of you know about Wendell Berry, beloved American poet, novelist, essayist,
environmentalist, and farmer. He is a Kentucky poet with a brief but
significant North Manchester connection. In 1977, he debated Earl Butz,
former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, in the auditorium of Manchester
Junior High School, now the school administration building. Berry had just
written a book called "The Unsettling of America," in which he strongly
criticized the system of large scale industrial farming that Butz had
encouraged and helped to design.
Berry favors a more traditional kind of agriculture -- one based on smaller farms and practices less destructive to the soil than the use of large machines and the heavy application of chemicals. It's hard to say who won the debate. Butz was lively, witty, and condescending. Berry was eloquent and often spell-binding. I don't know of anyone who was converted. People came with their minds made up and stuck with their biases. Many of the farms in Wabash County follow the industrial model; the Hawkins family farm, in contrast, is strongly influenced by the thinking of Wendell Berry and other environmental writers.
In my view, Berry's best work is his poetry. There his values are represented concisely and profoundly. His insights in the following poem are especially timely in this year of Coronavirus.
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair grows in me
Submitted by Charles Boebel