Eric Sloane

Dateline: 28 January 2014

Drawing by Eric Slaone

The original spirit of agronomy can never return any more than Park Avenue can grow potatoes the way it did in the 1700s. But a spirit is something that doesn’t die, and the reverence for the land as an inherent part of man must for our eventual survival continue to be an American heritage.

In 1958 Eisenhower summed up the nation, saying: “We have progressed from an isolated farm economy to a world industrial economy.” That “isolated farm economy” happened to be more than an economy; it was our way of life, a personal and national philosophy. In “progressing,” the individual has now become a different person in a different nation. If the pioneer could return today he would certainly be impressed by the wonders of scientific change, but he would also be aware that his unique nation was no more.

Because we have become so business-minded, it is difficult for us to realize that the early American farmer seldom was in the business of selling farm produce: instead he raised food for his own family and for his own livestock: farming was the classical way of American life. “Those who labor in the earth,” said Jefferson, “are the chosen people of God.” Washington had said: “Husbandry was the first employment and the most honorable... farming is a diving appointment.” Washington and Jefferson, like everyone else, lived active farm lives and knew well the religion of farming. Even in the 1800s, when farming began to be a business instead of a personal necessity, the farmer was still regarded as a special man with a special calling. But in the mid-nineteenth century, things changed.

Like much of early Americana, agronomy changed and began its decline during the Civil War period. Young men returned from an unnecessary war too disillusioned to go back to where they had left off: they had seen big cities and quick money. Daddy was no longer the “lord of the earth’; he was regarded as an archaic stay-at-home comic character called Rube, with shoddy clothes, rubber boots and chewing on a blade of grass. The farmstead was no longer an estate built up and left to generation after generation; from then on, children would inherit money instead, and capitalism would become as much a personal philosophy as a national economy.

—Eric Sloane, 
From, The Spirits of '76  (1976)


Anonymous said...

A successful day of farming for me is to start off with a 5-gallon bucket of kitchen scraps/critter food, make my rounds to feed and water everybody, then stroll through the garden to gather that day's supply of fruits/vegetables for my family. I return to the house with goat's milk, fresh eggs, and organic garden bounty inside my 5-gallon bucket! No waste, no worry. Praise the Lord.

Sheila said...

the reverence for the land as an inherent part of man

That part right there. That is to me, a lesson of how far we have come, not only from a way of life, but from where God had intended us to be.

How far we are from the soil, and from God's will for our lives.

I'm starting a new garden this spring, on a new property, next to the old, that has taken on new meaning for me.

It's actually so personal, getting us out, and away from the "World's Way" of life.

I always knew this, but never in the same way. It is personal, given to us by our Creator.

I can't wait to start my new garden, but most of all, so that I can thank the Lord for His instruction, love, and care for us all.

Thank you Herrick.

Sharon said...

I think this is the saddest Eric Sloane quote so far. But, I'm glad you posted it. It's a good lesson.