Alfred Reed Bishop and Doris William Butler

The picture above is the very tap root of Bishop's Homegrown/Face Of The Earth Seed. My grandparents shortly after moving to Pekin Indiana from Greensburg KY in 1947 where they purchased the farm that is now Bishop's Homegrown. This picture was taken in Pekin in front of the old co-op next to the old railroad depot, neither of which exist today.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

In the interest of self sufficient farmers, Independent thinkers, and fighters for true freedom and intellectualism I propose.....

That we the people of the soil reinterpret and represent in the truest sense of the phrase.....The Yeomen Farmer.

Now, before someone jumps the gun and pulls the trigger on their moral pistol, let me point out that yes, indeed, Thomas Jefferson was a conflicted man. Yes, Mr. Jefferson's idea of the Yeomen was a tiny bit convoluted, but you can not blame a man for the times in which he lived and the passion ("all men are created equal", the arguments over weather slavery would be legal or not) which he did attempt to pass into the declaration which consecrated and concreted this country. While Jefferson did indeed keep slaves and probably did little to work the land himself (at least in the capacity of working the entirety of his estates), he did have a good grasp on what would make our country great and did once make our country great, and I personally find myself identifying and agreeing with his doctrines more than those of any other founding father. Mr. Jefferson's United States of America would have been another animal completely from the concrete jungle and material obsessed land of mediocrity we now live in, that is of course if there weren't so many politicians so obsessed with the very material idealism of "power".

Of course in today's world of left and right, red and blue, and "special interest" groups it is popular to decry Thomas Jefferson and vilify him while singing the praises of Washington and then latter Jackson (our nation is obsessed with war after all and who better to personify this total lack of morality and respect than Mr. Jackson) and Lincoln. Nay, say those who would have you think of Jefferson as a less than stellar president for he greatly expanded the power of the president by purchasing the Louisiana Territory and ignored relations with the outside world in trade and barter. Aha, says I who realizes he did what he had to do to keep us out of a conflict between Britain and France that would surely destroy our young and "in debt" country, by purchasing the Louisiana territory he assured that we would have the assets we needed to produce everything we needed without any outside inputs while having an excess in order to trade for our wants! That my friends signifies three things, a man concerned with self sufficiency, a man convinced that each nation can and should take care of itself and communities and run an independent economy not reliant on outside inputs while also avoiding war and trading for wanted items at our leisure, and probably most importantly that this man should have been walking around with a wheelbarrow to hold his two incredibly large and proud testicles.

OK, so I digress, the Yeoman in my eyes has little to do with only the United States and instead should encompass the entirety of the global self sustainable farming movement. It is we who feed the world, we who tend the soil, we who save the seeds and ensure genetic diversity, we who are last to let go of the pockets of diversity and culture that we represent and who keep these delicate and time honored traditions alive, teach them to others, and pass them on, it is also we who are disconnected from and yet ever the more aware of the failings of our society and governments as a whole.

As we all are working towards the same goals, let us all take on the same name, regardless of nationality, political persuasion, skin color, or other polarizing and yet insignificant differences.

We are all the Yeomen, but we must redefine it's meaning and before we can do that we need to define what Yeomen has meant in days gone by, the best examples we can disertain are from Jefferson himself, regardless of whether we agree with his points or disagree we must first look at what he and those of his ilk believed about agriculture so as to re-imagine those ideas in the spirit of what we represent, as such here are some quotes in that spirit, here we go!

The Virtues of Agriculture

"Agriculture... is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness." --Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1787. ME 6:277

"The cultivators of the earth are the most virtuous citizens, and possess most of the amor patriae. Merchants are the least virtuous, and possess the least of the amor patriae." --Thomas Jefferson: Answers to de Meusnier Questions, 1786. ME 17:116

"Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds. As long, therefore, as they can find employment in this line, I would not convert them into mariners, artisans, or anything else." --Thomas Jefferson to John Jay, 1785. ME 5:94, Papers 8:426

"The pursuits of agriculture [are] the surest road to affluence and best preservative of morals." --Thomas Jefferson to John Blair, 1787. ME 6:272

"Those who labor 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. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth. Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XIX, 1782. ME 2:229

"An industrious farmer occupies a more dignified place in the scale of beings, whether moral or political, than a lazy lounger, valuing himself on his family, too proud to work, and drawing out a miserable existence by eating on that surplus of other men's labor which is the sacred fund of the helpless poor." --Thomas Jefferson: Answers to de Meusnier Questions, 1786. ME 17:91

"Agriculture... is the first in utility, and ought to be the first in respect." --Thomas Jefferson to David Williams, 1803. ME 10:429

Advantages of Agriculture

"The wealth acquired by speculation and plunder, is fugacious in its nature, and fills society with the spirit of gambling. The moderate and sure income of husbandry begets permanent improvement, quiet life and orderly conduct, both public and private." --Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1787. ME 6:277

"Were I to indulge my own theory [on the expediency of encouraging our states to be commercial], I should wish them to practice neither commerce nor navigation, but to stand with respect to Europe precisely on the footing of China. We should thus avoid wars and all our citizens would be husbandmen. Whenever, indeed, our numbers should so increase as that our produce would overstock the markets of those nations who should come to seek it, the farmers must either employ the surplus of their time in manufactures, or the surplus of our hands must be employed in manufactures or in navigation. But that day would, I think, be distant, and we should long keep our workmen in Europe, while Europe should be drawing rough materials, and even subsistence from America. But this is theory only, and a theory which the servants of America are not at liberty to follow." --Thomas Jefferson to G. K. van Hogendorp, 1785. ME 5:183, Papers 8:633

"To remove as much as possible the occasions of making war, it might be better for us to abandon the ocean altogether, that being the element whereon we shall be principally exposed to jostle with other nations; to leave to others to bring what we shall want and to carry what we can spare. This would make us invulnerable to Europe by offering none of our property to their prize, and would turn all our citizens to the cultivation of the earth... It might be time enough to seek employment for them at sea when the land no longer offers it." --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.XXII, 1782. ME 2:241

"It is essentially interesting to us to have shipping and seamen enough to carry our surplus produce to market; but beyond that, I do not think we are bound to give it encouragement by drawbacks or other premiums." --Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Stoddart, 1809. ME 12:250

"The United States... will be more virtuous, more free and more happy employed in agriculture than as carriers or manufacturers. It is a truth, and a precious one for them, if they could be persuaded of it." --Thomas Jefferson to M. de Warville, 1786. ME 5:402

"With honesty and self-government for her portion, agriculture may abandon contentedly to others the fruits of commerce and corruption." --Thomas Jefferson to Henry Middleton, 1813. ME 13:203

"I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get piled upon one another in large cities as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe." --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787. Papers 12:442

"A prosperity built on the basis of agriculture is that which is most desirable to us, because to the efforts of labor it adds the efforts of a greater proportion of soil." --Thomas Jefferson: Circular to Consuls, 1792. ME 8:352

Ok, now that's out of the way, let us discuss what a Yeomen farmer should be?

I'd love to read your comments, and don't think that your excluded if you aren't from or living in the U.S., I only used Thomas Jefferson as an example because he was the easiest supporter of the Yeomen to find quotes by, don't think of this as a a nationalist idea as the Yeomen extends much beyond that and spans many continents and centuries worth of history.

Thus far here are my criteria:
-Self sufficient, producing more than you need, trading for your wants and or needs
-Any cultivator of the soil using self sufficient methods regardless of the size of allotment and or weather you actually own the allotment
-A creator of ones own destiny and reality
-Keeper of the culture and traditions of your people and region and lifestyle
-Seperate from and yet aware and interactive to a degree with society at large.

Please leave comments.


EJ said...

Have you seen this story:
more woe for farmers and eaters!

Bishops Homegrown said...

Yes EJ,I have been following the story closely and will continue to do so. As I have said many times recently on the blog, we are on the cusp of something big here in this country.

Brian H said...

Sigh. A great lifestyle, to be sure, but universal adoption would probably require about an 80% cull of the population.

Oh, if you wanna be an intellectual, ya better larn t'spell it rite. ;)

Bishops Homegrown said...

Well Brian H, thanks for the heads up on the misspelling, apparently I didn't run spell checker on the title, so I do appreciate that, however I'm wondering if you were trying to be sarcastic. If that is the case I'm not sure that being intellectual has much to do at all with spelling and or punctuation, but that is a debate for another time.

However, how do you figure that anything that I just said would have anything to do with 80% cull of the population. That wasn't mentioned in there anywhere and nor was it implied. I was simply stating that self sufficient farmers, even with the smallest allotments, re-think the age old Yeomen concept and look at what it has to teach us.

Perhaps you misread the article? Would you like to clarify?

Indeed, I was saying quite the opposite, that anyone producing food for themselves would be considered a Yeomen farmer, but I'm guessing you missed that and might possibly have not read the article at all.

anne said...

I remember years ago, an intellectual, city person, advocating for farmers spoke at a gathering and commented that there wasn't enough land to have all the urbanites resettle in (BC) rural area. Meanwhile, there was a huge migration from rural areas to the cities with many farmsteads going back to sod and elders struggling alone. Its a luxurious assumption that small, efficient, ecological holdings cannot cooexist with natural ecosystems in the "hinterland". It is the hinterland that is supplying the immense footprint of urban areas and urban intellectuals that continue to justify their footprint, like the logic of Brian H., that prevents deeper, active solutions to land tenancy and farmstead heredity