Major figures came to St. Catharine College on Saturday, April 6 to discuss environmental issues, farming, finance and what it will take to resettle America.
The Berry Center, a non-profit organization established in 2011 to preserve and institutionalize the work of John M. Berry, Jr., John M. Berry, Sr., and Wendell Berry, organized the conference titled “From Unsettling to Resettling: What Will It Take to Resettle America?”
The conference served as a celebration of the 35th anniversary of Wendell Berry’s work, “The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture.”
Notable authors, community activists, farmers, sociologists and agricultural economists gathered in Louisville at The Brown Hotel and at St. Catharine College to “return to the book’s principles and respond to the chapters in light of their knowledge and current understanding,” according to The Berry Center program for the conference.
“Our goal is that the discussion and lessons resulting from this thinking will hasten a cultural shift toward sustainability as we envision and create our future,” according to conference program.
While Friday’s activities took place in Louisville, St. Catharine College President William D. Huston welcomed over 300 guests to the campus on Saturday morning to begin the second day of the conference.
Guests filled St. Catharine Hall to listen in on a filmed interview between acclaimed broadcast journalist Bill Moyers and Wendell Berry. Moyers talked at length with Berry about his beliefs and practices involving land use and agricultural tasks.
Following the interview, visitors packed the Spalding Student & Community Center for a lunch of local fare, including items from St. Catharine Farm.
Bill McKibben, who Time Magazine once called “the planet’s best green journalist,” spoke at lunch about climate change and large agricultural operations, as well and protests his organization, 350.org, has helped orchestrate.
McKibben also pointed out that there’s hardly a place a person can go in the country without finding a farmer’s market somewhere nearby, something aided by the words and work of Wendell Berry.
Following lunch, key figures assembled for a panel titled, “What will it take to resettle America?”
Alan Guebert, an award-winning agricultural journalist who writes the syndicated column “The Farm and Food File,” presented a list of 12 things that would resettle America. The list amended Wendell Berry’s list from “The Unsettling of America.”
Among the items he listed, Guebert mentioned that all humans could stand to work more in a physical sense.
Guebert said his most-read columns are about the satisfaction that comes from hard labor on the farm.
“When I write about that, those are my best-read columns, everybody says it’s romantic and it’s poetic,” Guebert said. “Well, of course it is. That’s why you liked it. That’s why I liked it. That’s why I didn’t forget it. It’s not sentimental. I don’t want to romanticize it because it’s hard work. Everybody can do that.”
Woody Tasch, founder and chairman of Slow Money, a non-profit formed “to catalyze the flow of investment capital to small food enterprises,” among other things, posed a challenge to the audience.
“What is stopping us from taking one percent of our money and committing it to investing locally?” Tasch asked. “What is stopping us? No politicians are stopping us.”
Conference-goers also heard from Wendell Berry, John M. Berry, Jr., Mary Berry and Wes Jackson.
The day concluded with a guided tour of parts of St. Catharine Farm.
For more information about The Berry Center, go to berrycenter.org.
Founded in the Dominican tradition in 1931 and sponsored today by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, St. Catharine College is an independent, co-educational liberal arts college with a unique residential collegiate expericence totally dedicated to helping each student realize his or her full potential. Located in Springfield, Ky., St. Catharine College enrolls approximately 1,100 students from 52 counties in Kentucky, 20 states and eight countries.