Farming and the Humanities

Why have a section like this – with discussions primarily of literature, painting, music, and history? Because Enlightened Agriculture ultimately will fail unless we feel, in our bones, that farming matters and is part of our day-to-day lives.  Once, nearly everybody did feel like this, because most people in most countries worked on the land, or very close to it. In most societies through most of history the agrarian economy and ways of life have been key components of the culture. People appreciated farming – how hard it is, and also what it does for us. But in recent decades, the world has embraced the dogmas of neoliberal economics, which says that everything is business including farming and that businesses of all kinds are just ways of making money; and has embraced, too, the primitive notion that high-tech can solve all our problems.

So farming, now conceived merely as another way of making money, has been handed over to a few high-tech companies who do whatever they choose to do largely out of the public gaze, often in distant countries (one advantage of transnationalism). So agriculture in the countries that consider themselves to be “developed” is no longer at the heart of culture, or even close. But if we truly want Enlightened Agriculture to work, we need to bring it back into the psyche. We need to think and to be agrarian once more – not in the style of ancient societies but in a modern guise: the new agrarianism.

To achieve this, we need to remind ourselves of what it means to be agrarian – to take farming seriously. We need again to get “feel” for it. History, and the literature and arts of the past (and to some extent of the present) can help us in this.

So for this reason – and also because it is fun – the College needs to take the humanities seriously.

New Paths to Tread

Jamie Curtis Hayward writes about new pathways in the countryside and the mind waiting to be explored The biggest, brightest features on an Ordinance Survey Map are the highways. Azure … Read on

The Black Decade

D.S. Donaldson writes: On 14 April 1935, in No Man’s Land, western Oklahoma, Joe Garza was looking for some stray cattle, remnants of the great herds that had once grazed … Read on

Organic polyculture Sixteenth-Century style – and the tale of a famine

D. S. Donaldson catches echoes from the past at the Oxford Real Farming Conference Professor Martin Wolfe’s account of ‘polyculture’ and ‘agroforestry’ at this year’s Oxford Real Farming Conference, not … Read on

The Incomparable Insight of Thomas Hardy

He was, says D. S. DONALDSON in this piece, one of the greatest of all commentators on traditional agriculture and the varying fortunes of the people who practiced it For me, the … Read on

No New Thing Under the Sun

By Colin Tudge Every argument that anyone might care to raise about food and farming and all that goes with them has been raised before, sometimes many centuries ago, and … Read on

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