On this very special episode of Taste Matters, Karen Karp sits in for Mitchell Davis as he organizes the 3rd annual James Beard Foundation Food Conference. Karen is joined in the studio by living legend Wendell Berry: farmer, economist, writer, and agronomist. Wendell is visiting New York City to receive a 2012 James Beard Foundation Leadership Award. Tune in to hear about how Wendell’s upbringing in Henry County, Kentucky inspired his love for agriculture and local food. Wendell describes the artistry of the tobacco farmers from his youth, and how agricultural production has since declined due to industrialization.

Listen in to hear Wendell’s recollections about his life in New York City during the 1960s, and how the city contrasts with the dying agrarian lifestyles of the Midwest. Learn why faith alone should not dictate one’s diet. Wendell speaks to the vastness of our food system, and why regulation is a necessary intervention. Karen and Wendell also discuss the resurgence of urban farming and “growing food in town,” and how it brings hope for the connection of people and producers. What happened to transparency in food? Learn about the closure of small-scale slaughterhouses in rural areas, and what it has done to the idea of community trust. Listen in to hear Wendell speak about leadership, and how his profession as a writer has led him to make sense of many issues regarding agriculture and politics.

What needs to be in place for a local food economy that can feed the community and support the producers? Wendell focuses on the importance of economic cooperation in creating a more equitable and sustainable food system. This program has been brought to you by Hearst Ranch.

“We’re a long way from a local food economy that will feed the community and support the local producers. That’s now on the agenda, that job is ahead of us and many people know it.”

“People who just buy and eat are living by faith the way doctors’ patients now are living by faith. They have no choice but to believe what they’re told. People who just buy and eat have no choice but to eat what they buy, and so the issue of trust becomes really interesting because trust substitutes for a lot of regulation.”


“Quality of life declines when you begin to replace human workers with machinery, which has now pretty much happened. You degrade the quality of the work, and the pleasure that is possible to take in the work because you introduce hurry in a way that didn’t occupy people before.”

–seminal American poet, novelist, essayist Wendell Berry on Taste Matters