John M. Berry, Jr. of Henry County, Kentucky has worked his entire life on behalf of farm families, during a distinguished career as a lawyer in New Castle, Kentucky and as a state senator representing the 26th senatorial district in Kentucky from 1973 – 1982. From 1985 until 2000 he was general counsel for the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association, which he served as president from 1987 to 1994. He was a member of the Governor’s Commission of Family Farms from 1998 to 2003.
The Berry Center is dedicated to preserving his legacy of work on behalf of Kentucky’s farmers. To that end, we are cataloging, archiving, and studying his papers, which, among other things, chronicle the end of the tobacco program and the attempt to establish a different farm economy for Kentucky’s farmers.
If it is to be successful and enduring, this farm economy will require strategic thinking and planning. As Mr. Berry put it in 2000, “What kind of rural America will we have in 50 years? How do we conserve soil and water to ensure the food and fiber we need and want?”
Mr. Berry proposed that a strategic long-term plan for Kentucky agriculture should include the following objectives:
- To preserve family farms, farm families and rural communities.
- To assist farmers and rural communities in the development of economies for the production, processing, transportation and marketing of agricultural, aquacultural and silvicultural products with emphasis placed on close proximity between the producer and ultimate consumer.
- To cause each community, county and region of the Commonwealth to become as self-sufficient in food and other products of the land as its soil, topography and climate will permit.
- To develop the capability to market surplus production in national and international markets.
- To provide assistance to farmers and forest owners in the development of marketing cooperatives and the establishment of business enterprises which will add value to their products.
- To assist and encourage marketing cooperatives in the development of marketing relationships with farm cooperatives in other regions to supply fresh food in the off season and in case of shortages.
- To give at the state level a primary emphasis to industrial and commercial development that will add value to the state’s agricultural and silvicultural products.
- To assure the state’s urban people an abundant, sustainable supply of fresh, healthful, tasty food.
- To develop policies and initiatives to preserve the state’s productive land for agriculture.
- To promote the long-term good health of our state’s rural economy and of our farmlands, forests ecosystems, and watersheds.
- To understand and to teach that economic and ecological health is the only proper measure of the success of this plan.
- In keeping with that measure, to recognize that small value-adding industries, scaled to cause the least possible disruption to places and communities are preferable to large ones.
- To recognize that, for reasons of citizenship, economics and ecological health, locally owned businesses are preferable to businesses owned by absentees.
- To encourage the adoption of policies on the local, state and national levels which will expedite the accomplishment of these objectives.
This is a worthy roadmap for planners and policy-makers today.