When humanity made the great transition from the countryside to the city, something priceless was arguably lost in the bargain. That was man’s prized independence, secured by the fruit of his physical labor under conditions that were oftentimes less than idyllic.
In times of plenty, when the global economy is running smoothly, few people will take the time to contemplate the advantages of an agrarian lifestyle. In fact, even when things go belly-up there still won’t be much reflection on the subject since most of us have little or no experience with life outside of the maddening metropolis. Thus, suffice it to say there won’t be any great migration for the countryside, even as our urban areas descend into cauldrons of rage and despair amid a global pandemic.
Yet where better to put into practice ‘social distancing’ then on a farm, where wide open spaces keeps neighbors, not to mention viral diseases, naturally at bay? And while we’re at it, just try and imagine a group of farmers inside of a supermarket resorting to fists over two-ply toilet paper or the last can of baked beans. Ironic how an attachment to the land creates a natural dignity and self-respect in people that so many ‘cultured’ urban dwellers seem to lack.
Thomas Jefferson, in ‘Notes on the State of Virginia’, wrote, perhaps with slight exaggeration, that “[T]hose who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.” Perhaps the more cynical truth of the matter is that when men and women are forced to produce their livelihood from the sweat and blood of their brow there is simply less time for mischief.
Although this author has spent most of his life sequestered in big cities, I do have fond childhood memories of visiting a great uncle who lived on 100 acres of sprawling farmland in the backwoods of Blairsville, Pennsylvania. It was during those occasional visits when I came to the realization that there was a world far removed from the supermarkets and fast food franchises of modern society. In addition to farming, my uncle and his neighbors were able to sustain themselves through hunting, trapping and fishing. These ‘backwards’ country folk were also learned in the art of canning food and preserving meat for long-term storage. This was often done through the widespread use of root cellars, underground storage spaces popular with our grandparents whose experience from two world wars and one great depression made them acutely aware about the importance of being prepared for absolutely anything. Although farm life is no walk in the park, and requires tremendous toil, it can make the supermarket, hyper-stores and mega-malls resemble insane asylums at lunchtime by comparison.
Today, with the coronavirus pandemic threatening to uproot our lives far greater than even the attacks of 9/11, it would seem that the self-reliance and rugged individualism of our grandparents may come back into style with a vengeance. Even before our present emergency, there was increasing interest in homesteads, prepping, and rural ‘bug out locations’ (BOL), plots of land where people could retreat from the overcrowded cities in times of unrest.
Now, with governments attempting to exert greater security measures in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, life in the major urban areas may change in ways impossible to imagine at the moment. And as we already know, nothing is more permanent than the temporary. Under such circumstances, the idea of owning a small piece of land – a dacha, as the Russians call it – has never seemed more attractive and necessary. As the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has shown, it would be a mistake to think that the supermarkets – vulnerable as they are to panicked crowds of hungry people – will always be able to feed everyone in times of crisis. It’s time to re-think our connection to the land and become at least somewhat emancipated from the corporate cornucopia before the next crisis becomes our last.