When Wendell Berry and others criticize contemporary agriculture, their arguments are often dismissed as naïve and grounded in longstanding agrarian myth, rather than engagement with contemporary problems. But Berry's proposals developed in response to a series of learning methods he encountered, and options for advocacy he explored, during the 1960s and 1970s. Agricultural institutions sought to assign more power to institutionalized scientific knowledge, shrinking the role of farmers. Berry sought an alternative definition of knowledge, drawing upon his training as a writer, as well as his experiences with manual farm work and the methods of environmentalist organic growers. He eventually concluded that only a community of farmers could produce and store effective knowledge and insisted that knowledge must be tacit—largely situated in locality, skills, and culture. His ideas had little influence on most people employed in contemporary agriculture. However, those ideas profoundly shape the work of sustainable food advocates, such as Michael Pollan, who like Berry fear reductionism and celebrate the values of traditions.

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