Water at the Roots: Poems and Insights of a Visionary Farmer

Philip Britts (Author) Jennifer Harries (Editor)
& 1 more


In a society uprooted by two world wars, industrialization, and dehumanizing technology, a revolutionary farmer turns to poetry to reconnect his people to the land and one another.

A farmer, poet, activist, pastor, and mystic, Britts (1917-1949) has been called a British Wendell Berry. His story is no romantic agrarian elegy, but a life lived in the thick of history. As his country plunged headlong into World War II, he joined an international pacifist community, the Bruderhof, and was soon forced to leave Europe for South America.

Amidst these great upheavals, his response - to root himself in faith, to dedicate himself to building community, to restore the land he farmed, and to use his gift with words to turn people from their madness - speaks forcefully into our time. In an age still wracked by racism, nationalism, materialism, and ecological devastation, the life he chose and the poetry he composed remain a prophetic challenge.

Product Details

$16.00  $14.72
Plough Publishing House
Publish Date
March 20, 2018
5.5 X 0.5 X 8.4 inches | 0.5 pounds
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About the Author

Farmer-poet Philip Britts was born in 1917 in Devon, England. Britts became a pacifist, joined the Bruderhof, and during World War II moved to South America. There, in 1949, he died of a rare tropical illness at the age of 31, leaving his wife, Joan, with three young children and fourth on the way.
Jennifer Harries, a member of the Bruderhof, was born in Llansamlet Wales and now lives in New York.
David Kline, an Amish organic farmer in Ohio, is the editor of Farming Magazine and author of three books: Letters from Larksong: An Amish Naturalist Explores His Organic Farm, Great Possessions: An Amish Farmer's Journal, and Scratching the Woodchuck: Nature on an Amish Farm.


One of the most powerful books I've ever read. Alive with profound spiritual and practical insights, Britts's words are timeless. You will be deeply moved by his humble conviction expressed in thoughtful action. --Joel Salatin, author, Folks, This Ain't Normal
What to do with one's life? Britts answered this question as one who loved the land, its creatures, and its people. For those seeking a healthy and peaceful world, this book will be a provocation to a better way of living. --Norman Wirzba, author, Food and Faith
Philip Britts died at thirty-one, but this collection of poems and insights shows the depth and richness of his wisdom during those shortened years. His writings are reminiscent of Wendell Berry's: they touch on the same themes of earth and faith, community and presence. It's a short but lovely read. --Gracy Olmstead, The American Conservative
Britts's unpretentious style brings immediacy to his subjects, and Water at the Roots provides enough context about his life, and the challenges of building a community in an environmentally difficult region, to underscore what the author was up against. . . . It's a thorough book that illuminates an important but little-known writer. --Foreword Reviews
Britts's poems and musings offer a window into a life defined by clear Christian values of radical pacifism, love of neighbor, and care for the Earth. Britts provides a gentle corrective to modern impulses of acquisition and aggression, his ebullient verses always returning to wonder and awe at the natural world.... An inspiration for Christians and humanists seeking peace and purpose in a tumultuous world. --Publisher's Weekly
There is a deep sense of reality--true, eternal, and human reality--in Britts' work... Here was a man who clearly articulated and lived out his beliefs... a man who may have been quietly composing while hoeing, whose spirit ever sat at the feet of his Master while his body was at work. --Remembered Arts Journal
There is much beauty in Britts's thoughts, and a quiet radicalism too....He warns that the worst possibility of progress would be to lose the organic connection with and intimate, tactile knowledge of the land: unlike "that indescribable sensation that comes, perhaps rarely, when one walks through a field of alfalfa in the morning sun, when one smells earth after rain, or when one watches the ripples on a field of wheat." That is the agrarian spirit, the spirit of Wendell Berry and so many localists everywhere. --Russell Arben Fox, Front Porch Republic