15 February 2014
I am reviewing Allan C. Carlson’s new book, The Natural Family Where It Belongs: New Agrarian Essays (Click Here if you would like to begin with Part 1 of this series).
“As late as 1940, she reports, the agriculture-based economy of this place [Union County, Illinois] was intact. Its family farms specialized in fruits and vegetables sent north for sale in Chicago Small dairy and poultry operations were ubiquitous. The annual collective butchering of hogs remained a community ritual. A few small factories making wooden shipping crates and shoes provided supplements to farm incomes. While strained by the Great Depression, Union County’s towns and villages were still vital, active places; the town squares and local shops busy; the schools full of children. Rural Union County homes “retained their multiple functions as workshop, warehouse, mess hall, dormitory, recreation center, infirmary, and funeral parlor for the farm and the people who worked on it, and women’s and children’s hard work was approvingly contrasted with urban idleness.”
“Without people being fully aware of it,” writes Adams, “the [Union County] economy shifted from dependence on agriculture and [light] manufacturing to a heavy reliance on government services.” As war factories and government bureaucracies transformed rural women into wage workers, the once creative home economy changed as well. As Adams explains, “they no longer had the time to raise a garden and put up quantities of food.” Industrial food processors in distant places supplanted them.
“[p]eople ... began to move to the cities, and the machines moved from the cities into the fields.”
After two beginning chapters of this book not being directly related to the subject of agrarianism, this chapter was more of an agrarian essay. I enjoyed the historical and cultural perspective (which I have only briefly explained here). I even bought a used copy of Jane Adams’ book (for a dollar) so I could learn more.
Click Here to read Part 5 of this book review.