Village farming

I’m far from an expert on either farming or villages, but I think that Gene Logsdon is correct when he says that the village represents the apex of human civilization:

As far as I can find in history and archeology, as the hunting and gathering age gradually evolved into settled communities, farming was very much a village affair, not an individual family undertaking.  People congregated into groups for mutual protection and for sharing the work load. Their garden farms were clustered around the outskirts of their villages. Among the many advantages, there were plenty of children and dogs running around, scaring wild animals away from the crops.

Traditionally in Europe and especially Asia where even today the average size of farms is under five acres in some areas, farmers lived in villages and went out to their acres during the day.  Immigrants who lived this integrated village farming life in Austria have told me how much more comfortable and enjoyable life was compared to what they found in America. In their homeland, farmers often worked in groups in the fields and then returned to town in the evenings, to community, and on porches, street corners,  and in taverns, they talked to each other, shared ideas and events, tended to see both farm field and urban shop as one community united in work and play. In America they felt lonely on American farms. […]

I’m sure it sounds ridiculous, but I like to think that the village represents the apex of human civilization. Village life is more secure and comfortable than the lonely ramparts of the outer countryside or the crowded nonentity of the big city. The world is littered with the ruins of great cities. The way to keep a nation vital and human is to keep it as a collection of villages spread out over the landscape. This new age of local garden farming is a way to do this. It is causing the return of the village as the center of human endeavor. People are coming together for that most basic need of all: good food. They are realizing that humans have a lot more in common than geographical, political, economic, and religious differences would imply. As they flock into farm markets, why, my goodness, they realize they can actually like people of different ideologies.

We’ve lived in the city, and we’ve lived In the country. Both lack the community that the village promises, at least as described by Logsdon. I’m agnostic as to whether the current interest in urban farming can take us back there, but I am persuaded that neither the city nor the country will be able to.

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2 thoughts on “Village farming

  1. Italy has villages. I was in one of the small towns just outside Torino recently, visiting a family that had a large garden, a small orchard, a carpenter’s workshop, and chickens. As I drove out the gate, I saw that the field just outside was being temporarily occupied by a sheep and shepherd, complete with dog.

    These towns have their problems, and they don’t get rid of Italy’s infrastructure problems and serious youth unemployment problem, but overall, I like them. The people who live in them still don’t move much. I think Wendell Berry would approve.

  2. Laura,

    I get wistful while watching the Don Camillo films, just like I do during Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring (and the Andy Griffith Show, I suppose). I think the reason is that folks are in close quarters without resorting to the anonymity of modern urban living.

    I know there can be a major downside to this. But there are multiple ways to deal with it, and I think distancing ourselves from others (whether geographically or as a matter of urban etiquette) is the wrong choice. Meeting the challenge of being godly in close quarters is an important part of becoming godly.

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