Food Issues Book Club - A Talent for Necessity from Bringing It to the Table

Hello all!  Welcome to the NOiG Food Issues Book Club, wherein I read books about food stuff, summarize each book by chapter, and then attempt to apply that book chapter's ideas to the New Orleans food environment and/or my own experiences.  Fun right?!  Check out previous installations here.  I'd love it if you'd read along and join in!  And now, without further ado...

Bringing It to the Table: A Talent for Necessity, 1980


This chapter focuses on Henry Besuden, a top breeder of Southdown sheep.  He managed to raise his animals on land that had been "corned to death."  "[H]is predicament became his education and, finally, his triumph."  He used a plow to even out deep gullies into "saucers" that allowed runoff to gently pool rather than cause erosion.  He chose grasses carefully, and even put weeds to strategic use.  After 23 years, the land was still not fully healed.

Despite his extraordinary flock, his priority was always the farm and not the show ring.  "He never forgot that the purpose of a sheep is to produce a living for the farmer and to put meat on the table."  Besuden feared that sheep, which he referred to as "land builders," would be removed from live stock programs after World War II.  "He had seen the handwriting on the wall: the new emphasis on row cropping and "production" which in the years after WWII would radically alter the balance of crops and animals on farms, and which, as he feared, would help to destroy the sheep business in his own state."  This fear did, in fact, come to fruition.

This essay, then, serves as another exploration of the types of farming practices espoused by Berry.  (Unsurprisingly, he again supports the idea of animals as commodity - despite acknowledging their suffering elsewhere.)  Besuden strove for "a way of farming compatible with nature," much as Berry does.  Per Berry, Besuden was "convinced that paying attention pays," setting him apart from industrial farmers who pay attention only to profits.

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