Writer Wendell Berry to Speak at Williams, April 29

Media contact: Noelle Lemoine, communications assistant; tele: (413) 597-4277; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., April 23, 2010 — Wendell Berry, a farmer, essayist, novelist, and poet, will give a public talk called “Simple Solutions, Packaged Deals, and a 50-Year Farm Bill.” It will be held on Thursday, April 29, at 8 p.m. at the ’62 Center MainStage on the Williams College campus. Tickets are required, but admission is free and the public is cordially invited. To reserve tickets, please call (413) 597-2425, Tuesday – Saturday, from 1 to 5 p.m. – or visit the ’62 Center box office at 1000 Main Street on the Williams campus.

The son of a Kentucky tobacco farmer, Berry still farms 125 acres in his home state — even after traveling France and Italy on a Guggenheim Fellowship, studying at Stanford, and teaching in New York.

For Berry, the small family farm is an ideal. Unlike the massive, centralized agribusinesses that dominate American food production today, family farms pull together families and communities, keep people in touch with nature, grow food sustainably, and support local economies. Farmers who sell at local markets don’t have to transport their goods as far, which cuts down on fossil fuels.

“The first lesson to learn about agriculture,” Berry told an interviewer in 2004, is that “it needs a sound subsistence basis. People need to feed themselves, next they need to feed their own communities. … We want to develop a local food economy that local producers will supply and that the local consumers will support. It’s ridiculous that we should be importing food into this state while our farmers are suffering.”

Berry’s classic book “Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture” broke new ground when it appeared in 1977. He showed how agribusiness “takes farming out of its cultural context and away from families,” estranging us from the land, devaluing human work, and destroying nature “under an economics dedicated to the mechanistic pursuit of products and profits.”

The arguments are still relevant today, especially given the growth of the local foods movement.

Since then, Berry has written about farming, family values, and environmental stewardship. With Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” Berry co-wrote the 2009 book “Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food.”

Other books include “A Continuous Harmony: Essays Cultural and Agricultural,” “The Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural and Agricultural,” and “Home Economics: Fourteen Essays.”

Berry’s ideals trickle into his fiction and poetry. His many novels and short story collections are set in the fictional town of Port William on the Kentucky River, home to a tightly-knit community of farmers, shopkeepers, and country lawyers. His first novel, “Nathan Coulter,” was published in 1960.

Berry’s 17 volumes of poetry, meanwhile, have been compared to the beauty and simplicity of Shaker furniture. “Berry’s poems shine with the gentle wisdom of a craftsman who has thought deeply about the paradoxical strangeness and wonder of life,” according to the Christian Science Monitor.

He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, a Lannan Foundation Award, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Berry received his B.A. and his M.A. in English from the University of Kentucky. In 1958, he was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in creative writing at Stanford University, alongside other now-prominent writers of his generation. He has taught at New York University and the University of Kentucky.

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Event: Alison Hansen-Decelles

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