Community Minded

Tanya Berry to display photos at Berry Center Open House

Her photos capture theme
of community working together

NEW CASTLE, Ky. (November 2017) – “For The Hog Killing, 1979” seemed an unusual title for a photographic exhibit. But for Tanya Berry, the photographs captured the story of the community working together. As the wife of Wendell Berry, noted agrarian author and farmer, she said that a community that works together, holds together.
That work was the hog killing. Beginning to end, it was two long days of hard work, processing 10-12 hogs each year. Each family’s hog was processed separately, cut the way they wanted: their meat, their seasoning. Everyone had their own recipe for sausage. They cured their own hams.

Photo courtesy of Guy Mendes

Tanya and Wendell Berry are pictured at right. Both will be on hand for the Nov. Open House at The Berry Center in New Castle, Ky.

Why does this matter? “You treat your animals differently when they are going to be the food for your family,” Berry said.
All are raised locally and treated in a humane manner. Care and love are part of raising the animals and the processing is done carefully as neighbors work together.
The hog killing was an annual event. Each year different people wanted to come to watch. It was a lot of work, but the neighbors gathered to work together and eat together over those two days. No one could do it alone. Children understood the significance.
Their son, “Den,” (Pryor Clifford Berry) grew up knowing how important it was to cut the meat properly. He and wife, Billie, are farming today as is his sister, Mary, with her husband, Steve Smith.
When asked how that love of farming was instilled in both children, Berry laughed and said, “Luck!” Then she replied that both of the children grew up doing farm work with their father. “They seemed to like it, not dislike it,” she observed. Now Berry’s great-granddaughter is helping on the farm. When someone asked the 5 year old if she would like to be a farmer someday, she replied, “I AM a farmer!”
An Open House featuring Tanya Berry’s work is planned at The Berry Center, 111 S. Main St., in New Castle, Ky. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. with free refreshments in The Berry Center and Bookstore. You can also purchase a meal from the Rollin’ Ruby food truck.

Photo by Tanya Berry

This photo of “hog killing” is part of the collection in Tanya Berry’s photography exhibit.

Community life is sustainable life. Berry has seen renewed interest from local young people who want to have a life in the country, to know where their food comes from, to play music together and to enjoy life together. Berry said that this community work is “essential knowledge the needs to be passed down and recognized as the art it was.”
In the Berry family, the commitment continues not only with the leadership of daughter, Mary Berry Smith, at The Berry Center, but also with granddaughter, Virginia Berry Aguilar, as the Manager and Outreach Coordinator of the Bookstore at the Berry Center.
Virginia noted that so often children receive the message from parents and educators that upward mobility is the goal – to be somebody, make something of yourself, you must leave. In contrast, Virginia said that she was “allowed to love and be proud of our place.”
As she learned to farm, she learned the beauty and value of physical work. She was never told that she could not leave the community. Instead, her family taught her to “see what was there: what is broken and can be fixed as well as what is right.”
She learned that farming and feeling needed in your home community is a feeling that many young people never experience. She has found that choosing to stay sometimes results in pressure to defend the desire to choose your home place. 
Virginia also recommended “Look and See,” a documentary about Wendell Berry that further illustrates what her grandmother, Tanya as a city girl, had to learn to become part of the farming community when she married Wendell. But Tanya’s commitment to learn and work as part of the community gave their children and grandchildren the option to stay here also. “Look and See” is available on Netflix.
In addition to Tanya Berry’s photo exhibit, the Open House will feature Wendell Berry’s newest book, “The Art of Loading Brush.” Gray Zeitz will bring his new Larkspur Press hand-printed books. Gabrielle Fox, leading expert and artisan in the binding, conservation and restoration of fine books, has written, “Larkspur Press: Forty Years of Making Letterpress Books in a Rural Kentucky Community, 1974-2014.’
Readings in the afternoon in the Heritage Building will include authors Wendell Berry, Bobbie Ann Mason, Ed McClanahan, Gray Zeitz, Frank X Walker, Frederick Smock, Erik Reece, Richard Taylor, Mary Ann Taylor-Hall, Maurice Manning, Leatha Kendrick, Sue Richards, Trina Pieffer and Leslie Shane. The day will conclude with book signings.
The scheduled readings by these prominent Kentucky authors will take place in the Heritage Building located adjacent to the bookstore. The Bookstore at The Berry Center is located in an historic 230-year-old log cabin, with its original plank floors and beautifully restored interior. The counter and table in the bookstore are crafted from large slabs of ash wood. “Den” Berry made these counters as well as handcrafted stools and bookends that are for sale. The Kentucky authors’ books are for sale as well. Cookies and wassail are the perfect treat to facilitate an afternoon of browsing through the books and unique gifts.

The Berry Center is a nonprofit organization, advocating for farmers, land conserving communities and healthy regional economies. It was started in 2011 to continue the agricultural work of John Berry, Sr. and his sons Wendell Berry and John Berry Jr. The issues confronting small farming families in Kentucky, Indiana and across our country include: “What will it take for farmers to be able to afford to farm well?” and “How do we become a culture that will support good land use?” The central issue is the need for a healthy and sustainable agriculture in our country.

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