The Agrarian Writings of
O.E. Baker
(Part 5)

Dateline: 3 April 2016 AD
(Click Here to Read Part 4 of this series)



This is a continuing series, highlighting some quotes from Oliver Edwin Baker, as found in the 1939 book, Agriculture in Modern Life.

Keep in mind, as you read O.E.'s words, that the word "farmer" can be applied not only to actual farmers, but to those who maintain small rural homesteads and embrace the philosophy of rural life.

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"But it is also plain that the farming people who buy on credit, like city people, in order to have something they want a year earlier, are sacrificing 20 per cent or more of their purchasing power. If they could wait until they could pay cash they could have 20 per cent more goods, or they could invest it in better stock and buildings, or reduce the mortgage. Spread over even half a lifetime such savings could readily mean the difference between poverty and riches in old age. 

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"Associated with religion, particularly among rural people, is an organic philosophy. The farmer tends to think in terms of plants and animals, or birth and growth and death. The city man, on the other hand, tends to think in terms of wheels and levers and machines, or of buying and selling. Whereas agriculture is founded on life processes, particularly as influenced by soil and weather and the laws of inheritance, urban occupations are founded on manufacturing and commerce, and the activities are carried on mostly indoors. To the city child milk is associated with a bottle, not with a cow; an apple comes from a box, not from a tree; and these early impressions influence, I believe, the ideas of later life.

As a consequence the farmer's philosophy of life is primarily familistic, whereas the city man's philosophy usually is mechanistic. The farmer lives in a natural world, the city man in an artificial world. Because of his occupation the farmer's thoughts are largely biological, whereas  the city man's thoughts are largely physical or economic. In farming the family is the economic as well as the social unit, as previously noted. In the city, on the other hand, the individual is the economic unit."

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"The farmer deals with life. Crops are planted and harvested year after year. Individual plants die and disappear, but the production of wheat and corn and cotton goes on without end. The farmer raises horses and cattle, hogs and chickens, and appreciates the importance of good stock and of the laws of inheritance. Agriculture is based on the process of reproduction, and continuity of life. The farmer is constantly in touch with this everlasting life. It is a life subject to modification, however, as witness the dairy cow, whose production of milk has been increased twofold, possibly threefold, within a century. The farmer is the heir of all the ages, with an opportunity, through animal breeding particularly, to benefit all the ages to come. The oldest thing in the world, other than force and matter, is life... And the youngest thing in the world is life, renewed in every seed that germinates, every animal that is born. The philosophy that arises from this contact with the organic world is, I believe, an important factor in accounting for the much slower decline of the birth rate among rural people."

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"Perhaps because of the open air, and the contact with nature, perhaps because the farmer sees the stars at night and observes the progress of the seasons, perhaps also because of stronger family ties, farmers and farm women tend to think of the past and the future; city people, it seems to me, seem to think more about the present."

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"The materialistic philosophy of life with its emphasis on the present, which is popular in the cities today, leads to the disintegration of the family and to national and social decay."

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"Most of the men in the cities work for wages and the family generally lives in a rented house. The mother, unless she works outside the home, is not engaged in the production of goods, and the children seldom have work to do, except to go to school. .. A family's social position depends more on what they spend than on what they possess, Extravagance suggests a large income, and income is a major measure of success. A social code develops characterized by conspicuous consumption. Consumption virtues are replacing production virtues.

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