C. F. Marley:
The Elder Agrarian

Dateline: 6 December 2006

C.F. Marley

A few months ago I got a phone call from a guy by the name of C. F. Marley in Nokomis, Illinois. Mr. Marley had heard about my Whizbang Chicken Plucker and wanted to know more. It so happens that C.F. is an agricultural writer. That in itself was kind of interesting to me, but I soon discovered many more interesting things about Mr. Marley.

We had not spoken long when C.F. informed me that he was a Christian agrarian. That was something of a surprise because there are not many of us around. He told me he is a Catholic Christian agrarian, and that he had been one for a long time. I found out later that C.F. Marley is 85 years old.

When C.F. asked me if I had ever heard of a book by the name, The New Agrarian Mind: The Movement Toward Decentralist Thought in Twentieth-Century America, by Allan Carlson, I was even more surprised. I told him it was in my bookcase and I consider it an excellent book.

I sent C.F. a copy of my Whizbang Plucker plan book and my Chicken Scalder book, and I included a copy of my Christian-agrarian memoir/manifesto, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian. In return, C.F. sent me some information about the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. It turns out that, years ago, he edited NCRLC publications and was a board member.

I discovered the NCRLC is an organization that supports and encourages rural family life and sustainable stewardship of the land. Their work is, of course, centered around the Catholic Christian worldview.

The NCRLC web site says its mission to “support and empower rural people is made more necessary by globalization and world environmental issues.” It is clearly a Christian agrarian organization, and it has been around since 1923!

Now, I have to say that it looks to me like the NCRLC has a handle on something very important. I suppose I shouldn’t say that, being a Protestant, but it’s true, so I did say it. Can someone tell me of a comparable Protestant organization? We Protestants are often so heavenly-minded (or so we like to think) that we are no earthly good. I suppose I shouldn’t say that either. But if the shoe fits….

Anyway, Mr. Marley wrote me and said that a rural Iowan priest, Luigi Ligutti, “is the man who pulled me into this whole thing.” I knew Ligutti’s name from Allan Carlson’s book. There is a whole chapter devoted to him and what he did to advance the agrarian movement starting back in the 1930s.

But, to tell you the truth, I barely read that particular chapter. After all, I’m a Protestant. I don’t believe in transubstantiation. What could I possibly learn by reading Catholic thoughts about agrarianism? Really, that’s what I thought. And by thinking that, I shut myself off from a lot of very good agrarian writings that I’m just starting to discover.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to become Catholic. It simply means that, believe it or not, some of those Catholic writers have a very good insight into the social problems that arose out of the Industrial Revolution. Problems that have only gotten worse. Problems that Christian agrarianism, Protestant and Catholic, can provide solutions for. Now there I go again, saying things that, as a firmly-grounded Protestant, I probably shouldn’t.

C.F. photocopied and sent me a couple pages from Ligutti’s 1940 book, Rural Roads to Security: America's Third Struggle for Freedom. He recommended that I read the book, and I will.

Being a Christian agrarian and agricultural writer, C.F. saw and objected to the changes that were coming into traditional family farming back in the 1950s. It started with the introduction of factory broiler and egg systems. Then factory hog production. Marley warned that factory farming (the industrialization of agriculture) would lead to the ruin of small family farms and rural culture. That would, I suppose, make him something of a prophet.

C.F. also relayed to me that he had serious concerns about the shift towards regional government, something he learned about in the mid 1960s. A consortium made up of people from the largest corporations in America, operating under the name, “Committee For Economic Development,” called for merging local governments out of existence and substituting regional government run by “specialists.”

I became aware of the plan and threat of regionalism back in the 1980s when I joined an organization called, The Committee to Restore the Constitution. Regionalism is nothing short of the industrialism of government and it has largely come to fruition. C.F. rightly saw the scheme as a threat to Constitutionally mandated checks and balances and separation of powers.

With that thought in mind, C.F. Marley, who is a decorated veteran of World War II, went into battle again, this time in the political arena. He ran for state office in 1970. His platform: 1) Guarantee autonomy for municipal townships and county governments. 2) Guarantee local control of property taxes. 3) Allow people of the state a direct vote in lawmaking (referendum). But Marley was a voice crying in the wilderness and not your typical political candidate. “People would not listen,” he says.

I guess not much has changed in that regard. As we “slouch towards Gomorrah” few people care about the erosion of the wise Republican form of government our forefathers gave us. As long as the television and GameBoy work, the cupboard is stocked with junk food, and there is “gas in their Ford,” most American families are comfortably amused and sedated.

I thank God there are people like C.F. Marley, who are not content to be passive while things like truth and individual liberty are trashed by those conniving interests who see such things as stumbling blocks to their selfish pursuits. It was people like C.F. Marley who made this country great, and it’s people like him who will preserve it, if it is to be preserved. Christian, patriot, populist, constitutionalist, agrarian, family man (seven children), and still writing with interest and passion at 85 years old, I feel inspired and honored to have met this elder agrarian.


TNfarmgirl said...

What a privilege to have met and talked with such a man.
Oh, for an army of such! I'll be looking for the book also!

papabear said...

This was a very informative post. Thank you!

Ezekiel Mossback said...

Thank you for this post Mr. Kimball!

I've never heard of Ligutti, and I'll look for the book by him. I think you would really enjoy Vincent McNabb's writings, as well as Hillaire Belloc, GK Chesterton, Eric Gill, and Dorothy Day.

I really need to read Allan Carlson, too. I've been meaning to for years.

God bless!

Joshua Mincher