Title Image - Quotes by Author Wendell Berry

Welcome to our collection of quotes by Wendell Berry

Wikipedia Summary for Wendell Berry

Wendell Erdman Berry (born August 5, 1934) is an American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer. He is an elected member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, a recipient of The National Humanities Medal, and the Jefferson Lecturer for 2012. He is also a 2013 Fellow of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Berry was named the recipient of the 2013 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award. On January 28, 2015, he became the first living writer to be inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.

Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest.

--Wendell Berry

Longer Version:

Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest. Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold. Call that profit. Prophesy such returns. Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years.


We're trying to give the young people something that can help them, and we don't know exactly what it ought to be.

--Wendell Berry

Breathe with unconditional breath the unconditioned air.

--Wendell Berry

Never forget: We are alive within mysteries.

--Wendell Berry

The care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and, after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it, and to foster its renewal, is our only legitimate hope.

--Wendell Berry

One cannot reduce terror by holding over the world the threat of what it most fears.

--Wendell Berry

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

--Wendell Berry

We can grow good wheat and make good bread only if we understand that we do not live by bread alone.

--Wendell Berry

But we didn't speak of what was bothering us the most. Maybe we didn't need to. It couldn't have been 'talked out.' It had to be worn out.

--Wendell Berry

Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.

--Wendell Berry

Sabbath observance invites us to stop. It invites us to rest. It asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help. It invites us to delight in the world's beauty and abundance.

--Wendell Berry

We are far more concerned about the desecration of the flag than we are about the desecration of our land.

--Wendell Berry

The soil under the grass is dreaming of a young forest, and under the pavement the soil is dreaming of grass.

--Wendell Berry

The soil is the great connector of our lives, the source and destination of all.

--Wendell Berry

The world is whole beyond human knowing.

--Wendell Berry

Poetry can be written only because it has been written.

--Wendell Berry

I've had a good life, and was born to and among people I've admired and loved.

--Wendell Berry

We must abandon arrogance and stand in awe. We must recover the sense of the majesty of creation, and the ability to be worshipful in its presence. For I do not doubt that it is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it.

--Wendell Berry

Until we understand what the land is, we are at odds with everything we touch.

--Wendell Berry

A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives.

--Wendell Berry

Longer Version:

A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.


I believe that the community -- in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures -- is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.

--Wendell Berry

Longer Version:

I believe that the community -- in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures -- is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms. (pg. 146, Health is Membership).


Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.

--Wendell Berry

Longer Version:

Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.
(pg.99, "The Body and the Earth").



All times, we assume, are different; we therefore have nothing to learn from our elders, nothing to teach our children. Civilization is thus reduced to a sequence of last-minute improvisations, desperately building today out of the wreckage of yesterday.

--Wendell Berry

There's a world of difference ... between that information to which we now presumably have access by way of computers, libraries, and the rest of it, great stockpiles of data, and the knowledge that people have in their bones by which they do good work and live good lives.

--Wendell Berry

A corporation, essentially, is a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance.

--Wendell Berry

Where is our comfort but in the free, uninvolved, finally mysterious beauty and grace of this world that we did not make, that has no price? Where is our sanity but there? Where is our pleasure but in working and resting kindly in the presence of this world? (pg. 215, Economy and Pleasure).

--Wendell Berry

If you eat, you are involved in agriculture.

--Wendell Berry

Nature is always trying to tell us that we are not so superior or independent or alone or autonomous as we may think.

--Wendell Berry

It is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it.

--Wendell Berry

The mind that is not baffled, is unemployed.

--Wendell Berry

A woman in a tailored suit is sitting with a legal pad on her lap... The businesswoman is austerely tailored and coiffured; her eye-glasses are severe... her taste and bearing are splendid. She is impeccable.

--Wendell Berry

Corn and bean people, I'm afraid, have extremely specialized minds.

--Wendell Berry

We live beyond words, as also we live beyond computation and beyond theory.

--Wendell Berry


To owe what you had not yet earned, to have to work to earn what you had already spent, was a personal diminishment, an insult to nature and common sense.

--Wendell Berry

It was no thought or word that called culture into being, but a
tool or a weapon. After the stone axe we needed song and story
to remember innocence, to record effect- and so to describe
the limits, to say what can be done without damage.

--Wendell Berry

The only sustainable city -- and this, to me, is the indispensable ideal and goal -- is a city in balance with its countryside.

--Wendell Berry

We're living, it seems, in the culmination of a long warfare -- warfare against human beings, other creatures and the Earth itself.

--Wendell Berry

You cannot devalue the body and value the soul Or value anything else.

--Wendell Berry

We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist.

--Wendell Berry

There are only two reasons to farm: because you have to, and because you love to. The ones who choose to farm choose for love.

--Wendell Berry

To have good farming or good land use of any kind, you have got to have limits. Capitalism doesn't acknowledge limits.

--Wendell Berry

The ecological principle in agriculture is to connect the genius of the place, to fit the farming to the farm.

--Wendell Berry

Why should conservationists have a positive interest in... farming? There are lots of reasons, but the plainest is: Conservationists eat.

--Wendell Berry

They were not going to live again in a time like that.

--Wendell Berry

The hierarchy of power is not the same as the hierarchy of value. A good human is higher than the animals on both scales; an evil human is high on the scale of power, but at the very bottom of the scale of values.

--Wendell Berry

For the true measure of agriculture is not the sophistication of its equipment the size of its income or even the statistics of its productivity but the good health of the land.

--Wendell Berry

You can't be a critic by simply being a griper. One has also to search out the examples of good work.

--Wendell Berry

Perhaps all the good that ever has come here has come because people prayed it into the world.

--Wendell Berry

I think the issues of identity mostly are poppycock. We are what we have done, which includes our promises, includes our hopes, but promises first.

--Wendell Berry

Hunger is a powerful persuader if it happens, and it's conceivable that it could happen. Country people have always known this.

--Wendell Berry

The aim of industrialization has always been to replace people with machines or other technology, to make the cost of production as low as possible, to sell the product as high as possible, and to move the wealth into fewer and fewer hands.

--Wendell Berry

Far from making peace, wars invariably serve as classrooms and laboratories where men and techniques and states of mind are prepared for the next war.

--Wendell Berry

Our land passes in and out of our bodies just as our bodies pass in and out of our land.

--Wendell Berry

The significance -- and ultimately the quality -- of the work we do is determined by our understanding of the story in which we are taking part.

--Wendell Berry

The discussion about food doesn't make any sense without discussion at the same time of land, land use, land policy, fertility maintenance, and farm infrastructure maintenance.

--Wendell Berry

Beware the machinery of longevity. When a man's life is over the decent thing is for him to die. The forest does not withhold itself from death. What it gives up it takes back.

--Wendell Berry

Novelty is a new kind of loneliness.

--Wendell Berry

The Earth is what we all have in common.

--Wendell Berry

It is certain, I think, that the best government is the one that governs the least. But there is a much-neglected corollary: the best citizen is the one who least needs governing.

--Wendell Berry

We need better government, no doubt about it. But we also need better minds, better friendships, better marriages, better communities.

--Wendell Berry

Education in the true sense, of course, is an enablement to serve-both the living human community in its natural household or neighborhood and the precious cultural possessions that the living community inherits or should inherit.

--Wendell Berry

Again I resume the long
lesson: how small a thing
can be pleasing, how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind
and bring it to its rest.

--Wendell Berry

The global economy is built on the principle that one place can be exploited, even destroyed, for the sake of another place.

--Wendell Berry

Long live gravity! Long live

stupidity, error, and greed in the palaces

of fantasy capitalism!

--Wendell Berry

Another place!
it's enough to grieve me --
that old dream of going, of becoming a better man
just by getting up and going
to a better place.

--Wendell Berry

So it is that the life force may take possession of a man -- so that in the end he may be possessed by something greater, no longer at all belonging to himself.

--Wendell Berry

The line that connects the bombing of civilian populations to the mountain removed by strip mining ... to the tortured prisoner seems to run pretty straight. We're living, it seems, in the culmination of a long warfare -- warfare against human beings, other creatures and the Earth itself.

--Wendell Berry

We cannot hope to be secure when our government has declared, by its readiness to act alone, its willingness to be everybody's enemy.

--Wendell Berry

You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it.

--Wendell Berry

Much of our waste problem is to be accounted for by the intentional flimsiness and unrepairability of the labor-savers and gadgets that we have become addicted to.

--Wendell Berry

The river is of the earth and it is free. It is rigorously embanked and bound, and yet it is free. To hell with restraint, it says, I have got to be going. It will grind out its dams. It will go over or around them. They will become pieces.

--Wendell Berry

If you establish, or reestablish, local economies on the right scale and with the right standard, then politics would come right as a matter of course. I don't know what you'd call the result -- probably not capitalism or socialism.

--Wendell Berry

If conservationists will attempt to resume responsibility for their need to eat, they will be led back fairly directly to all their previous concerns for the welfare of nature.

--Wendell Berry

Whatever happens,
those who have learned
to love one another
have made their way
to the lasting world
and will not leave,
whatever happens.

--Wendell Berry

A tree forms itself in answer to its place and the light. Explain it how you will, the only thing explainable will be your explanation. Sabbaths 1999 IV.

--Wendell Berry

To be sane in a mad time is bad for the brain, worse for the heart.

--Wendell Berry

Our understandable wish to preserve the planet must somehow be reduced to the scale of our competence -- that is to wish to preserve all of its humble house -- holds and neighbourhoods.

--Wendell Berry

A well-made sentence, I think, is a thing of beauty.

--Wendell Berry

Some of the best things I have ever thought of I have thought of during bad sermons.

--Wendell Berry

My label is just good farming, which isn't something you can put on a t-shirt.

--Wendell Berry


When the self is ones exclusive subject and limit, reference and measure, one has no choice but to make a world of words.

--Wendell Berry

Specialization is the great evil of civilization.

--Wendell Berry

The good of the whole of Creation, the world and all its creatures together, is never a consideration because it is never thought of; our culture now simply lacks the means for thinking of it.

--Wendell Berry

I believe in thrift as I believe in freedom, but I don't support the plutocratic hostility to taxation, regulation, and protections of land, water, and air.

--Wendell Berry

The connections between people and land are dangerously oversimplified and mainly technological.

--Wendell Berry

And his words fell upon the table like a blessing.

--Wendell Berry

Young lovers see a vision of the world redeemed by love. That is the truest thing they ever see, for without it life is death.

--Wendell Berry

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