Born in Henry County, Kentucky, on August 5, 1934, Wendell Erdman Berry grew up in a family of strong-willed, independent-minded readers and thinkers. His father, John M. Berry, was an attorney and a leader of the Burley Tobacco Growers Association. After attending the University of Kentucky for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Berry was married and taught for a year at Georgetown College in Kentucky. He then accepted a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in creative writing (1958-1959) at Stanford University. A Guggenheim Foundation award allowed him to travel to Europe in 1962 before he returned to teach English at New York University from 1962 to 1964. Berry wrote a moving elegy for President John F. Kennedy that won critical praise, and his first major poetry volume, The Broken Ground, appeared in 1964.
Berry and his family returned to Kentucky in 1964, when he was appointed to the English Department at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. He purchased Lane’s Landing Farm in Port Royal in 1965 and moved back to his native county, where he has continued to farm and write. Berry has also served as a contributing editor to Rodale Press. He and his wife, Tanya (Amyx) Berry, raised two children, Mary and Pryor Clifford, on that farm.