Jesse and the Integrated Life

Episode 196 · June 7th, 2019 · 1 hr 13 mins

About this Episode

Backstory on Jesse Straight:

My wife and I are Catholic converts from evangelicalism (though my wife was baptized Orthodox, then raised Presbyterian). Easter Sunday 2009 my wife and I entered the church. On Easter Monday 2009 we started our farm. I am a suburban kid who started a sustainable farm (i.e., no farming experience) through the influence of Wendell Berry and Joel Salatin. Since 2012 our only source of income. My wife is at home with our 6 kids under 9--feel your pain Gomer.

Gomer, I have noted you have sometimes brought up Wendell Berry, distributivism, and issues about our modern food system. And you guys are interested in the anima technica vacua, which would be related to our alienation from the food, farming, and natural world that sustains us 3 times/day! You have touched on it, but you have not taken on the conversation of how Catholics ought to think about food and farming. And this could also fit nicely into your "don't put me in a Catholic box" theme of the show--thinking carefully about food and farming is not the sole territory of secular liberals--Catholics should be leading the charge!

You can see more about us here:

And here is where I went head to head with R.R. Reno of First Things. (I have a lot of respect for Reno and think he is right on most things, but here I think I was dead right!)

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Episode Links

  • Meet the Farmers | Pasture Raised | Whiffletree Farm | Internships | United States — Meet the Farmers - The Straights. Jesse Straight, farmer and founder of Whiffletree Farm, was born and raised in Fauquier County, graduating from Fauquier High School in 2000. After finishing studies in religion and pre-med at UVa, marrying his wife Liz, and working in Charlottesville, Jesse read a book by Wendell Berry that inspired him to learn more about farming through reading, visiting farmers, and making forays into small farming ventures. In April 2009 Jesse and Liz moved back to Warrenton to be near his family and old friends, and to start their farm business! They were happy to return to Warrenton but did not know all the ways in which they would be so well befriended and cared for here. By 2012 the business was in need of additional acreage and so the Straights moved to Whiffletree Farm, where they have been ever since.
  • Why Organic, Sustainable Farming Matters | Portrait of a Farmer - YouTube — Most pro-organic documentaries make their point by taking stabs at the cruelty and other evils involved in the world of industrialized farming. In this short documentary portrait, Jesse Straight, owner of Whiffletree Farm, shows us a different approach. As he gestures to the beautiful landscapes that surround us he explains, "being a farmer is special because this is my office. You spend your day making animals get to do things that help the things around you thrive".
  • Catholic Family Goes Back to Nature: Harvesting God’s Good Earth — and Faith — Converting to Catholicism was a major life change for Jesse Straight and his wife, Liz, but not in ways they could have anticipated. The couple and family now live on the 80-acre Whiffletree Farm in Warrenton, Virginia, and they use farming to honor God through raising stock and feeding the community. 
  • Letters by Various | Articles | First Things — Now this brings us to the crux of the matter. Am I right? Are conventional farming and agribusiness, as they relate to stewardship and health, so bad? And is small-scale, sustainable farming so good? If Reno wants to dismiss the ethical dimension of this issue, he will have to convince me that what happens in a confined poultry house from start to finish—and its complete impact on land, chicken, farmer, eater, community—is ­ethically defensible, especially in the face of the viable and sensible alternatives offered by operations like my own. (Some naysayers argue that you cannot “feed the world” with my kind of farming. This is not true, but I will not take up that extended argument here.)
  • Inequality and Agency by R. R. Reno | Articles | First Things — esse Straight appreciates my analysis of elite self-regard and the ways the upper crust is reinterpreting morality to serve itself. But he runs the Whiffletree Farm in Warrenton, Virginia, where he raises organic free-range pigs, cattle, and chickens. This makes him less than happy with my “habit of, while poking fun at and exposing some of the frivolous, self-righteous, and self-indulgent ways of the elite, flippantly citing their ‘separate cuisine of organic, locally sourced food’ or ‘gourmet pickles,’ etc.”
  • Farming Practices | Pasture Raised | Whiffletree Farm | Internships | United States — We raise chicken, eggs, turkey, pork and beef all on pasture and without any GMO feed, chemicals, hormones, or antibiotics (except in rare life-threatening situations for our cattle).  Our goal is to farm in a way that is good for all parties involved: the land, the animals, our families, our customers, and our community.  We do that by respecting the needs of the land and the animals, working in coordination with nature.  
  • Monopsony - Wikipedia — In economics, a monopsony (from Ancient Greek μόνος (mónos) "single" + ὀψωνία (opsōnía) "purchase") is a market structure in which a single buyer substantially controls the market as the major purchaser of goods and services offered by many would-be sellers. In the microeconomic theory of monopsony, a single entity is assumed to have market power over sellers as the only purchaser of a good or service, much in the same manner that a monopolist can influence the price for its buyers in a monopoly, in which only one seller faces many buyers.
  • Wendell Berry - Wikipedia — Wendell Erdman Berry (born August 5, 1934) is an American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer.[1] 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.[2] On January 28, 2015, he became the first living writer to be inducted into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.[3]
  • Wendell Berry's Integrative Philosophy of Life and Energy | Justmeans — Wendell Berry's definition of community has become the standard in many contexts: "... the commonwealth and common interests, commonly understood, of people living together in a place and wishing to continue to do so. To put it another way, community is a locally understood interdependence of local people, local culture, local economy, and local nature."
  • G.K. Chesterton's Distributism — Our separation of economy from the home is part of a long fragmentation process. Each of the modern ideas that might have once been part of this complete breakfast have come to claim that they are complete all by themselves. We have separated everything from everything else. We have accomplished this by separating everything from the home. Feminism has separated women from the home. Capitalism has separated men from the home. Socialism has separated education from the home. Manufacturing has separated craftsmanship from the home. The news and entertainment industry has separated originality and creativity from the home, rendering us into passive and malleable consumers rather than active citizens.
  • Three Works on Distributism: G. K. Chesterton: 9781449511227: Books — Three Works on Distributism Paperback – September 14, 2009
  • Principles | New Catholic Land Movement — Mission: To renew Catholic culture by restoring families on the land Goals: (a) Assist Catholic families and individuals onto the land (b) Train Catholic families and individuals in the arts of farming (c) Publish texts relating to Catholic culture and rural life. (d) Establish a New Catholic Land Movement Institute (e) Culivate Catholic culture on the farms of members. (f) Establish a funding  and farm-link service to assist Catholic families and individuals in transitioning to rural life.
  • Polyface Farm - We Are Your Clean Meat Connection — To Develop Environmentally, Economically, and Emotionally Enhancing Agricultural Prototypes and Facilitate Their Duplication Throughout the World.
  • "Polyfaces" | documentary on Joel Salatin — 'Polyfaces' is an exciting upcoming documentary that features one of the world's best farms in action. It reveals how the Salatin family and their team are healing the land, regenerating the local economy, inspiring people all around the world, and feeding 5,000 families ethically produced, nutrient-dense foods. If you Eat, Buy, or Grow food then this is a film you must see!