Judith Valente 02-05-2016

Wendell Berry. Image via RNS

The Berry family has lived in these parts for nine generations. While pursuing a prolific writing career, Berry never stopped caring for the land of his ancestors. Now, the 81-year-old writer wants to pass on his family’s farming legacy to a new generation. He decided against teaming up with a large university agricultural program, and instead selected a small Catholic liberal arts college about an hour’s drive from Louisville, run by the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

Through farming, veterans across the country tend to the soil—and the wounds of war.

Sara J. Wolcott 11-05-2013

In India, a church initiative helps promote sustainability and connect farmers with the dignity of their vocation.

Andrea Ferich 10-02-2013

Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith. Simon & Schuster.

Trevor Barton 06-18-2013
Farmer walking in a corn field, Sandra Cunningham /

Farmer walking in a corn field, Sandra Cunningham /

Grandpa, you are my Pepa. Before me, you were
Robert Elias Cunningham: son, brother, husband and father but
God, through my birth, made you Grandpa and
I, in my smallness, through toddling talk and wondering words, made you 

Now, deep in my life, I feel you kneeling in your garden,
Planting your plants,
Your skin the color of newly plowed rows, your smell the humble smell of dirt.
Sweat drips off your forehead and mixes with rain and soil and
Nourishes the plants so they can grow.

Danny Duncan Collum 06-05-2013

Wendell Berry, photo by Ryan Rodrick Beiler

According to Wendell Berry, all you need to have hope is one good example.

Patrick O'Neill 03-14-2013

In today's environment, there's little difference between farm labor organizing and immigration reform.

Cathleen Falsani 10-23-2012

View of the Amhara Region from the plane bound from Addis Ababa. Photo by Cathleen Falsani.

LALIBELA, Ethiopia -- You know the images you have in your mind of Ethiopia from 27 years ago? The ones from the nightly news reports on TV about the famine in the Horn of Africa as the death toll mounted and horror stories grew more unfathomable by the day.

Scorched, cracked earth. The carcasses of ematiated, dead cattle lying in the baking sun. Hundreds of thousands of stick-thin refugees wandering in the dust, hoping to have enogh strength to make it to a camp that might have water and food. The babies and children with orange hair and distended stomachs -- indications that they were in the advanced stages of malnutrition and starvation.

I am happy to report that the Ethiopia of 2012 is not the Ethiopia of 1985.

Thanks to global efforts (Live Aid, etc., back in the day), foreign aid, and the very real efforts of the Ethiopian government and people themselves, the land I saw earlier this month looks nothing like those old images in my mind. In fact, parts of the country that we traveled through were so verdent and lush -- farmlands rolling out in various shades of green like a St. Patrick's Day quilt  -- that if you'd blindfolded me when I got on the plane and taken the blind of when I stepped of the bus in the rural area outside Bahir Dar near the Sudanese border, I might have thought I was in Ireland's County Kerry rather than Ethiopia's Amhara Region.

Ethiopia is beautiful. In every way. It's people. It's resilience. It's ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit. In the way it cares for its land and its people, and the way they care for each other and their visitors. There is a spirit in Ethiopia I've experienced only rarely elsewhere. In a word I'd call it HOPE. But it's a hope not based on daydreams and fairytales. It's a hope based in hard work, smart planning, and forward thinking.

Knox Robinson 10-18-2012
Photo: Migrant farm workers in California, spirit of america /

Photo: Migrant farm workers in California, spirit of america /

America is in dire need of comprehensive immigration reform. It is an ethical and moral issue for sure, but it is also an economic one. Our nation’s future economy prosperity depends on migrant labor. Immigration laws that have been passed in states like Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama have severely hurt the state economies, local communities, and small businesses that rely upon migrant workers for farm labor.

The Senior Editor of, John Carney has asserted that there is no crisis related to a shortage of migrant farm workers. Well, to be perfectly blunt, I believe that Mr. Carney is wrong.

Cathleen Falsani 05-21-2012

Bono addresses the G8 symposiumon food security Friday in Washington, D.C. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

In a room filled with African heads of state, captains of industry, leaders of international development and countless executives from NGOs at the G8 Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington, D.C. late last week, stood one Irish rock star — Bono, the lead singer of U2 and co-founder of the ONE Campaign.

At first blush (to the uninitiated, perhaps), Bono's presence might seem incongruous, but most of the folks in the room at the Ronald Reagan building a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue know the Irishman more for his tireless humanitarian efforts than his closet full of Grammy awards. For more than 25 years, Bono, 52, has been involved deeply and effectively in international affairs as a champion for the poorest of the poor.

"Can we manage the oil as well as the farmland? Manage it properly, responsibly, transparently?" Bono asked the audience. "Because when we don’t, you know what happens. Hundreds of billions of dollars got lost to oil and gas corruption in Nigeria. That’s what the watchdog groups are telling us. Just mind blowing. Huge numbers.

"Crops need sunlight. So does resource extraction. Both need sunlight’s disinfecting glare. Isn’t transparency the vaccine to prevent the worst disease of them all? Corruption. Everybody here knows that corruption kills more children than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined. So that’s what I want to leave you with. That very simple word. That very simple concept. Easy to say. Much harder to realize, especially in law. The word 'transparency.'

"We won’t have food security without it," he said. "But we will have oil riches without it but those riches will be held and hidden by very few hands."

Ellen F. Davis 05-01-2012

Psalm 65 gives us a unique portrait of a deity who tends the soil, waters its furrows, and crowns the year with a rich harvest.

Joshua Witchger 04-24-2012
Obama awards Wendell E. Berry the 2010 National Medal of Arts and Humanities. Ph

Obama awards Wendell E. Berry the 2010 National Medal of Arts and Humanities. Photo by Mark Wilson / Getty Images

On Monday evening Wendell Berry delivered the 41st annual Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, sponsored by the National Endowment of the Humanities, at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. According to the NEH, this is “the most prestigious honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.”

In front of hundreds, Berry took his place among former recipients (Walker Percy, Toni Morrison, Arthur Miller, John Updike, and many others) to deliver a resonating essay on the beauty of place, imagination, and pleasure, titled “It All Turns on Affection.” The title hinges on E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel Howards End, which Berry said, takes some of its thrust as a “manifesto against materialism.”

Andrew Wainer 01-20-2012

Dockery Farm in MIssissippi by Natalie Maynor via Wylio

It was a record year for U.S. farmers in 2011, with farm income topping $100 billion. This includes sales of $22 billion in fruits and nuts and $21 billion in vegetables and melons — crops that rely on immigrant farm labor.

But even as U.S. farmers prospered in 2011, those working on farms had less to celebrate.

The nation’s agricultural mecca — Fresno Country, California — had the state’s highest agricultural sales ($5.9 billion) and its highest poverty rate – 27 percent. More than 36 percent of the county’s children were poor, also the highest rate in the state. As one agricultural expert puts it, “High farm sales and high poverty rates often go together.”

Low wages, the seasonal nature of agricultural work, and, for many, unauthorized immigration status make it difficult for farm workers and their families to escape poverty. Farm workers’ high poverty rates aren’t totally attributable to immigration status, but it’s certainly one of the causes: 71 percent of all hired farm workers in the United States are immigrants, and about half of them are in the country illegally.

Christopher Smith 11-16-2011

A Time to Plant: Life Lessons in Work, Prayer, and Dirt by Kyle T. Kramer.

Mike Honda 09-28-2011
[caption id="attachment_34190" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (second from the right) during his Peace Corps days in El Salvador."][/caption]
Ruth Messinger 04-01-2011
After my teenage granddaughter returned recently from a service experience in Uganda, sponsored by American Jewish World Service, she remarked that she would never again say she's "starving" on her
Chuck Collins 07-26-2010
Shirley Sherrod is a moral giant compared to shameful media celebrities who wrongly accused her of racism.