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79 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Agriculture and Literature
I read this book years ago. Haunting. Who would have thought that a book about agriculture in America could qualify as literature. What Berry says in this book should wake you up (it woke me up, and that is enough to expect from a non-fiction work). But it is not just the facts that make this book. The writing is extraordinary. It is well researched. The ideas are...
Published on November 3, 2002 by Chris Lesieutre

versus
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been better...
Very academic and a bit redundant.
This is an important topic that needs a clearer presentation...for greater public consumption
Needs a contemporary overview.
Published 7 months ago by J. Daniel Wojcik


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79 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Agriculture and Literature, November 3, 2002
This review is from: The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (Paperback)
I read this book years ago. Haunting. Who would have thought that a book about agriculture in America could qualify as literature. What Berry says in this book should wake you up (it woke me up, and that is enough to expect from a non-fiction work). But it is not just the facts that make this book. The writing is extraordinary. It is well researched. The ideas are presented in a very sober and direct manner. And at the same time, it is no dispassionate account. That is what was so striking to me on first reading. It is written as if the author were trying to restrain himself, holding back. And by doing so, it creates a sort of tension -- between the lines -- that you can feel from cover to cover. I don't think that I have ever read another book since that oozed so much of anger without ever stating the anger outright. Because of this book, I've gone on to read most of Berry's work as it has appeared, and I would recommend it all. But start with this one. It breathes fire.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wendell tells it like it is. Truth or Consequences, March 6, 2005
This review is from: The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (Paperback)
Just simply blowed away by negative reviews of this book. I grew up on a small farm when you could still make a living there. Our rural community was much closer, neighborly, trusting, and thick with the smells, sounds and sights of country living. I left home at 18 traveling the world in our military and ran from that "work ethic and way of life" on the farm. Lived in some of this worlds largest cities discovering first hand all the reasons why country living was "paradise on earth."

Oh, I've heard all the urban preachers and their reasons why they love the city. I lived it!!!!!

Is there any wonder why higher income people are moving into rural america! Land prices are thru the roof, they come here with their city mind, mouth and motivations. Why? Because they want a view and try to escape all those negative things in the city. Not to mention raise their kids in a small coummunity in hopes of everyone and everything turning out ok. They don't understand farming communities, our culture, our history nor our way of life.

Ah! We are free! But wait, they come here and destroy our pastoral settings and fill the land with strip malls, fast food joints, quick marts and infrastructure that makes it "country no more."

If any farmer holds out in this "developers dream of a jauggernaut" these new "country folk" start raising cain about the country sights, smell and sounds and want the farmer gone.

Wendell is right on in this book. Oh sure there are bits and pieces of his opinion that rub some liberal wrong. But hey I'm sure a few conservatives cried foul too.

Open up your mind and heart. Look at the facts. Can you trust corporate america? Big brother? Individual selfishness and greed? A bank director and his real estate developer friend once told me that they had joined forces with our county commissioners and planning commission community and preach their "farming is dead lets split up the land and develope the farms" gospel. If they build people will come! Hmm, sounds like a movie I once saw. They are building and people are coming.

Reality of wendell's book tells it like it is. There has been a movement (I like the word conspiracy better but that will alienate a few) to industrialize american agriculture since 1940's. The corporate machine and its disciples have forclosed on many family farms, driven off the "inefficient", destroyed many lives, all in the name of progress!!!!!!

It is all about just a select few industrial size farmers doing business as corporations, corporate chemical company profits off corporate farmers, college/universities gifted $$$millions of dollars to report and publish thru sound science (you don't believe that do you?) the wonderful benefits of more food with less land, by less farmers and healthier for you. And oh yes, our environment will be cleaner because splicing plant genes with chemical compounds and breeding new GMO (genetically modified organisms)foods means the farmer uses less chemicals (is that what the chemical company wants to do, put itself out of business for the sake of humanity? -- remember a portion of your 401k is tied to that companies performance and if they don't do well, neither will you) Roundup Ready Corn/beans/cotton/wheat is here. Spray roundup on your lawn and it does what? Dies!! Put a teaspoon of pure roundup in your coffee each morning and stir, how long before you may come up with cancer or some other ailment? No! Corporate America and our Universities have managed to fill our food pipeline with RR products for years and you consume a portion of it everytime you dine. Just a few steady PPM on a weekly basis, you'll be fine and live to a ripe old age?

Thanks Wendell for preaching the TRUTH!!!!!!
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Character and intelligence define real progress, October 26, 2001
By 
Pierre Bull (Ann Arbor, MI United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (Paperback)
Berry writes in a very eloquent and poignant manner to enlighten readers about the big American misconception that modern agriculture and technology is the only way to prosper. It's time for education, politics, and the public make intelligent decisions based on real consequences that affect the land, our health, and common bonds, and to look beyond the narrow minded system of profits and production. I recommend this book to any person who cares about the environment, agriculture, and public policy.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best place to start, April 2, 2000
By 
Lee H Nellis (Sonoita, Arizona) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (Paperback)
I make my living trying to understand the dynamics of rural landscapes and culture, and this is one of the few books I return to over and over again. It is the best place to start if you want to think through how we Americans relate to our countryside.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Discovering a buried treasure, April 28, 2005
This review is from: The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (Paperback)
I grew up in Clarksville, TN, on the border with Guthrie, KY. Up the road not too far is Port Royal, KY, where one of the greatest living Americans still resides. He has lived there as long as I have been alive, and I am now over 30, but I had never heard of Wendell Berry until I had passed my thirtieth year. Were it not for the incomparable radio program "Unwelcome Guests", I may never have heard of him. It is a testament to the failure of our economy, education system, and culture, and it is why no thinking American doubts we are nearing a tragic and historic collapse; we are sliding fast down a snow-packed slope like a child on a greased sled. Our only short-term destiny is to smack into a tree.

"The Unsettling of America" is nearly as old as I am, and it is as alive and timely as the day it was written. Probably even more so, since its remedies are the salves for our national malady, and they need an even more urgent prescription and application today than they did 30 years ago. Berry not only succinctly and brilliantly describes how we lost our small farmers, he astutely ties that loss to the loss of culture, belonging, responsibility, community, and character we all feel and mourn in our modern lives, even if we don't understand or fully comprehend that empty feeling. It is, after all, called agri-CULTURE because the land is tied intimately with culture, and to convert agriculture into agribusiness is to divorce people from nature, from a responsibility towards nature, and from an understanding of her cycles and patterns, without which, we are incomplete; it is to convert all of us from nurturers into usurpers and exploiters, as Berry explains throughout.

So, this is not just a book about the loss of the small farmer. It is a book about our loss of liberty, independence, personal satisfaction, wealth, pride, mystery, and community. The way Berry weds these losses together throughout the book is a completely compelling. Berry's clean, beautiful, crystal clear prose moves deliberately, with a purposeful trajectory, and it effortlessly maintains a palpable weight of authority that can only be derived from real wisdom. He is a voice at once profoundly conservative and astutely liberal, or, in short, a real prophetic voice.

"The Unsettling of America" is indeed wise, and it was indeed prophetic. The dangerous excesses he foresaw 30 years ago have come to pass in ever accelerating fashion. His remedies absolutely essential for the preservation of America, and for that matter, the world. Everyone should read this book and read Wendell Berry in general. Should we carry on our culture after we smack that tree (we might, after all, break our necks), Wendell Berry will be remembered when Polk, Buchanan, Clinton, and Bush are long, long forgotten, or so we should all hope.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest books I have ever read., October 26, 2007
This review is from: The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (Paperback)
Wendell Berry says everything I feel and everything I have thought since I was a child growing up in S. Calif. watching the beautiful land be consumed ruthlessly by development. There is something wrong with todays ways, and I can't put it to words, but thankfully Wendell can! I wish I could get this book into everyones home and read by all. Though you do sense the sadness of the loss of all that is of real value, you also sense the hope of what our future will be like, after the oil. We will have to return to this eventually, or we will become extinct. Well done Wendell, I will be looking for your other works.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The philosopher farmer..., July 9, 2012
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This review is from: The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (Paperback)
It was the Amazon "Customers who bought this item also bought..." section that led me to this book. In fact, it just kept "popping up." In reading the summary of the book's thesis, I was embarrassed that I had not already read it: it was published in 1977. Furthermore, and with much regret, I had never heard of Wendell Berry. He lives on a farm in Henry County, Kentucky, not that far from Louisville. He is a social critic, in the tradition of Vance Packard and Paul Goodman. While he certainly criticizes consumerism, as well as education, his primary focus is on agriculture. As he notes, in some 70 years, we went from having 60% of the population engaged in agriculture to less than 2%. And he asks one of my favorite questions: so what does everyone else actually do with their new-found time? His critique of current agricultural policies and practices is insightful and scathing; again and again there are original "bon mots": "And it is one of the miracles of science and hygiene that the germs that used to be in our food have been replaced by poisons."

It was jarring to read: "Earth's numbers now stand at 3.6 billion, and could double in 35 years..." And, of course they have. So, how much worse are the other negative issues that have impacted agriculture. Certainly corporate power, and it narrow, "fundamentalist" approach to the "bottom line," which necessitate, and Berry has mastered the economic lingo, shoving the total costs "off the balance sheet," and they have become "externalities." So what if the management of the fertility of the land is not sustainable? Contour plowing and crop rotation have passed out of fashion. And someone else is required to clean up the poisons dumped into our water sources. And then, what of the true nutritional value of the food being produced, not to mention the taste? (When is the last time you ate a tasty plum?) Indeed, how America became fat.

Berry devotes one chapter to debunking a futuristic farm model produced by South Dakota State University. Much is "under glass," there are control towers, and push buttons, and virtually no people. So, in addition to agriculture per se, the author is focuses on the way the education establishment has become such a willing handmaiden to the objectives of corporate power in agriculture. The author notes that the Morrill Act in the 19th century set out "Land-Grant" colleges to help the farmer, but a few "corporate grants" have had an amazing impact on the nature, and outcome of "academic research. As Berry says: "Professors might again become people of experience rather than experts. They might again be able to apply their learning to the small problems of ordinary people and to recommend means and methods not profitable to the suppliers of `purchased inputs.'" Or, in terms of a liberal arts education in general, the following Goodmanesque quote: "And the so-called humanities become a world of their own, a collection of `professional' sub-languages, complicated circuitries of abstruse interpretation, feckless exercises of sensibility...the specialist professor of one or another of the liberal arts, the custodian of an inheritance he has learned much about, but nothing from." Or, in terms of society as a whole: "Can we degrade all forms of essential work and yet expect arts and graces to flourish on weekend? And can we ignore all questions of value on the farm and yet have them answered affirmatively in the grocery store and the household?"

Berry devotes another chapter to analyzing the The Odyssey, one of the West's first epic tales, and demonstrates it applicableness to modern agriculture. Again, like Goodman, he examines the very nature of work and contests the idea that if we manage to avoid all the "drudgery," for example, by having someone else cook all our meals, that we actually benefit. He identifies the helplessness so many of us feel in a "specialist" society. I can't say that I agree with all of Wendell's ideas. Although concerned about population growth, he seems to advocate bringing back the rhythm method, or even abstinence (gulp!) in sexual relations. And he sees considerable upside in returning to the use of plow horses (and in limited cases, there might be.)

I truly regret having missed this book while the world's population was doubling. His critiques have been amazingly prescient. It remains an essential read. 5-stars, plus.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars next to walden, January 6, 2009
This review is from: The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (Paperback)
i have used this book as a first read for environmental science majors since the early 90's, there is no better introduction to the choice that lies before us; unless human communities have a living relationship with the land which sustains them, responsible (or "kindly") use cannot be an evolutionary possibility, and catastrophic misery is implicit in that failure.........

evolution means that the creation is the creator; at the precise moment one species becomes aware of its origins, that same species is hacking away at the very roots of its own existence.......

how much longer can we remain so ignorant?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars prophetic, November 19, 2005
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This review is from: The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (Paperback)
So many things talked about in this book have happened. There's things he talks of that seem unbelievable...but years ago he said there would be dairy farms here and beef farms there and the diverse farms would give way to specialization. That has happened. There's a good many points in this book that presents his views - and that of many Americans - straight up. Not everyone will agree. There are companies who say it's safe to use their chemical or it's only the other guy who's careless. Country and farms are disappearing today at a rate that most don't even realize. When it's all paved over or subdivided...reread this book.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As Usual, Wonderful Writing of Real Truth, April 11, 2005
By 
RichardC (Los Angeles, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture (Paperback)
Wendell Berry's writings have to be the most to-the-point, profound and real about life in rural America, how it used to be, how it might still be, but how often it is not. 'The Unsettling of America' encapsulates this all with a strong and real writing style and which tells the truth about our current way of living.

I would recommend this book to all readers, country and city dwellers alike, as it is so telling and exposing of the mess we have made of our landscape, the reasons why, and how we might actually return it to being more vibrant and real.

I would also recommend reading "Against the Machine" by Nicols Fox, recently published, which goes into more detail about the destruction of people's lives by the 'machinery' of the system in which we live, and how we might stop this also.
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The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture
The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture by Wendell Berry (Paperback - March 1, 1996)
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