Berry (Watch with Me, 1994, etc.), small-town Kentuckian and agrarian philosopher, massages his favorite themes of community and small-is-beautiful in six brief, clear-as-a-bell essays. ``I am an agrarian: I think that farming is a high and difficult art . . . I am a member, by choice, of a local community. I believe that healthy communities are indispensable.'' Both farm and community life are being steamrolled by the centralized, monoculturing, spiritless zeitgeist that has been shaping American life for the past century or two. This has Berry in a swivet. How, he wants to know, if we consider ourselves vaguely intelligent beings, can we crush a way of life (i.e., the modest farmstead) that understands its work as good and necessary and dignifying; that isn't greedy; that teaches its children ``local geography, ecology, history, natural history, and local songs and stories''; that counsels ``good care, attention to details, awareness of small opportunities, diversity, and thrift''? Vraiment. To moan and groan is to go nowhere``We must have something else competently in mind.'' And therein lies the beauty of Berry; he's got some great suggestions, from how to decentralize, to fashioning wieldy farming economies, to establishing sophisticated, scaled forest communities. And he writes with a deliberate artistry that Robert Frost would have found appealing. Industrial society is so putrid to Berry that he can raise a few hackles, as when he talks about those who know ``how to use the land in the best way'' as if there were no alternatives. But this man's on fire, his mission to preserve an appreciation for the earth, replete with ``local knowledge, memory, and tradition.'' Small towns, with their fringe of 40-acre spreads, couldn't ask for a more articulate defender.