Specialization, which means the abandonment of the ancient, proven principles of agricultural diversity— agricultural stability through diversity— with its attendant principles of mixed husbandry of plants and animals and crop rotation it is now, for the first time, deemed provident and wise to put all the eggs in one basket. Berry, 41
We now have more people using the land (that is, living from it) and fewer thinking about it than ever before. We are eating thoughtlessly, as no other entire society has ever been able to do. Berry, 42
I chose two quotes, because I thought they go really well together. Now, specialization is something I’ve really been thinking a lot about lately. Specialization even within the program. Specialization within the Berry Center. I remember Ashland talking about how the Our Homeplace Meats project was actually very specialized, and perhaps that’s why the products weren’t flying off the shelves like they should be. Now, the marketing of OHPM is very enchanting, which I feel is something we need more of in our lives and in our communities. The acts of eating and cooking should be an enchanting process. We are literally nourishing our bodies with the bodies of other living beings who had life and thought, with such a simple act, carried out thrice a day--something so many people barely think about. Do we think about the sentience of the being which gave its life for our nourishment and our delight? I think we should delight and celebrate the life which the animal gave, in order to honor the animal. OHPM gives us this opportunity in such a beautiful way, with such beautiful meat, and such a beautiful story and connections--like the fibers of the muscles which nourish us. However, for a reintroduction to this beauty of life, I fear that some people might not be receptive (porous) to such an ideal. Specialization, and a focus only on rose veal with high standards of production, (not to mention some people might not be able to afford it) might not entirely be a good thing. I do see specialization within the program--with a focus on beef production--and it low-key frightens me. Is this specialization because of a need for knowledge in the community, or just plain old specialization? Maybe it’s just all in my head though. I just wonder, at what point does interest and investment of interest become specialization? I worry about this with our pastured poultry project, worry at only getting to try one thing, but at the same time, I think I could just be blinded by enchantment. Enchantment and excitement at the prospect of farming, Enchantment with the preservation of ancient knowledge on the brink of extinction. I also sit here and think about the climate of the times (a pun, literal and figurative of the word “climate”.) We are on the brink of extinction. We take and take and take with blind eyes to fulfillment. Fulfillment is enchantment to me--the little things in life that make one “giddy”. Living life according to the ecology of community, and the ecology of wholesome fulfillment--or rather, nourishment--is no longer the trajectory of our species. We hurtle like an asteroid at our own planet, with a mere few of us trying--seemingly futilely--to stop our impending terminal velocity. Specialization, like disenchantment, kills--kills with a mass extinction. Extinction of a life worth living. So, again, I sit here thinking about the climate of the times--how could I not be blinded by enchantment? This is how I imagine those looking at something like the Berry Center and the writings of Wendell must feel, blinded that there is an option other than just dull, disconnected to a community, unthoughtful (Thoughtless), purposeless, and destructive life. A life that will soon end due to climate change, war, economic disaster, and a million other reasons.
What I’ve learned is this: in the midst of disaster, the mind is forced to act. Wendell writes of specialization as a form of disaster, and I explain that specialization, which very clearly leads to a disinterest in all the things life (in all its connotations) has to offer, is what is leading to our extinction. How are we supposed to act, knowing this? Some nervous excitement must run through us, right? Or otherwise despair. Josh Tillman (AKA Father John Misty) writes of such despair and nervous excitement in his music, especially in “The Ballad of the Dying Man” and “Total Entertainment Forever”. I act with a blind hope, drawing my world full of enchanting things, hope, at what the world could evolve into. What we could have, if the world’s chaos would calm enough for us to understand the messages we need to hear to become connected, to save our world, to save the true meaning of the word “Life”. Perhaps the true quest is how to bridge the gaps between specialization and enchantment.
Again, I must speak of enchantment. LaDuke writes, “The struggle over land in our nation begins and ends with recognizing our spiritual relationship with our seeds, our food, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the earth we walk upon.” I see this as an enchantment. Enchantment, is the reawakening of life as a miracle, a miracle of the little things, and seeing the connections within our individual lives as one continuous life. I feel LaDuke sees this connection, and sees the potential in her community’s inherent knowledge of this. Now, I use the word inherent, knowing that I might be exoticizing and romanticizing native peoples. I apologize for any harm this may cause, if it is thus seen as racist. But, lemme play into my racism for a moment. If I am white, and have white privilege, as I am and do, I can only try to use it for good. I believe that native peoples have a very beautiful, spiritual connection to this land, this earth and Earth, that white people instilled the destruction of. Not every connection, I believe, was broken. Some native people’s connection was kept and passed down, shared, and instilled within younger generations. White Earth Land Recovery Project aids in this process. They embody the words of Wynona LaDuke in their actions. They put to work what she has written with community building projects to work at indigenous reclamation. Reclamation by and for indigenous peoples.
I feel that I cannot speak to this subject, or really any subject, without mentioning enchantment
and reanimation. Berry writes,
“We have given up the understanding— dropped it out of our language and so out of our thought—That we and our country create one another, depend on one another, and are literally part of one another; that out of land passes in and out of our body just as our bodies pass in and out of that our land that we and our land or part of one another, so all who are living our neighbor is here, human in plant and animal, or part of one another and so cannot possibly Flourish alone; that therefore all cultures must be our response to our place, and our culture and our place are images of each other and inseparable from each other, and so neither can be better than the other,” (Berry, 24).
I believe he is speaking to a loss of connectivity here, and I must mention the slogan of KY, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. This phrase has been repeated innumerable times throughout history, even in the christian Bible, and reminds me that if we loose our connection with the rest of the world, we are loosening our grip on life, we are losing it. This was a gift from what seems like a god--I don’t know what I believe, but at this point, I believe in the earth, I believe in life. Life, defined by me, is the summation of all of the lives on this earth, and the recycled nature and ecology of their makeup. Death, the ultimate consequence, is the breakdown of these connections between lives.
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Disco Chicken of Love
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A sustainability major at U of L, beginning farmer, crafter, and writer.