Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Back to the Farm

As someone who came of age during the hippie era of the 1960s and 1970s, I am well aware of the Back to the Land movement of the 1970s. It was led mostly by young people, often hippies or erstwhile hippies, who valued self sufficiency and wanted to commune with nature.
At the time, I thought it was unusual, if not unprecedented, but I have since learned that the Back to the Land movement of my generation was not the only such movement this country has experienced. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, a Back to the Farm movement, or Back to the Soil movement as it was sometimes called, gained traction in this country, and Missouri's own Governor Hadley was one of its leaders.
The Back to the Farm movement was more organized than the spontaneous, hippie-inspired Back to the Land movement that came later, as the fact that prominent politicians like Hadley were among its leaders would attest. Hadley and other leaders of the Back to the Farm movement had watched as millions of Americans left their farms for work in the cities during the Industrial Revolution, and they feared that, as fewer and fewer people were being called upon to feed the rest of the country, food shortages and hunger would result. They also felt that getting people, particularly young people, out of the urbans areas and back to the farm would spare them the corrupting influence of the cities. In this respect, they were similar to the Back to the Land crowd of the 1970s, but they targeted whole families, not just youth.
Meeting in St. Louis in May 1910, leaders of the Back to the Farm movement formed the National Farm Homes Association, with Hadley as the group's president. They began acquiring cheap land with the idea of establishing farm colonies, primarily in the Midwest, under the supervision of an expert agriculturist. The colonies would consist of 32 families living on forty acres each surrounding a 160-acre central farm where the supervising farmer lived and taught agricultural techniques.
In my next post, I'll write about one of the first colonies formed by the National Farm Homes Association, in south central Missouri, just a few months after the May meeting in St. Louis.

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