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Established in 2011, The Berry Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing focus, knowledge and cohesion to the work of changing our ruinous industrial agricultural system into a system and culture that uses nature as the standard, accepts no permanent damage to the ecosphere, and takes into consideration human health in local communities. 
When we consider these objectives, the remarkable accomplishments of three Kentuckians stand out. The works of author Wendell Berry, his father, lawyer and farmer John M. Berry, Sr., and his brother, state senator and lawyer, John M. Berry, Jr. reflect a single vision: a state and a nation of prosperous well-tended farms serving and supporting healthy local communities.  The speeches, letters, manuscripts and articles of these men, especially as they pertain to agriculture in the state of Kentucky and the nation, are held and studied at The Archive of The Berry Center for study and dissemination.
The work of educating young farmers is being advanced by the Wendell Berry Farming Program of Sterling College, a collaboration between The Berry Center and Sterling College, offering a full time, tuition free undergraduate degree in regenerative agriculture right here in Henry County, Kentucky.
In the hopes of putting the lessons of the tobacco economy to work ensuring parity prices for farmers, The Berry Center is home to Our Home Place Meat, a beef program patterened after the tobacco cooperative model which ensured farmers made healthy profits and kept money in local economies.
The Agrarian Culture Center and Bookstore at The Berry Center develops cultural programming for rural readers, encouraging the preservation of local knowledge and pride of place for generations of people who are ever more distant from their agrarian roots.
Taken all together, The Berry Center promotes the vital connection between urban centers and the rural communities that surround them by collaborating closely and working actively alongside entities and institutions with complementary goals.  We hope that you, too, will join us in this good and vital work.

Our Vision

Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, published in 1977, awakened a national and global conversation on the dire state of agriculture. The Berry Center was launched in 2011 to continue this conversation and preserve the legacy of Wendell Berry’s work and writings and the exceptional agricultural contributions of his father John Berry, Sr., and his brother John Berry, Jr. We are putting these inspiring writings and histories into action through our Archive at the Berry Center, Agrarian Culture Center and Bookstore, Our Home Place Meat—a local beef initiative, and The Wendell Berry Farming Program of Sterling College. The core of our work is to advocate for farmers, land conserving communities, and healthy regional economies.

Our work seeks to provide solutions to essential issues that are rarely in public discourse and certainly not reflected in agricultural policies. “What will it take for farmers to be able to afford to farm well?” and “How do we become a culture that supports good farming and land use?” These are just a few of the questions that The Berry Center is addressing. We believe that the answers—while firmly rooted in local work—are central to solving some of the world’s most pressing problems including the devastation of natural resources and biodiversity; rapid onset of climate change; economic and social inequities; and the collapse of healthy farming and rural communities.

Visitors from all over the world travel to The Berry Center to visit our archive and neighboring Agrarian Culture Center and Bookstore and learn about our agricultural programs. Located in the handsome 1820 Oldham House in downtown New Castle, Kentucky, we are becoming a principle destination for historians, researchers, students, and agrarian leaders seeking information and history that is difficult to find or even unavailable.

Learn More About Our Initiatives

The Berry Center Director

MARY BERRY

Executive Director

The Berry Center Executive Director Mary Berry and her brother, Den Berry, were raised by their parents, Wendell and Tanya Berry, at Lanes Landing Farm in Henry County, Kentucky from the time she was six years old. She attended Henry County public schools and graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1981. She farmed for a living in Henry County starting out in dairy farming, growing Burley tobacco, and later diversifying to organic vegetables, pastured poultry and grass fed beef.

Mary is married to Trimble County, Kentucky farmer, Steve Smith, who started the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farming endeavor in the state of Kentucky. If daughters Katie Johnson, Virginia Aguilar and Tanya Smith choose to stay in Henry County, they will be the ninth generation of their family to live and farm there.

Mary currently serves on the Boards of Directors of United Citizens Bank in New Castle, Kentucky, the Schumacher Center for a New Economics in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and Sterling College in Vermont. She speaks all over the country as a proponent of agriculture of the middle, in defense of small farmers, and in the hope of restoring a culture and an economy that has been lost in rural America. Her writings have appeared in various publications and collections, including “Letters to a Young Farmer: On Food, Farming, and Our Future” (Princeton Agricultural Press, 2016) and the introduction for a new edition of essays, “Our Sustainable Table”, Robert Clark, ed. (Counterpoint, 2017).

The Berry Center Staff

VIRGINIA BERRY AGUILAR

Director, The Agrarian Culture Center and Bookstore at The Berry Center

Virginia Aguilar is the ninth generation of her family to be raised in Henry County, Kentucky. After graduating from Bellarmine University in 2007 with an honors degree in history, she became a founding faculty member at Louisville Classical Academy where she taught history, ancient languages, art, and served as middle school principal.

In 2016, after eight years of teaching, Virginia joined The Berry Center where she currently serves as director of the Agrarian Cultural Center and Bookstore at The Berry Center.  In her time at The Berry Center she has overseen the development of the Agrarian Literary League, a nationally recognized rural reading program, and the annual Kentucky Arts and Letters Day. In 2018 Virginia and her husband Ben were able to move home to Henry County.

DR. LEAH BAYENS

Dean, Wendell Berry Farming Program of Sterling College

As a member of the Sterling College faculty and Leadership Council, Leah works with colleagues and community partners to translate Wendell Berry’s visions for thriving farming communities into hands-on, interdisciplinary education. She teaches in and leads the Wendell Berry Farming Program of Sterling College, calling on her research in agrarian literature, history, and culture as well as her service to a number of central Kentucky nonprofits: Plowshares Farm Center, New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, and the Boyle County Farmers’ Market.

In 2011, Leah earned her doctorate in English from the University of Kentucky, where she studied 19th century American literature, ecocriticism, and cultural studies theory. In 2012, she joined The Berry Center’s work by founding and coordinating the Berry Farming and Ecological Agrarianism Program at St. Catharine College, where she also served as Chair of the Department of Earth Studies. Through The Berry Center’s partnership with Sterling College, Leah continues to fine-tune this new agrarian education. Her research has been published in Working for Social Justice: Inside and Outside the Classroom, Appalachian Heritage, The Whole Horse Project, The Notebook: A Journal for Rural Women and Girls, and What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be? (forthcoming).

Leah grew up in Louisville but has called rural Kentucky home since she graduated high school. She is one of the newest citizens of Henry County along with her partner, Bruce Bryant, a cabinetmaker and part-time teacher, and their son, Burley.

MICHELE GUTHRIE

Archivist, The Archive of The Berry Center

Michele Guthrie grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, went to the University of Kentucky and graduated with a degree in Special Education in 1973. She moved to Louisville after graduation and taught in the Louisville City School System, later the Jefferson County Public Schools. She married Jim Guthrie in 1975 and soon afterwards they purchased the farm in Henry County near the Kentucky River where they have lived now for thirty-eight years. They have three children, Joe, Rosalie and Paige.

In 1994 she received her master’s degree from Spalding University in Louisville as a school library media specialist. She worked for the Carroll County Pubic Schools as a library media specialist, the Kentucky Department of Education as the Kentucky Education Technology System coordinator/consultant for Region 8, then for the Oldham County Public Schools as library media specialist at La Grange Elementary School until her retirement in 2011.

In the summer of 2011 she was hired by The Berry Center as an archivist and librarian to curate an agrarian collection of books and materials and to organize, catalog and preserve the records of the Berry Family particularly as pertains to their work in public service, culture and agriculture, and advocacy for farmers and land-conserving communities in our state and the country.

DARRA SMITH

Office Manager, The Berry Center

Darra Smith joined The Berry Center’s work in 2015 as the office manager. Darra has over 20 years’ managerial and administrative experience. She spent 18 years serving as District Manager in the drinking water industry and has a strong water quality and customer service record. She and her husband, Tim Smith, live on their farm on the Little Kentucky River in Trimble County, Kentucky. They have two children, Casey and Kelly. Darra handles bookkeeping, invoicing and customer service.

BEN AGUILAR

Director Of Operations

Ben Aguilar joined The Berry Center as Director of Operations in 2018 after many years of teaching and technical production in academic settings in Louisville, as well as agricultural work in rural Kentucky. He was raised in Lexington, Kentucky and holds a B.A. and M.S. from Bellarmine University, and is glad to be working on the ground for people who work with the ground.

He is also glad to have moved with his wife, Virginia, near to her family’s home place in Henry County, where they are raising their daughter Lucinda, now a 10th-generation Henry Countian.

Ben is the editor of For The Hog Killing, 1979: Photographs by Tanya Amyx Berry (University Press of Kentucky, 2019), and hopes to document and preserve more of the agrarian history of the country going forward.

SANDY NOBLE CANON

Director, Our Home Place Meat

Sandy Noble Canon began work with The Berry Center and Our Home Place Meat in late 2018. She loves working with our Henry County cattle farmers, chefs and other local food-centric folk from all over the region, and her mission-driven colleagues at the Center. 

Sandy has worked in local food systems both personally and professionally for many years. She has also served as Kentucky’s state child care administrator, created a new national model for minor league baseball operations in numerous communities across the country; served as the Executive Director of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ– Bluegrass Region); as well as working in the fields of mental health, online homeownership education, child abuse prevention and women’s reproductive health.

Sandy has served on state and national teams, committees, and task forces for racial, immigrant equity, juvenile justice, criminal justice, and education issues. She is the former treasurer for the Lexington Farmers Market. Sandy lives with her husband on their piece of Kentucky – Meadowbloom Farm in Washington County where they built a uber-energy efficient home and grow produce. Together they have two fine adult sons who have expanded their family with wonderful partners and one delightful grandson.

BETH DOUGLAS

Marketing Manager, Our Home Place Meat

Beth Douglas grew up in Hazard, Kentucky and attended the University of Kentucky where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Food Science in 2008.  It was during her time at UK that she met her husband Kylen and after graduation moved to Henry County, Kentucky.  She worked as a Quality Control Chemist for Jim Beam Brands until 2016 when she decided she’d rather spend more time on the farm raising their three children, Benjamin, Abigayle, and Claire.
 
Beth was hired in August 2019 as the Marketing Manager for Our Home Place Meat to assist Sandy Noble Canon in expanding the program and managing day to day operations.

LOREN CARLSON

Director of Advancement

Loren Carlson joined the staff of The Berry Center in January of 2019 as the Director of Advancement. Loren grew up in Eastern, Kentucky and moved to attend college at the University of Kentucky where she accomplished a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communication and Art Studio in 2004.

In 2009 Loren moved to Louisville and has worked in development for the past ten years supporting local organizations in their efforts to better the communities of Kentucky. She is currently in her second year of graduate school at Spalding University, working toward a Master of Science in Business Communication degree with a focus in organizational leadership. 

Loren, her husband Philip, son Harvey, and their two dogs spend much of their time exploring trails, lakes, and parks in the great state of Kentucky. Her professional goal is to continue the development and growth of The Berry Center and its mission to support rural America. 

The Berry Center Board Of Directors

MARY BERRY

The Berry Center Executive Director Mary Berry and her brother, Den Berry, were raised by their parents, Wendell and Tanya Berry, at Lanes Landing Farm in Henry County, Kentucky from the time she was six years old. She attended Henry County public schools and graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1981. She farmed for a living in Henry County starting out in dairy farming, growing Burley tobacco, and later diversifying to organic vegetables, pastured poultry and grass fed beef.

Mary is married to Trimble County, Kentucky farmer, Steve Smith, who started the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farming endeavor in the state of Kentucky. If daughters Katie Johnson, Virginia Aguilar and Tanya Smith choose to stay in Henry County, they will be the ninth generation of their family to live and farm there.

Mary currently serves on the Boards of Directors of United Citizens Bank in New Castle, Kentucky, the Schumacher Center for a New Economics in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and Sterling College in Vermont. She speaks all over the country as a proponent of agriculture of the middle, in defense of small farmers, and in the hope of restoring a culture and an economy that has been lost in rural America. Her writings have appeared in various publications and collections, including “Letters to a Young Farmer: On Food, Farming, and Our Future” (Princeton Agricultural Press, 2016) and the introduction for a new edition of essays, “Our Sustainable Table”, Robert Clark, ed. (Counterpoint, 2017).

DEN BERRY

Den Berry has lived and farmed in Henry County all his life. On his farm he raises cattle, corn, and hay crops. In the past, he has raised produce for local markets and seed for an organic seed company. He also farms with his father, Wendell, at Lanes Landing. He is an eloquent spokesperson for good farming and agrarian communities.

Den is a master woodworker. In addition to the bookcases and counter in The Berry Center and Bookstore at the Berry Center, his furniture is in homes around the country.  Den and his wife Billie have two children, Emily Rose and Marshall Amyx.

KATHERINE DALTON BOYER

Katherine Dalton Boyer has worked for magazines in New York and Illinois and written for publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to the University Bookman to the online magazine frontporchrepublic.com.  After moving back to her home state of Kentucky in the 1990s, she ran a communications business for clients that included Rohm and Haas and GE Appliances.  She has contributed to the books Wendell Berry:  Life and Work and the forthcoming Localism in the Mass Age:  A Front Porch Republic Manifesto.  She and her family live in Louisville.

JOHN LOGAN BRENT

John Logan Brent lives with his wife Lori, and children Gracie, Morgan, and Jake on their 160 acre farm in Turners Station, KY.  John Logan has many passions, at the top of the list are his faith, family, farm, and community.

At a very young age John Logan discovered a passion for raising and growing things.  Along with this passion, he developed a deep love for the people, places, and agrarian culture of his Henry County Home.  In 2003, he was elected to his first term as Henry County Judge/Executive.  At that time he was the youngest person in the state to hold the position.  He currently is his fourth term of service to his community.  He and his family raise tobacco, cattle, and hay on several family small farms.  They have been selling finished beef off the farm to individuals for a number of years.  After years of driving long distances for farmstead meat processing, John Logan was very involved in bringing Trackside Butcher Shoppe to the community in 2015.

John Logan graduated from Henry County High School, the University of Kentucky, and attended a post graduate program at Harvard University.  In addition to the Berry Center Board, John Logan serves on the Baptist Hospital Lagrange Board, the United Citizens Bank Board, the County Extension Board, and he chairs the Tri-County Community Action Agency Board.

CHRISTY BROWN

Christina (Christy) Brown is originally from Frederick, Maryland and has lived in Louisville, Kentucky since 1968 when she married Owsley Brown II.   Christy is a proud mother of three and grandmother of nine. She co-founded the Center for Interfaith Relations in 1985 and went on to launch the first US Festival of Faiths in Louisville.  She believes passionately in the potential of faith communities to effect positive change by working together, at the same time celebrating their commonalities and differences.

Christy is an International Trustee of Religions for Peace, the worlds largest international interfaith organization. She is currently serving on the board of the Sustainable Food Trust in England, The Land Institute in Kansas, The Center for Interfaith Relations, The Louisville Orchestra Board, and Riverfieds of Louisville. To bring about the kinds of changes that will help people live healthier lives, she founded and is currently serving as the board chair for a new organization, The Institute of Healthy Air, Water and Soil. The Institute is leading the nation is creating new models that empower “citizen scientists” to reveal the connections between environmental health and human health.

MARY JONES

Mary joined The Berry Center’s Board in 2017 and is the Chair of the Finance committee. She is a lifetime Kentuckian, residing in rural Oldham County, and has enjoyed a nearly 30-year career in finance and investments with Louisville-based institutions. She has also been involved over the past 10 years in a support role in helping families manage their family farms and with investments in sustainable agriculture.

She has extensive experience serving individuals, families, and institutions as a family office advisor and/or investment management professional. Her private family office consulting practice includes helping families with strategic philanthropy and multigenerational wealth planning and advisory. She is also an owner and registered investment advisor with Regent Investment Management, LLC.

Mary graduated from the University of Louisville in 1987 with a B.S. in Business Administration with honors in Finance. She earned the Chartered Financial Analyst designation in 1993 and is a member of the CFA Society of Louisville.

BONNIE CECIL

Bonnie Cecil was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. She taught primary-aged students in Jefferson County Public Schools for thirty years. During those years she developed a personal style and curriculum that went beyond classroom walls. Students took frequent field trips to parks, nature preserves, libraries, museums, theatres and community events, and participated in two three-day camping trips yearly.

In 1980-1981 she was accepted into the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program and taught primary students in London, England. In 1992 she was named an Ashland Oil Teacher Achiever for innovation in the classroom. In 1993 she was named Kentucky Elementary School Teacher of the Year, and went on to be named Kentucky’s Teacher of the year. In 1994 she was recognized as a Milken Family Foundation National Educator.

She has served on The Berry Center Board since its inception in 2010. As the Center’s first development director she helped to plan and co-ordinate “The Resettling of America Conference” in 2012. She currently serves on the board’s Education Committee.

She also serves as a deacon at Port Royal Baptist Church, Port Royal, Kentucky, 2011-2013, and 2016-present.

Along with her husband, John Grant, Ms. Cecil owns and operates a 200-acre ridgetop farm in Henry County, Kentucky. In addition to growing an ample kitchen garden and watching their flock of chickens instead of TV, they raise cheviot sheep for market, and grow an acre of potatoes for A Place on Earth CSA Farmon the Little Kentucky River in Trimble County, Kentucky. They have two children, Casey and Kelly. Darra handles bookkeeping, invoicing and customer service.

LEIGH MERINOFF

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Leigh Merinoff holds a BFA from the University of Michigan and a MFA from Hunter College. She worked as a sculptor and teacher until 2000 when she became increasingly frustrated at the lack of real progress in addressing global issues around food, energy, and the environment.

Giving up her art career, today Leigh is a biodynamic-certified farmer with a focus on global food sustainability. An active public speaker and community organizer, Leigh has served as an ambassador for Heifer International and board member of The Land Institute and has helped sponsor energy, farming and sustainable livestock projects throughout the world. She was a founding member of the West River Community Project in Southern Vermont, focused on the revitalization of the West River Community through economics, community gatherings and the arts.

Leigh’s renewable energy efforts at home and on the farm include the installation of solar voltaics, solar thermal hot water, solar electric fencing and a 130’ 5kw wind turbine. Her initiatives for their family business in the U.S. include the construction of a test model for a 40,000-pound hybrid delivery truck and two Silver LEED–certified warehouses.

Biodynamics, honeybees and intercropped agriculture inspire her suburban edible landscape; while soil refertilization, contour planting, herbal medicine and heritage breeding of farm animals are the focus of her Vermont hillside farm.

Today Leigh runs Meadows Bee Farm, a small diversified farm with multiple livestock, a raw milk dairy, bees, orchards, an intern program and the Young Farmers Badge Program along with the Field House, an eco-farm and education center all focused on creating a more sustainable future.

MATTHEW DERR

Sterling College President Matthew Derr is nationally recognized in higher education for his expertise in leading institutional change and for strengthening mission-based focus. In 2011, He was awarded a Council for Advancement and Support of Education Chief Executive of the Year Award. Derr led the effort to divest the Sterling endowment from fossil fuels, founded the Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, and recently launched an effort with The Berry Center to expand the reach of farmer education. Prior to Sterling, President Derr served as Interim President of Antioch College, where he developed a concept for a new curriculum focused on issues related to environmental stewardship, inspired by Sterling. Unusually for a college president, Derr also fulfills a role as a faculty member and teaches community organizing.

 

Support The Berry Center

Years Of History

Preserved in The Archive Of The Berry Center, informing agrarian thought and practice, helping to chart a way forward for sustainable farming and rural prosperity.

Young Farmers

Working towards a full-time, tuition-free sustainable farming degree right here in Henry County, Kentucky, in our Wendell Berry Farming Program of Sterling College

Agrarian Books

Distributed by the Agrarian Literary League, a nationally recognized adult rural reading program from the Agrarian Culture Center and Bookstore at The Berry Center

Acres conserved

By Our Home Place Meat farmers, raising and processing the best livestock locally and humanely in a program based on the Burley tobacco cooperative model.

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