The Farm Idea
The Farm Idea
The Life Plans of Family Farmers
The chapter argues that family security was the first aim of farmers. They believed that given adequate land they could provide for themselves year by year and in time set up their children on farms of their own. As part of this security, all farmers sought to provision themselves. Their account books show why. Farmer accounts were not designed to measure profit. Measuring return on investment as capitalists do was a foreign concept. The farmer’s aim was to remain in balance with the world, to purchase no more than he sold, like national accounts today. To reduce their expenditures, they sought to produce everything they could within the household economy. Even the largest planters, who purchased luxury goods from England, sought to provision themselves by producing their basic needs on their own plantations. All farmers engaged in exchanges with neighbors and traders in order to maximize the obligations owed to them while seeking to provision themselves in every way they could. Tragically, the perpetuation of this family farming system required ever more land. In their effort to provide for their children, farmers relentlessly drove the Native Americans from their tribal possessions. Farmers were both the realization of the American dream and the enactment of the American tragedy.
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