Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Family Farm

Recently I came across an interesting article in the Intercollegiate Review (a conservative publication, you've been warned) called The Curious Return of the Small Family Farm. I was amazed and excited! I grew up on what might be termed a 'small family farm' and it's a way of life I would really love to have again, if I could.

Here's an excerpt from the first page:

Industrialized farming appears to be “pregnant”... with agrarianism, a humanistic approach to agriculture that would re-attach people to the soil. The farming future may not lie with the consolidators, speculators, and agribusinesses. [yay!] Rather, it may lie with the resurrection of a family-centered agriculture. ...[L]and-use expert Eric Freyfogle enthuses, “agrarianism is again on the rise” and “agrarian ways and virtues are resurging in American culture.”

It is something I think we have been sorely missing since the advent of the industrialized farm. Our mass produced produce, available only in artificially lighted stores without a trace of dirt on it, has created a disconnect from 'nature' and where food actually comes from. Ask any child where they get their food and they will tell you "From the store". I've also noticed a growing concern about children (and everyone really) not getting enough outdoor time and I wonder if the two could be related. But of course that is a topic for a dissertation, not a blog!

At any rate I found this article very compelling and exciting. The section 'Household Restored' really expresses my feeling as to why the agrarian way of life is valuable to our society. Here's an excerpt:

What is agrarianism? The poet, novelist, essayist, and farmer Wendell Berry—America’s
leading agrarian voice—describes this worldview as the countervailing idea to industrialism. The industrial economy, he writes, constitutes the culture of “the one-night stand. ‘I had a good time,’ says the industrial lover, ‘but don’t ask me my last name.’” Agrarianism rests, in contrast, on a culture defined by marriage, a long-term covenant of mutual care.

That means not only care for your own family, but care for your neighbors as well. The article further states that healthy agrarian households require recovering husbandry and housewifery.

Husbandry is “the work of a domestic man, a man who has accepted a bondage to the household.” The husbanding mind is “both careful and humble,” ready “to keep, to save, to make last, to conserve.”

Sounds like a great guy! ;) The antithesis of 'husbandry' (soil and animal) is “soil science” and “animal science”, the latter which the authors characterize as “the animal factory which . . . is a vision of Hell.” Indeed.

In the agrarian world view, family is central. It's everything really, you couldn't survive without it. Perhaps this the the biggest reason why I find this way of life so appealing.

While sharing many traits, agrarianism differs from environmentalism in an important way. Particularly among “deep ecologists,” human beings are seen as the problem, the source of environmental degradation, a “cancer” on the planet. This view might be summarized as “the
fewer humans, the better.” In contrast, agrarians are buoyant humanists, welcoming children and the close settlement of human beings on the land. As two sympathetic writers summarize, “Agrarians. . . assert that a flourishing life standardly incorporates . . . interdependence with neighbors in a geographically limited, relatively self-sufficient, intergenerationally stable community . . . and a measure of personal self-sufficiency through physical labor, preferably on one’s own property.”

And that is what makes it so great! It promotes strong family ties and a strong community, both of which are sadly lacking in a purely industrial society. In the industrial society, children are seen as a burden because they cannot contribute to that society in a meaningful way.

Well, I could say more on the subject, but the article really does a better job of it than I could. Maybe I've been reading too many "Little House on the Prairie" books lately, but I really feel like this new agrarianism is definitely worth supporting. Since I can't live it myself (though I would love to) I will do the next best thing by supporting my local small farmer. Luckily, there is a small organic farm just up the road from us, so it will be easy for me to get my produce there (once the harvesting starts) rather than exclusively from the grocery store. And I am looking forward to having my own garden soon, hopefully next year!! After that, we may consider adding a chicken or two, maybe a goat, but not for a few more years.

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