Friday, October 1, 2010

What Matters: valuing the land for what it is

We went on our annual apple picking foray recently. It's a mere half hour drive from Wauwatosa to Mequon, where the Barthel Farm has pick your own fruits. It was a fine day and there was a line of cars waiting to get in. The orchard rows were mobbed with families munching and picking apples. Nearby were fields full of pumpkins where more people sought the perfect jack o' lantern for the coming season. I enjoyed being there amongst the apples, the folks picking, and the wild asparagus (below) as much as I enjoyed acquiring apples. On the way home, loaded with a bushel of apples, anticipating Lynn's fresh pies, it was hard not to notice the "for sale" signs on other farm land, the half-developed subdivisions sprouting like weeds on other parcels of former farms.

Here is what Wendell Berry wrote in "What Matters:  Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth:”

Common sense suggests that it is not possible to make a good thing out of a bad thing. We can see that we cannot prepare a good meal from poor food, produce good food from poor soil, maintain good soil without good farming, or have good farming without a good culture – a culture that places a proper value on the proper maintenance of the natural sources, so that the needed supplies are constantly available. Thus, food is a product both natural and cultural, and good cooking must be said to begin with good farming. A good economy would value our bodily nourishment in all of its transformations from the topsoil to the dinner table and beyond, for it would place an appropriate value on our excrement, too, and return it to the soil; in a good economy, there would be no such thing as “waste,” bodily or otherwise. At every stage of its making, our nourishment would be a finished product in the sense that at every stage it would be brought to a high order of excellence, but at no stage would it be a finished product in the sense of being done with. …

The industrial economy, on the other hand, reduces the value of a thing to its market price, and it sets the market price in accordance with the capacity of a thing to be made into another kind of thing. Thus, a farm is valued only for its ability to produce marketable livestock and/or crops; livestock and crops are valued only insofar as they can be manufactured into groceries; groceries are valued only as to the extent that they can be sold to consumers. … nothing is valued for what it is.

(And) when nothing is valued for what it is, everything is destined to be wasted.

No comments:

Post a Comment