• Liz

How wars and poetry can inform today’s agriculture

You cannot really talk about agriculture without talking about peoples, communities, politics and the history that brought one to the other. It is all intertwined, cyclical—picture a wreath with all the parts and adornments, each meaning something and adding to the whole circle your eye and mind continuously travels.


“Whether we and our politicians know it or not, Nature is party to all our deals and decisions, and she has more votes, a longer memory, and a sterner sense of justice than we do.”― Wendell Berry


(One of my favs #WendellBerry ;)


“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives." - Wendell Berry


He’s got a point, a reminder that there is structure and there are limits. I know most people don’t like the word ‘limit’, but nonetheless there are limits out there we do need to appreciate. I don’t jump off a cliff thinking I will live through the impact. Gravity and distance is not kind to those who do not understand their principles. The same goes for human virtues and morals; communities do not flourish without some type of moral compass or cadre, as the French like to say. Cadre is a wonderful term for framework and guidance, it is the basis for teaching French youth without being strict—a wonderful methodology and mindset for understanding social limits.


Communities and relationships are what allow Nature to flourish, and we are a part of Nature. Wildflowers breed with wildflowers, bison breed with bison, and humans breed with humans. There is a framework, a relationship that allows for a community to grow.


In his book, Wild Like Flowers, Daniel Griffith poetically discusses these relationship based communities within Nature and that fact that we are Nature—it’s just that simple!


“We are newcomers to a land that is very old and very kind—this brings me great hope. We live in what we perceive to be a broken land…but it is our relationship that is broken and relationships are easy to fix. They require humility, acknowledgment, openness, and a shared language.” - Daniel Griffith


As a poet, it’s no surprise that Daniel highlights some of the most famous poets and philosophers throughout his book and podcasts who have been paving the way towards an understanding of Nature. Daniel helps us to recenter Nature within our communities, relationships, and basic existence using these historical works and contexts of Shakespeare, Socrates, Aristotle, and Matsuo Basho just to name a few. These are things we as a people have always known, but they have become muddied with technology and modern thought. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to revisit ancient works and wisdom to inform the future. How cyclical--almost like the seasons (what's in season today?)


Ok…so no need to find new truths…


I’m going to now add the age old—“history repeats itself.”


Joel Salatin expertly depicts the shameless American Agricultural story in his book Folks This Ain’t Normal. And Isabella Tree takes things a step further (literally) in her European to American Ag story: Wilding.


Did you know that Shakespeare writes a lot about "wild systems," the importance of forest and what it has to teach us about loosing control to gain abundance? Shakespeare uses nature‘s forests and storms to showcase her power and mystery, pokes fun at our folly for not being more observant of her ways. Daniel Griffith writes about these relationships, community, and speaks in a tone of “soul to soil.”


Nature and Shakespeare:

A doctrine of nature constitutes the core of the view of life held by Shakespeare. Whether or not the sonneteer unlocked his heart, it is clear that if the works of Shakespeare are considered as an integrable whole, he laid bare the many results of his probings amid the secrets of Nature. …this nonprofessional philosophy of Shakespeare’s is bound up with the with the history of the concept of Nature.” - Edgar Knowlton


Socrates on how kings need to be philosophers, they need to study Nature:


It would seem as if the rulers of our time sought only to use men in order to make things great; I wish that they would try a little more to make great men; that they would set less value on the work and more upon the workman; that they would never forget that a nation cannot long remain strong when every man belonging to it is individually weak; and that no form or combination of social polity has yet been devised to make an energetic people out of a community of pusillanimous and enfeebled citizens. - Alexis de Tocqueville


Final parting thoughts and words from Wendell Berry:


"For the true measure of agriculture is not the sophistication of its equipment the size of its income or even the statistics of its productivity but the good health of the land. The Earth is what we all have in common." - Wendell Berry


“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility." - WB (This sentiment has been mentioned by poets for centuries.)


Fascinating right?? Get W. Berry and Daniel Griffith on audiobook and take a listen next time your on the tractor. Nature is the ultimate informant.







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