Most of us are familiar with the iconic images that came from Dorothea Lange during her years as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration (later known as the FHA). Walker Evans and Gordon Parks are also names that come up frequently in relationship to this time. There were several others who were also sent out to capture images of rural poverty in order to sell the New Deal. Politics being what they are and have always been, it's an interesting look at what has been done to carry a message out to the many.
This particular "marketing" ploy caught on more than some others, but not enough to convince the majority of farmers to become part of "collectivized agriculture." Yes, that was one of the less-than-modest proposals. The government wanted to round up farmers in large numbers, onto government owned land, where they would produce food, with the government controlling them through "suggestions" (read: rules and regs) offered by "experts" on what would be the most efficient and profitable for "all." When the farmers balked at this, wanting to own their own land and make their own decisions, they then made it possible to obtain loans for land, farm equipment, and new gadgetry, all at Very low interest rates. Is any of this sounding familiar? History having a tendency to repeat itself and all.
Anyway, farmers in droves signed up for their new farm machinery, ultimating in spanking new cabs, with heat and radios to listen to the farm report. Of course, these put them deeply in debt, things started to go haywire, and farms were auctioned off, by the banks that came to own them, in huge numbers. Add Monsanto (corporate greed run amok doesn't begin to describe this fiasco) to the mix and goodbye family farms.
Farming was not an easy life, but it was a self-reliant life, at least it was before greed took hold at every level. I understand the need for rules and regs when you're talking food for public consumption, I understand that if you're willing to sign on the dotted line you have to be willing to follow those rules and regs. Taking money from the government is not without rules, all part of the big plan. So, basically, we got collective agriculture anyway, just scattered around a bit more, allowing farmers to continue for awhile under the illusion that they actually owned their farms and had a say in how it was all going to go down.
Yes, I'm off on a tangent, and I don't know for sure why, but here it is. I started out just wanting to post some interesting images from that time (and I will, very soon), but today I need to vent. I realize there are so many ways of looking at this issue, that it's a very complicated one, and my approach is an emotional one, but it's another fine example of how we are sold a bill of goods by the government, all while thinking they're doing us a big favor.
The best way out of this is to return to small community thinking and doing. Buy local whenever possible, create your own sustainability right where you're at, and forge relationships with others who will help to create a support system that is unwavering, the only rule being "love thy neighbor as thyself," which has been said in one form or another in pretty much every spiritual tradition that's ever been. It's also a good thing to follow even without the spirituality thrown in. Ethics, pure and simple.
Anyway, here is the link that got me going, got me thinking (too much, perhaps) and put me here, in this place of consternation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farm_Security_Administration
There. I think I'm done. For now. Plus, I've used up my quota for alliteration again, unintentional though it was.
Anyway, Wendell Berry, Kentucky farmer, writer, and all around good guy, says it better, and more succinctly, than I:
We are going to have to gather up the fragments of knowledge and responsibilities that have been turned over to government, corporations and specialists, and put those fragments back together again in our own minds, and in our families and household and neighborhoods.
Photos of and by Ms. Lange.