Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wendell Berry on the value of small farms

"The fact is that most farmland requires close care to be used well. That is the agricultural justification for the small holding. It permits close care in a way that large holdings farmed by hired people or even owners on large machines can’t be farmed well. The moral benefit of independent small farmers is that it broadens the connection of the whole society to the land, and it increases the number of self-employed people. This is the political value that Jefferson saw in the small farm. People who are economically independent can think and vote independently."

In contrast to the development model that looks to increase the size of farms to reduce poverty from an industrial economic vantage point, Wendell Berry here raises a point about those aspects of small farms that contribute difficult-to-quantify value to society - strengthening democracy and promoting equity in relation to the natural world.

Interview by Anne Husted Burleigh on CERC site.