Why does Wendell Berry choose the agrarian lifestyle?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Wendell Berry is a well-known American poet, essayist, and novelist, whose work is in many ways a synthesis of literary regionalism of the Agrarian or Fugitive movement in southern literature with more recent environmental concerns. In some ways, he is a spiritual heir to Henry David Thoreau, albeit with less emphasis on wilderness and more on farming and economic integration of the writer with the community from which he draws sustenance.

Wendell Berry's interest in the agrarian lifestyle combines the personal and the literary with the ethical and political. On a personal level, he was born on a Kentucky farm, and his return to Kentucky in 1964 was a return to his family and childhood roots. On a literary level, rather than see the ideal of the writer as an isolated romantic individual in conflict with his society, instead he sees literature, farming, and social relationships as an integral whole in creating community. 

On a political and ethical level, Berry supports the notion of local organic, sustainable farming practices, deeply integrated into regional communities as opposed to international agribusiness. He sees organic farming practices as restoring the land, but also restoring and healing the communities fractured by racial and economic divides. For him, agrarianism is a personal solution to the alienation of the urban lifestyle, giving him the mental peace and inspiration that is at the root of his writing, but also part of a return to the ideals of American's founding, providing an anchor point for a better future for our society as a whole.

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