—Liberty Hyde Bailey—
On The Family Economy
Selection #1
From The Harvest

Dateline: 3 February 2014

Liberty Hyde Bailey

In my previous blog post (A Man's Got To Know His Limitations) I told of how I am cutting back on some projects in my life. Something I neglected to mention is that I have decided not to pursue my idea of starting a podcast called The Agrarian Reader. I will, however, in the days to come, post some quotes and selections that I would have read on the podcast, and you can just read them yourself.

One excellent source of agrarian quotes is an obscure little book titled, The Harvest of The Year to The Tiller of The Soil, by the not so obscure Liberty Hyde Bailey. My Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners, contains a selection from The Harvest titled My Father's Hoe, and I think it is one of the best things LH Bailey ever wrote.

Today's quote from The Harvest is pertinent to my recent discussion on The Family Economy….


We do not know where to breed families as well as on the farm, from the fact that the farm is a cooperative enterprise in which every member of the family has a stake; every boy and girl has actual (not make-believe or time-serving) duties and responsibilities, and these cannot be supplanted by recreation clubs or camping activities, or by manual schooling or other substitutes. 

—Liberty Hyde Bailey
   The Harvest of The Year To The Tiller of The Soil (1927)


Liberty Hyde Bailey's observation from 87 years ago has been common knowledge among the rural people of America for centuries. 

In fact, I dare say there was a time when farming was as much about raising responsible children within a family economy as it was about raising crops to sell.

Without the rural context, without the daily example of a hard-working, responsible father, without the nurturing of a full-time mother, without important duties and responsibilities within a family economy, without real work to do, how can a child—especially a man child—grow up with the character to lead his own family and sustain a civilization?

Yes, I know that lots of kids grow up to be responsible adults without growing up on a farm, or having a full-time mother. And, on the other hand, there are farm-raised kids that have gone bad. There are always exceptions. But as a rule, there is no better way than the paradigm of a traditional farm-family to raise children that grow up to be resourceful, diligent, dependable, capable, self-confident, respectful, patient, and trustworthy adults. 

The closer a family can structure their lifestyle to the traditional ideal, the better their chances of success.

Unfortunately, the small family farms that were once so common in this country are virtually gone. And starting a farm is not recommended (unless you have a lot of money to spare). So what can parents who are looking to raise their family within the tried-and-true traditional paradigm of farming do?

Well, I think part of the the answer is to establish a family economy around the work of homesteading and self reliance, preferably in a rural area on a small patch of land. More and more families are doing this out of wisdom, with a powerful desire to raise children of exceptional character.

I think it is equally important to also get as far away from the influences of modern, urbanized culture as possible. Unfortunately, raising children in a rural setting does not provide the measure of separation and protection from urban culture that it once did. With the internet, social media and cellphones, urban culture now permeates all of rural America and serves to inculcate urban values into the thinking of young rural people. Furthermore, if a family sends their children to government schools, those children are systematically indoctrinated into the ethos of our industrialized culture.

Few and far between are those families that can successfully protect their children from detrimental urban influences. Modern, industrialized culture pretty much demands conformity. Independent thinking is now less and less tolerated. 

I have a feeling that Liberty Hyde Bailey would be shocked and saddened if he could see the full extent of the decline of rural life and values today. But he clearly saw that America was in a problematic transition, and he identified a solution. In chapter VII (Homesteads and Democracy) Bailey writes…

If remedies [to widespread political and social issues] are real, they must begin at the sources. The homesteads scattered far and wide, expressing a piece of productive land, are essential starting points.


RonC said...

The wife and I bought 10 acres of land around the time you bought yours. When we were figuring out how to manage the land, we ran across Joel Salatin and also Geoff Lawton:


(You might have to register to get in, but it is well worth it and there is a lot of free content and food for thought.)

I had been trying to figure out how to fence the land in to hold livestock. Necessity may be the Mother of Invention, but lack of money is the Mother of Innovation. I got the idea of a living fence and finally figured out that it was a hedgerow I was thinking about. Then the thought of where am I going to get all the trees that I need? I stumbled across Mike McGroarty.


Fortunately, some of the plants that would work well in a hedge are growing on our property. I just need to propagate lots of them!

Your series on the family economy really hit home with me and I had the thought of starting a home based plant nursery that specializes in growing the plants one would need for cold climate (zone 3) permaculture I bought the Mike McGroarty program. It is well worth the money, but it is a little disappointing in that it is a lead-in to him wanting one to spend another $500 to join his growers group. I am going to skip that because he has a landscaping background and doesn't seem to care a wit about growing plants that can grow food.

Anyhow, the wife and kids sat down and watched the two DVDs that come with Mike's program. The 10 year old daughter watched for a bit and then her eyes got big and she asked, "You can make money doing that?" She is fully on board and excited to get going. I pointed out to her that not only could she create her own job, but maybe she could even employ some of her friends who are being brainwashed in the Government schools. I told the wife that if we are homeschooling our kids, we might as well complete the task by teaching them how to be entrepreneurs. She agreed.

Anyhow, thanks for all that you write about. Your recent blogs have really resonated with me.

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Ron,

Thanks for the links. Both look great. I'm trying to cut back on my projects and now I want to start a backyard nursery. :-)

It is so good to hear that your daughter is inspired by Mike McGroarty's videos. That says a lot. I wish you all the best with the family economy you are taking steps to establish.