Does the world need another blog?

I must admit I start this blog with no small amount of fear and trembling.  Aside from my worry about how to keep feeding the beast, two questions have loomed large in my thinking: What earthly good could another blog do for the world?  And what, heaven help me, would Wendell Berry think? 

 The last shall be first, since that question is actually the easier one to answer.  Wendell Berry, for those of you who don’t know him, is a Kentucky farmer and writer of poetry, novels, and essays.  I have known his work since the early 90s, when my college professor-become-mentor, Scott Russell Sanders, introduced me to Wendell’s The Unsettling of America, a stinging critique of modern industrial agriculture.  Wendell and I have traded some letters of over the years, and I’ve met him from time to time, both on his farm and at various other venues.  It was reading Wendell’s work and corresponding with him that got me started on my own vocational path: establishing a small organic farm and homestead in southern Indiana, and trying to live an authentic life of ecological responsibility, community, creativity, and joy. 

 I don’t have to think that hard to suppose that Wendell, who (as far as I know) still writes longhand and turns in manuscripts typed up by his wife on a 50-year-old Royal Standard manual typewriter, would have a host of hesitations about entering the blogging world.  I suspect that the most significant of them would be that time spent in the virtual world is time not spent paying attention to the real world of people, plants, and animals.  I do sense this as a real problem, and of course I don’t think it a coincidence that modern culture has become more socially isolated and radically disconnected from the world of nature even as it’s become hyper-connected through electronic media.  So if I’m going to have a blog, I want it to be one that connects me more deeply to others, not less, and more deeply to the natural world, not less.  I hope that this ongoing series of reflections about the life on our farm will help me pay better attention to what is happening on our little corner of Creation.  And in this, I hope to create a wider conversation about issues of ecological responsibility and spirituality, which ultimately serves to knit the social fabric together more strongly.

 I ask the WWWT (What Would Wendell Think) question somewhat tongue-in-cheek, because lately I’ve come not to care quite as much what Wendell Berry would think about me and my life.  I am almost certain that he doesn’t think about me much, if any, for starters; he’s got his own fish to fry.  And I have mine.  I may have begun my farming life with his inspiration and in his shadow, but over the years, my farming has become mine and my family’s, rather than a slavish imitation of his.  He farms with horses; I farm (not without ambivalence, of course) with a four-wheel drive Kubota tractor.  He is suspicious of technology; I feel naked without my mp3 player.  Our ages are different, our backgrounds are different, our farms are different, our gifts are different, our communities and commitments are different.  So while I heed the cautions that I think Wendell would offer, I don’t think a blog is inherently evil.

 Which leads back to my first question: what good can another blog do the world?  If it’s just for my benefit, I would just keep my musings in a private journal and wouldn’t bother to risk putting personal, not-professionally-edited writing out there for public consumption.  Writing it has to be worth it to me, just as reading it has to be worth it to you.

 A way to answer this question begins with two core convictions that drive my farming life and my thinking about farming.  First, I’m convinced religion and good ecological stewardship are inseparable.  I can’t imagine being a religious and spiritual person (I’m Roman Catholic, FYI) without finding God in “the book of nature” and perceiving in my faith tradition a strong ethical obligation to care for Creation.  And second, I also can’t imagine trying to practice good agricultural stewardship without the larger frame of a relationship with the Holy – not only for inspiration and ethical motivation, but finally, for hope.  Our Earth is a lovely, God-given home, but as the recent Japanese earthquake revealed, it isn’t a firm place to stand.  We may manage not to destroy our species through climate change or ecological degradation, but a volcanic eruption, solar flare, or rogue asteroid might well do it for us.  Hence a central paradox in my life as a farmer and a spiritual person: I am deeply in love with the natural world and committed to learning from and caring for it, and at the same time I believe that Creation is just that: created, contingent, impermanent.  The love of God is the only solid ground.

 So to any of you who might read this blog, thank you so much for taking time out of your life to do so.  I want to share some of my own path of trying to grow deeper roots as a student and steward of the land and stronger wings as a religious and spiritual seeker.  I foresee that some of my blog writing will be the work-a-day reflections of a person of faith who is trying to run a working organic farm amid various other commitments; in other entries I’ll try to step back a bit and grapple with the questions that arise out of that sort of life.  If nothing else, I hope this blog helps all of us pay closer attention to the world of Creation, from which and in which we have our being, and the world of the Divine, whose love is within and beyond all.

About ktkramer

Kyle T. Kramer founded and lives with his wife Cyndi and their three young children on Genesis Organic Farm, in his native southern Indiana, in a solar- and wind-powered home he designed and built himself. Kyle is also the director of graduate lay degree programs and spiritual formation for Saint Meinrad, a Benedictine monastery and school of theology. He serves as a Climate Ambassador for the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change. Kyle is a regular columnist for America magazine, and he is the author of A Time to Plant: Life Lessons in Work, Prayer, and Dirt (Ave Maria Press, 2010). Kyle's writing and talks mainly concern the intersection of simple living, ecology and Christian spirituality.
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