Wendell Berry Essay

The rural communities I serve now are just as complex.There might be rolling fields of produce, but they employ fewer and fewer people.You’ll end up here, like everyone else did.” My freshman year of college, I was surrounded by people from elite prep schools.

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Between the lines, though, you can hear the real message: “I’m glad it’s you and not me.” Too often, people use Berry in a way that commodifies rurality.

Rural places become picturesque landscapes where life is simple, communal and agrarian.

We would pick corn, green beans, butter beans and potatoes in her garden.

I would sit with my cousins snapping green beans and peeling butter beans, and we’d spend hours upon hours shucking corn.

The butcher, the baker, the owner and the assistant manager had, quite literally, known me since birth.

It was a place of safety and stability, filled with people I knew and loved, and who knew and loved me.

I wanted to show that I could do the work faster, more efficiently and with less apparent effort than my classmates. It would be years before I learned to appreciate rural places in their complexity, to see their beauty without sacrificing their reality.

Because, like most rural communities, my small town is and was a complicated place.

People who expand their farms are cast as greedy villains rather than farmers trying to survive in a competitive market.

Yet what really bothers me is not Berry’s work itself -- literature that simply tells the story the author wants to tell.

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