Back to the Land: The Enduring Dream of Self-Sufficiency in Modern America

Paperback | May 20, 2011

byDona Brown

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For many, “going back to the land” brings to mind the 1960s and 1970s—hippie communes and the Summer of Love, The Whole Earth Catalog and Mother Earth News. More recently, the movement has reemerged in a new enthusiasm for locally produced food and more sustainable energy paths. But these latest back-to-the-landers are part of a much larger story. Americans have been dreaming of returning to the land ever since they started to leave it. In Back to the Land, Dona Brown explores the history of this recurring impulse.            ?           
            Back-to-the-landers have often been viewed as nostalgic escapists or romantic nature-lovers. But their own words reveal a more complex story. In such projects as Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Farms, Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Broadacre City,” and Helen and Scott Nearing’s quest for “the good life,” Brown finds that the return to the farm has meant less a going-backwards than a going-forwards, a way to meet the challenges of the modern era. Progressive reformers pushed for homesteading to help impoverished workers get out of unhealthy urban slums. Depression-era back-to-the-landers, wary of the centralizing power of the New Deal, embraced a new “third way” politics of decentralism and regionalism. Later still, the movement merged with environmentalism. To understand Americans’ response to these back-to-the-land ideas, Brown turns to the fan letters of ordinary readers—retired teachers and overworked clerks, recent immigrants and single women. In seeking their rural roots, Brown argues, Americans have striven above all for the independence and self-sufficiency they associate with the agrarian ideal.
 
 
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For many, “going back to the land” brings to mind the 1960s and 1970s—hippie communes and the Summer of Love, The Whole Earth Catalog and Mother Earth News. More recently, the movement has reemerged in a new enthusiasm for locally produced food and more sustainable energy paths. But these latest back-to-the-landers are part of a much l...

Dona Brown is associate professor of history at the University of Vermont and author of Inventing New England: Regional Tourism in the Nineteenth Century. 

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Inventing New England: Regional Tourism in the Nineteenth Century
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Kobo ebook|Jan 14 2014

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Back to the Land
Back to the Land

Kobo ebook|Jun 1 2011

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:296 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.8 inPublished:May 20, 2011Publisher:University Of Wisconsin PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0299250741

ISBN - 13:9780299250744

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations   

Acknowledgments   

Introduction   

Part 1: The First American Back-to-the-Land Movement

1. The Back-to-the-Land Project   

2. Adventures in Contentment: Some Back-to-the-Land Writers and Their Readers   

3. Who Wants a Farm?   

4. From Little Lands to Suburban Farms   

    Coda: Frank Lloyd Wright's Broadacre City   

Part 2: Returning to Back to the Land

5. Subsistence Homesteads: The New Deal Goes Back to the Land   

    Coda: Ralph Borsodi Rejects the New Deal   

6. "I'll Take My Stand" (in Vermont): Decentralizing the Back-to-the-Land Movement   

    Coda: The Nearings Invent Their Own Vermont   

7. Back to the Garden: The 1970s   

Epilogue: Home, Land, Security   

Notes   

Index

Editorial Reviews

“Back to the Land is well researched, smoothly written, and often sharp and witty. The book does not engage with Vermont history specifically throughout its length, but Vermont and neighboring New England states play prominent roles in many of the stories that Brown tells. There is a great deal here to appeal to audiences from a range of backgrounds and with a range of historical interests. . . .[T]oday’s back-to-the-landers will want to spend time reading and thinking about Brown’s findings while they get down to the practical business of living and writing the next chapter in this longer American story.”—Vermont History