Taking Stock and Moving Forward with Intention

We are grateful for your continued support of The Berry Center. We are putting Wendell’s writings to work by advocating for farmers, land conserving communities, and healthy regional economies. The close of one year and the start of another offer us a time to reflect, to take stock of the work of the past year, and to look ahead with hope and with intention. This cycle is familiar, much like my family’s planning for the next growing season on our farm in Danville, Kentucky.

Wendell writes, “Over a long time, the coming and passing of several generations, the old farm had settled into its patterns and cycles … Its patterns and cycles were virtually the farm’s own understanding of what it was doing, of what it could do without diminishment. This order was not unintelligent or rigid … Its cycles of cropping and grazing, thought and work, were articulations of its wish to cohere and to last. The farm, so to speak, desired all of its lives to flourish,” (Jayber Crow. Counterpoint Press, 2001).

With your support, we advanced work in five strategic priority areas at The Berry Center in 2015. Highlights from this work include: 

The Berry Papers

  • Catalogued and archived speeches and papers about rural issues written by John M. Berry, Sr. and John M. Berry, Jr.;
  • Developed two scrapbooks highlighting John M. Berry, Jr.’s accomplishments while serving in the Kentucky State Senate from 1973 – 1982 and presented them to the Berry family;
  • Shared rare pieces in Wendell Berry’s collection online; and
  • Made strides toward our goal of creating an online repository of agrarian resources for researchers, historians, and students.

Protecting Farmers in the Marketplace

  • Convened the Producer’s Program Working Group to study the tenets of the program and identify culturally appropriate applications of the program today;
  • Began writing a modern day iteration of the Producer’s Program, starting with Non-GMO and Organic grain production;
  • Conducted the region’s first supply-side study of our local food economy;
  • Convened an agrarian consortium comprised of aligned organizations and entities across the state with the intention of leveraging resources and putting them to work for farmers;
  • Received a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant to support a series of conferences and meetings designed to help farmers take advantage of underused resources and overcome barriers that are currently preventing them from entering short supply chains in 2016;
  • Endorsed farmers and agricultural processors on Kiva Zip; and
  • Continued our partnership with Louisville Metro Government, Louisville Farm to Table Program and the Local Food Economy Working Group.

Creating a Culture of Good Farming and Land Use

  • Convened a consortium of sustainable agriculture degree programs across the state;
  • Partnered with the Interactivity Foundation to establish an agrarian student discussion group about the future of agriculture and rural life;
  • Continued our collaboration with the Berry Farming and Ecological Agrarianism Program at St. Catharine College (now 20+ students strong);
  • Participated in the blessing of Homeplace Farm at St. Catharine College; and
  • Joined The Land Institute for a gathering around the Institutionalization of the Ecological Worldview.

Home Place

  • Welcomed guests from all over Kentucky, over a dozen states, and three other countries to Henry County;
  • Celebrated the one year anniversary of The Bookstore at The Berry Center;
  • Launched our first exhibit featuring fiber art made by internationally acclaimed tapestry weaver Tori S. Kleinert (Turners Station, Ky.) and contemporary ceramic art made by Amy M. Baker (Charlestown, In.);
  • Collaborated to host the 16th Annual Henry County Harvest Showcase, the state’s longest running all-local agricultural fair;
  • Participated in a community-wide effort to preserve the historic Odd Fellows Lodge #1513 building located in downtown New Castle; and
  • Hosted our annual Christmas Open House and Book Signing with special guests Wendell Berry, regional travel writer Susan Reigler, and photographer Pam Spaulding.

The Common Wealth Project

  • Hosted “An Evening with Mark Bittman: A Celebration of Farming and Food” in partnership with Historic Locust Grove.

Much work remains to be done to put an economy in place that supports a good and diversified agriculture. The 2016 agricultural outlook is grim, with the only cited bright spot being in local production for local markets. We are fortunate to have in our history a democratic and economically viable model that supported a thriving rural economy. The Burley Tobacco Producer’s Program provided farmers with an economic base that they could plan their year around and a way to afford to buy land. The cooperative managed production and sales through binding and enforceable contracts. It was democratic in nature. The membership voted on the continuation of the co-op every three years based on one vote per farmer, regardless of farm size. Strategic adjustments to parity were made when necessitated by changes in production costs and supply and demand was carefully controlled.

In the year ahead, we will develop a modern day iteration of this cooperative program for our home place. The Berry Center is working with large-scale buyers and farmers to explore local production for local markets, beginning with Non-GMO and Organic Grain.  This cooperative model provides a strong framework that can be applied to local production for culturally appropriate markets and can be replicated in other places. We look forward to sharing more about this essential work with you in the months to come.