The Agrarian Writings of
O.E. Baker
(Part 7)

Dateline: 5 April 2016 AD
(Click Here to read Part 6 of this series)

(click picture to see a larger view)

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


"We must recognize that the present economic system and associated ideals have acquired during the past century almost overwhelming momentum. If the trend toward debt, economic insecurity, and depopulation can be reversed at all, it will be among the rural people. And it will come only through the spirit of sacrifice, in this writer's opinion, particularly sacrifice for the sake of the children. The past should be recognized as worthy of respect and study, and the future as more important than the present."


"Farmers and farm women should cease to measure economic and social standing by the newness of the automobile—the ownership of a farm without a mortgage is a much better criterion of success."


"Farmers, I believe, need to find deeper satisfactions in farming and rural life. Money is important, at times imperative; but the goal of life is the development of personality. As I observe the masses of the people in the cities and the things they think about, as revealed in the newspapers and the popular magazines, and see the places where they live, with brick walls around them all day long, the noisy streets beside them, and futility before them, I become thankful that I live on the land, though it be only a few acres, surrounded by green grass and tall trees, and that I can go out in the cool of the evening and work in the garden or fill the feed hoppers, and that we have four capable children to carry on the torch of life. These things are typical of the rural people. How much they have to be thankful for! I pity the people in the cities, especially in the large cities."


"We must subordinate the temporal values now characteristic of urban life, and accept as our guide the more permanent values of rural life.

What are these rural values? First, the family ideal, which includes the reproduction of the race, the education of the child, and the transmission of wealth and culture from generation to generation.

Second, a recognition of the divine in man, of the worth of the human soul; or, as expressed in part by Jefferson, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The concept of the infinite worth of the human soul is a priceless contribution of Christianity to the progress of civilization. In my opinion it laid the foundation for the growth of freedom, democracy and science.

Third, patriotism, loyalty to the State. Without peace, the protection of life and property, and the many functions of the State in promoting the public welfare, most of the things we cherish could not exist and life itself would become precarious.

Fourth, an emphasis on the dignity of labor, and its functions not only in the production of commodities but also in the development of personality. This also is a doctrine of the Christian church.

Fifth, a realization of the necessity of sacrifice, particularly of the present for the sake of the future, by parents for the sake of the children, and by citizens for the State. Such sacrifice is basic not only to reproduction of the race, but also to the accumulation of wealth and the conservation of natural and human resources.

Sixth, a comprehension of the importance from the economic, social, and political standpoints of the widespread distribution of property, particularly of the land."


"I conclude that the churches, Catholic, Protestant, and Hebrew, have a great role to play in rural as well as urban life. Indeed, the nation's destiny depends, in my opinion, on whether they rise to the emergency and teach the values associated with the family and rural life. The nation has undervalued agriculture and overvalued industrialism and commercialism."


"The potential power of the rural church allures me. ... I see no other force adequate to the task of rebuilding rural society. Could the rural ministers envision the coming of the kingom of heaven on earth, they might transform civilization within a century."


In concluding this series, I would like to say that O. E. Baker was a quiet voice, speaking truth and reason in the midst of a clangorous, all-consuming industrial culture. Now, nearly eight decades later, this man is pretty much forgotten. But his writings, though obscure, remain, and the fundamental truth of his conclusions are still fundamentally true.

O. E. died ten years after Agriculture in Modern Life was published. According to his Wikipedia page, he bought a large farm in New Market, Virginia. Another biography I read said that he bought the farm for his son, Edwin. Clearly, O.E. had an agrarian vision for his family. He wanted them to get back to the land. He was thinking beyond himself, to future generations of his family. He wanted the best for them. Buying land—family land—debt free was, to his way of thinking, the most valuable legacy he could leave his son. We know this because we have read this father's heartfelt writings in this series.

I Google-mapped New Market. It looks like it's still an agricultural area. I wonder if that farm is still in the family? I wonder if O. E. Baker's grandchildren and great grandchildren have grown up in a rural setting? I wonder if they have read his agrarian writings? I wonder if they have embraced his ideals in their own lives? 

I would like to think so. 


Pam Baker said...

I was in New Market last summer and the summer before. The Shenandoah is a remarkable valley. I always wonder what it would be like to live there but I like cold, snowy winters.

Elizabeth said...

Oh how I needed this today to remind me what's really important.
Thank you for sharing.....