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.