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Another Reason Why the Agrarians Lost

Or Did They?

Andrew Lytle’s “The Hind Tit” is the best essay in I’ll Take My Stand (1930), not only because it focuses on the small, independent farmer, the class the Agrarians most admired, but also because Lytle nails the volume’s primary thesis to the church door, the dilemma his region and nation faced in 1930—the choice between virtue and practicality:

One common answer is heard on every hand: 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.

 

In 1930, his tough yet almost idyllic description of small farmers was accurate.  Those who lived on subsistence farms worked hard, survived on little, and cherished the same spare pleasures their European ancestors had enjoyed in the Middle Ages. ...

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