Food and Nutrition
Peace and Nonviolence
Trees and Forests
The Gift of Good Land
Further Essays Cultural and Agricultural
The essays in The Gift of Good Land describe Wendell Berry's journeys to the highlands
of Peru, the deserts of southern Arizona, and Amish Ohio to study traditional agricultural
practices. They expand on issues first raised in The Unsettling
Praise for The Gift of Good Land
"These books [The Gift of Good Land and Recollected Essays] are the kind that
you spend months with, hate to give up, and plan to return to soon and often. There is much
pure pleasure in them, both in the spare and crafted eloquence of their prose, and in the
breadth and depth of their content. They're reference works of the body and soul . . ." --The
Washington Post Book World
"These pieces are angry, urgent, courageous, joyous and reaffirming." --Philadelphia
Quotes from The Gift of Good Land
"Concerned as he is that the usable be put to use, that there be no waste, still there is
nothing utilitarian or mechanistic about Mr. Lapp's farm--or his mind. His aim it seems,
is not that the place should be put to the fullest use, but that it should have the most
abundant life. The best farmers, Sir Albert Howard said, imitate nature, not least in the
love of variety. Elmer Lapp answers to that definition as fully as any farmer I have encountered.
Like nature herself, he and his family seem preoccupied with the filling of niches. . . .
The barn swallow nests in the milking barn are not there just by happenstance; little wooden
steps have been nailed to the joists to encourage them to nest there. Elmer Lapp has defended
them against . . the cats, which he pens up during the nesting season, 'if they get nasty.'
Among the wild creatures, he seems especially partial to birds. Wild waterfowl make themselves
peacefully at home along his pasture stream, . . One can justify the existence of birds by
'insect control,' but one can also like them. Elmer Lapp likes them. . . Above his row of
beehives is a border of sudan grass that he has let go to seed for the birds. He likes too
the buff Cochin bantams that live in the milking barn and the stable--they scatter the manure
piles and so keep flies from hatching--and the goldfish who live in the drinking trough and
keep the water clean."
. . .
"My walk across Wally's remade farm began at a plot reclaimed the previous year. There was
a good deal of bare ground showing through a stand of grasses and legumes that were obviously
struggling for a roothold. And so I began in doubt. How would this pale mixture of subsoil
and gravel ever support a sod? Who, after so much work, could be encouraged by this result?
By the time we reached the oldest of the reclaimed plots, my doubts were gone. The ground
was covered everywhere by a dense, thriving stand of pasture plants comparable to the best
you would see anywhere. And underneath the sod was a brown, duffy layer of humus, where topsoil
was building again. I was impressed to see that this layer was already thicker under a six-
year-old sod that it was under the thirty- or forty-year-old thicket growth on the spoil
" 'Speed is everything now; just jump on the tractor and way across the field as if it's
a dirt-track. You see it when a farmer takes over a new farm: he goes in and plants straight-
way, right out of the book. But if one of the old farmers took a new farm, and you walked
round the land with him and asked him: "What are you going to plant here and here?" he'd
look at you some queer; because he wouldn't plant nothing much at first. He'd wait a bit
and see what the land was like: he'd prove the land first. A good practical man would
hold on for a few weeks, and get the feel of the land under his feet. He'd walk on it and
feel it through his boots and see if it was in good heart, before he planted anything: he'd
sow only when he knew what the land was fit for.' "
. . .
"Stephen Brush, an anthropologist at the College of William and Mary, . . . gave a description
of the complex and sophisticated agriculture of the Andean peasants of Peru. These people
still grow and preserve their crops, without modern chemicals or techniques, by an intricate
system of adjustments among varieties, planting, climatic zones, etc. They fertilize their
crops with guano and sheep manure (by penning sheep in the fields). They protect their land
against erosion by keeping the fields small, by the use of hedgerows and horizontal plowing,
and by field rotation. They protect their crops against pests and diseases, and against climatic
extremities, by the greatest possible diversity of plant varieties and by diversified strategies
of cultivation which include crop rotation and fallowing."
. . .
"In the Louisville Courier-Journal of April 5, 1981, the Mobil Oil Corporation ran
an advertisement which was yet another celebration of 'scientific agriculture.' American
farming, the Mobil people are of course happy to say, 'requires more petroleum products
than almost any other industry. A gallon of gasoline to produce a single bushel of corn,
for example. . . . ' This, they say, enables 'each American farmer to feed sixty-seven people.'
And they say that this is 'a- maizing.' Well, it certainly is! And the chances are good that
an agriculture totally dependent on the petroleum industry is not yet as amazing as it is
going to be. But one thing that is already sufficiently amazing is that a bushel of corn
produced by the burning of one gallon of gasoline has already cost more than six times as
much as a bushel of corn grown by Bill Yoder."
. . .
"I want to deal directly at last with my own long held belief that Christianity, as usually
presented by its organizations, in not earthly enough . . . I want to see if there
is not at least implicit in the Judeo-Christian heritage a doctrine such as that the Buddhists
call 'right livelihood' or 'right occupation.'
Table of Contents of The Gift of Good Land
- An Agricultural Journey in Peru
- Three Ways of Farming in the Southwest
- The Native Grasses and What They Mean
- The International Hill Land Symposium
- Sanitation and the Small Farm
- Horse-Drawn Tools and the Doctrine of Labor Saving
- Agricultural Solutions for Agricultural Problems
- Energy in Agriculture
- Solving for Pattern
- The Economics of Subsistence
- Family Work
- The Reactor and the Garden
- A Good Scythe
- Looking Ahead
- Home of the Free
- Going Back--or Ahead--to Horses
- A Few Words for Motherhood
- A Rescued Farm
- An Excellent Homestead
- Elmer Lapp's Place
- A Talent for Necessity
- New Roots for Agricultural Research
- Seven Amish Farms
- The Gift of Good Land