Wendell and Tanya Berry set apart an area of land on the periphery of their Kentucky hillside property, when they settled there in 1964, as a wild preserve permanently removed from cultivation. It was a usage stemming from the agricultural tradition Berry was born into—self-sufficient domestic diversified farming, as practiced in Henry County by five generations of Berrys. Because the industrialized monocrop agriculture that replaced it prefers large uniform fields, progress came late to this intricate terrain. By the time Berry returned there to settle, Henry County’s economically marginalized status in the new scheme of things made it a likely place to find a pocket of land to reclaim for the practice of a new-style old-style agriculture. On site, up close, paying attention to process and results, learning from mistakes, Berry decided that “gardening is a collaboration between the gardener and nature,” in which “fertility is the survival of natural process in the human order.” “To learn to preserve the fertility of the farm,” he quotes pioneer ecologist Albert Howard, “we must study the forest.” There, nature’s bookkeeping takes everything into account in a diversified system of balanced biochemical exchanges that rise from the soil and return to it in the circulations of the wheel of life.
more from Jim Powell at Threepenny Review here.