Pulling this from a review of Dimitry Orlov's new book:
Dmitry Orlov’s Excellent New Book
James Howard Kunstler, Kunstler.com, 9 June 2013
This not even all that new.By contrast in the USA even farmers don’t have kitchen gardens. This is not a myth. I live in an agricultural backwater of upstate New York where dairy farming modeled on industrial agri-biz reigned for decades (it’s in steep decline now) and as a rule the farmers do not grow gardens. They buy balloon bread, Velveeta, and Little Debbie Snack Cakes at the supermarket, just like the insurance adjusters and other office drones, and whatever leftover part of their farm is not planted in corn is occupied by an above-ground pool, or the carcasses of retired all-terrain vehicles, or the miscellaneous plastic crap associated with raising children in a “consumer” culture. When even farmers don’t grow any of their own food, you can bet that a lot of knowledge has already been lost. American supermarkets operate on a three-day resupply cycle. The system is much more fragile than most Americans probably suppose. My guess is that few even think about it.
|Farming in Texas 1938 (Dorothea Lange: source)|
|Sharecroppers 1939 (Dorthea Lange)|
It is not a shot you see that often, because usually other issues are being explored, but you will notice in both cases, crops are planted right up to the very edge of the home. There is no home garden. In the case of share croppers, this was often "encouraged.". It forced the farmer to buy his food from the owner, and maximized the cash output of the land. But in the difficult times of the depression, small landowners often felt they needed the cash, often to pay (pre-deflationary) tax rates.
Farming for cash started very early in North America. It was noted that King Philips War (1676) kept the New Englanders from being able to sell their food crops to the cash crop (tobacco) growing Virginians. George Washing was unusual in switching away from cash crops, and going to cereal crops to sell to his fellow Virginians. But it was a choice he made based on the availability of cash in the system because of tobacco production. So even farmers that were growing subsistence crops in the colonies were in effect part of the cash crop system, and had to look at the opportunity cost of a garden, versus raising more cash crops. In the Soviet Union (related to the extended quote above) they had large gardens because it was the only portion of their output that the collective farmer was allowed to keep, and it was their major source of additional cash. Obviously there is a middle ground. Transportation costs can make the price of shipping food high enough that it may very well be worth while for the farmer to have a garden. But it is a dangerous assumption to think that our farming forefathers were not involved in the cash economy.