1942 Farming Propaganda

August 5, 2009
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While I’m very thankful for the tractor and all that it can do – the actual impact of progressive farming was exactly opposite of what this old film clip portrays.  In fact, Beth recently quoted from “The Hind Tit“, Andrew Nelson Lytle essay published in 1930 on this very topic.  Check out this little clip for the story that was sold:

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 Then you might contrast that with this quote or the entire essay to see what was purchased:

Industrialize the farm; be progressive; drop old-fashioned ways and adopt scientific methods. These slogans are powerfully persuasive and should be, but are not, regarded with the most deliberate circumspection, for under the guise of strengthening the farmer in his way of life they are advising him to abandon it and become absorbed.  Such admonition coming from the quarters of the enemy is encouraging to the landowner in one sense only: it assures him he has something left to steal.  Through its philosophy of Progress it is committing a mortal sin to persuade farmers that they can grow wealthy by adopting its methods.  A farm is not a place to grow wealthy; it is a place to grow corn.

 It is telling him that he can bring the city way of living to the country and that he will like it when it gets there.  His sons and daughters, thoroughly indoctrinated with these ideas at state normals, return and further upset his equilibrium by demanding the things they grew to like in town.  They urge him to make the experiment, with threats of an early departure from his hearth and board.  Under such pressure it is no wonder that the distraught countryman, pulled at from all sides, contemplates a thing he by nature is loath to attempt . . . experimentation. 

 If it were an idle experiment, there would be no harm in such an indulgence; but it is not idle.  It has a price and, like everything else in the industrial world, the price is too dear.  In exchange for the bric-a-brac culture of progress he stands to lose his land, and losing that, his independence, for the vagaries of its idealism assume concrete form in urging him to over-produce his money crop, mortgage his land, and send his daughters to town to clerk in ten-cent stores, that he may buy the products of the power Age and keep its machines turning.

The entire essay can be read here.  For the record I do not believe there is a more revealing work anywhere that has so completely captured the decline of the family and the family farm in the last 150 years.  I don’t believe it is about technology and the age of the tractor as much as it is the philosophy that came with the equipment.

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