The essays in The Gift of Good Land are as true today as when they were first published in 1981; the problems addressed here are still with us and the solutions no nearer to hand. One of the insistent themes of this book is the interdependence, the wholeness, the oneness of people, the land, weather, animals, and family. To touch one is to tamper with them all. We live in one functioning organism whose separate parts are artificially isolated by our culture.
The twenty-four essays in this collection cover a variety of subjects; the author’s journeys to the Peruvian Andes, to the desert of southern Arizona, and to Amish country to study the evolution of ancient native agricultural practices. In Solving for Pattern,” Mr. Berry lists fourteen critical standards for solving agricultural problems that can just as easily be used as standards for solving personal and family problems. In the title essay, the author examines our Judeo-Christian heritage to discover parallels with the Buddhist doctrine of right livelihood” or right occupation.” He develops the compelling argument that the gift” of good land has strings attached. We have it only on loan and only for as long as we practice good stewardship.
In this collection of essays, continuing the argument begun with The Unsettling of America, Wendell Berry writes of the importance of good farming to a healthy culture. By health he means not the mere absence of disease, but the operation of a balanced, nondestructive way of life; his essays on the Amish people of Pennsylvania and Ohio offer a model. "An economy of waste," Berry writes, "is incompatible with a healthy environment"--an environment that operates in balance, within bounds. Arguing for the primacy of family-based, local economies, and for the exercise of intelligence, reverence, and community values, Berry crafts a prose idyll celebrating the pastoral existence.