progress and the value of life and land. Some move away to cities. Some commit suicide. Others stick around as close to their homeland as possible, hoping that they can re-create their life, but it is all for naught. The narrative of human flourishing and living on the land has been drowned like their farms, and the light of hope which once carried them through hardship and hunger has faded to the point that darkness can now overcome it.

Crunk’s poetry shapes the ethos of an age that is so different but so very much like our own, when progress is supposed to go about unobstructed and unopposed for the sake of the people, for our own good. But Crunk forces us to reflect on our history of unrelenting progress, that under every reservoir there might well be the hopes and dreams of people cast asunder to on our collective journey toward a “brighter” future.

Brief Review: NEW COVENANT BOUND by Tony Crunk [Vol. 3, #42]

 

I’m looking forward to reviewing Wes Jackson’s new book, the review copy of which arrived at our offices this week.

Consulting the Genius of the Place:
An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture
.
Wes Jackson
Hardback: Counterpoint, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Here’s a recent video of him talking about some of the ideas in the book:

 

“Uncovering a Common Wealth

A Review of
What Matters?:
Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth.

by Wendell Berry

Reviewed by Joe Bowling.


What Matters?:
Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth.

Wendell Berry

Paperback: Counterpoint Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

What Matters? Wendell BerryTo paraphrase from memory something I believe Norman Wirzba once wrote, “For a growing number of us, reading Wendell Berry is perhaps the most important thing that we do.” For quite some time now, I have believed this statement to be true. If you are reading this review and have not yet read from Wendell Berry’s works, please allow me to play a small role in helping to change your life for the better. If you are reading this review and are familiar with Wendell’s poetry, novels, or non-fiction, you are almost undoubtedly nodding in agreement.

Providing a review for something that Wendell Berry has written is a difficult task. There is little chance of either providing a meaningful critique or of helping to better communicate his ideas. Few authors write with such clarity, economy and imagination. Each of Berry’s ideas is part of a comprehensive whole, a finely-attended garden if you will, which he has cultivated, and — as he would likely say — has been cultivated in him, for many decades.

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“The Delight of Discovery

A Review of
Garden Guide: New York City.

By Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry
.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.


Garden Guide: New York City.
By Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry
.
Vinyl Flexicover : W.W. Norton, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

While the idea of a garden guide for New York City might seem unusual at first – this is, after all, the city that takes a beating for the size of the presumed ‘concrete jungle’ – the fact that just such a lengthy book exists is telling of an important aspect of urban places: namely, that gardens, parks, and green spaces are as integral to the fabric of healthy, diversified neighborhoods as anything; but also, as David Owen makes clear in Green Metropolis, the very density of NYC is one of the ‘greenest’ things it has going. New York’s gardens, scattered in-between buildings, along streets, on roofs, or in the occasional large park, become all the more valued because each plot of ground is precious, which is to say, each garden must do the most with the space given for it – none of this endless acreage of sprawling lawns and vacant lots such as are found in a city like Indianapolis, where I’m writing. Rather, creative uses are required for gardens in a city like New York, and so rooftops, the smallest vacant lots, and an old elevated train line all become valued green spaces alongside buildings, roadways, and the rest of city life.

A new revised edition of Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry’s Garden Guide: New York City documents over 80 gardens in New York’s five boroughs, and this number, it seems, is a relatively small selection, as the authors cite that there are over 400 community gardens alone in NYC. And within this guide, there is a full representation of many of these community gardens, along with city park-owned properties, private institutions with public green spaces, museums, churches, and municipal buildings, all with site-specific garden spaces in the midst of the city. Additionally, all of the gardens described in the book have visiting information, a ‘best season,’ and websites in most cases; through the bulk of the guide, these gardens are grouped geographically, but at the close, there are other classifications for gardens, such as ‘Best Vegetable Gardens,’ ‘Gardens With a View,’ or ‘Rooftop Gardens.’

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A Review of

The Agrarian Vision:
Sustainability and Environmental Ethics.

(Culture of the Land Series)

Paul B. Thompson.
Hardback: U Press of KY, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.


The Agrarian Vision: Sustainability and Environmental Ethics by Paul Thompson is the newest installment in the Culture of the Land series, in which Thompson narrates a long history of philosophical thought relating to agriculture, environmentalism, ethics, and most thoroughly, notions of sustainability. Along the way, the background argument is that agrarianism, as practiced and as an ideal, can underwrite and give shape to the language of sustainability, the popular meaning of which is often nebulous.

Agrarianism is directly tied to a specific place, and people, and its very embeddedness is perhaps its fundamental mark:

“[the agrarian vision] serves as an ecology of virtues, a generator of values that structures, ennobles, and gives purpose to life, not only for farmers but also for the vast majority of participants in the food system. It makes humanity’s dependence on nature and natural systems more obvious… the agrarian steward looks to nature for a sense of place, an understanding of the underlying structure that informs personal values and gives meaning to human life” (82).

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