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FLIGHT FROM
THE CITY


AN EXPERIMENT
IN CREATIVE LIVING
ON THE LAND


BY
RALPH BORSODI


AUTHOR OF THIS UGLY CIVILIZATION, THE DISTRIBUTION AGE, ETC.
FLIGHT FROM THE CITY.
Copyright 1933
by Harper & Row, Publishers,. Inc.


Dedicated to
E. H. N. and V. P. W.,
to the
Homesteaders of Dayton, Ohio
and to
All who have Embarked on
the
Great Adventure




CONTENTS

Prelude to the First Edition
1. Flight from the City
II. Domestic Production
III. Food, Pure Food, and Fresh Food
IV. The Loom and the Sewing-machine
V. Shelter
VI. Water, Hot Water, and Waste Water
VII. Education--The School of Living
VIII. Capital
IX. Security versus Insecurity
X. Independence versus Dependence

    
PRELUDE TO THE FIRST EDITION

    THIS book is written in response to hundreds of requests for some detailed description of the way of life and of the experiments with domestic production referred to in my previous book, This Ugly Civilization. Since the collapse of the great boom in October, 1929, these requests have greatly increased in number.

    It is not an exaggeration of the situation today to say that millions of urban families are considering the possibility of flight from the city to the country. But the realization that there had been for fully half a century a flight of millions from the country to the city seems to me an essential prelude to consideration of any move back to the land. Not only had the proportion of farm population to city population in the United States declined over a long period of years, but for many years prior to 1930, the total farm population of the nation itself declined. Since 1930, and the ending of the last period of city "prosperity," the movement has completely reversed itself, as is shown by the table:

Movement Of Population To And From Farms

During year

Total Farm
Population on January 1st
of each year

Persons
leaving
farms for
cities

Persons
arriving at
farms from
cities

Net movement
from farms
to cities

1910

32,976,960

---

---

---

1920

31,614,269

896,000

560,000

336,000

1921

31,703,000

1,323,000

759,000

564,000

1922

31,768,000

2,252,000

1,115,000

1,137,000

1923

31,290,000

2,162,000

1,355,000

807,000

1924

31,056,000

2,068,000

1,581,000

487,000

1925

31,064,000

2,038,000

1,336,000

702,000

1926

30,784,000

2,334,000

1,427,000

907,000

1927

30,281,000

2,162,000

1,705,000

457,000

1928

30,275,000

2,120,000

1,698,000

422,000

1929

30,257,000

2,081,000

1,604,000

477,000

1930

30,169,000

1,723,000

1,740,000

<17,000>

1931

30,585,000

1,469,000

1,683,000

<214,000>

1932

31,241,000

1,011,000

1,544,000

<533,000>



    This migration of millions, back and forth, between city and country, is to me evidence of profound dissatisfaction with living conditions both in the country and in the city. It is something which those considering a change in their ways of living should carefully ponder. The industrialization of agriculture during the past century--its transformation from a way of life to a commercial business--has very clearly increased the migration of farmers and farm-bred people from the country to the city. And since most of the migrants in the other direction--from the city to the country--actually consist of people who at one time had lived on farms, it is evident that what we have had for many years are intolerable conditions in the country driving people out of the country, and then intolerable conditions in the city, driving them back again.

    The question to which I have been seeking an answer is whether the way of life described in this book is a way out for a population evidently unhappy both in the city and in the country. Those who are interested in this question, and those who are considering such a way of living, may find in this volume an answer to many of the problems which perplex them in connection with it. Those who are interested in the broader implications of the Borsodi family's quest of comfort in a civilization evidently intolerably uncomfortable will find them fully discussed in This Ugly Civilization.

    We are living in one of the most interesting periods in the world's history. Industrial civilization is either on the verge of collapse or of rebirth on a new social basis. Men and women who desire to escape from dependence upon the present industrial system and who have no desire to substitute for it dependence upon a state controlled system, are beginning to experiment with a way of living which is neither city life nor farm life, but which is an effort to combine the advantages and to escape the disadvantages of both. Reports of the Department of Agriculture call attention to the revival of handicraft industries--the making of rugs and other textiles, furniture, baskets and pottery--for sale along the roads, in near-by farmers' markets, or for barter for other products for the farm and home. Farmers, according to the Bureau of Home Economics, are turning back to custom milling of flour because they can thus get a barrel of flour for five bushels of wheat, whereas by depending upon the milling industry they have to "pay" eighteen bushels of wheat for the same quantity of flour.

    According to the same authority, meat clubs have been growing in number; a heavier canning and preserving program is being carried out; bread-baking, churning, cheese-making and other home food-production activities have been revived; home sewing has increased greatly, and on some farms where sheep are raised, skills and equipment little used for many years are being called upon to convert home-grown wool into clothing and bed coverings; soap-making for family use has increased; farm-produced fuel is being used more freely; lumber made from the farm wood-lot is being used for repairs to the house and for furniture-making. The movement toward subsistence farming is receiving extraordinary official recognition and support. President Roosevelt flatly and frankly announces as a major policy of his administration and as a primary purpose of his life to put into effect a back-to-the land movement that will work. "There is a necessary limit," he said early in 1930, "to the continuance of the migration from the country to the city, and I look, in fact, for a swing of the pendulum in the other direction. All things point that way. . . . The great objective . . . aims at making country life in every way as desirable as city life--an objective which will, from the economic side, make possible the earning of an adequate compensation, and on the social side, the enjoyment of all the necessary advantages which exist today in the cities." Under the President's leadership, appropriations by the Congress for the promotion of subsistence farming and for the development of self-help organizations have already been made.

    In Dayton, Ohio, for nearly a year, a sociological experiment of far-reaching significance has been under way. In this industrial city, the support of the Council of Social Agencies has been given to an organized movement based upon production for use (as contrasted with production for the market), and for homesteading with domestic production, as described in this book. As consulting economist for the Dayton movement, it has been my privilege to watch a development which promises, because of the interest other cities are taking in it, to make social history. The recent development of the homestead movement in Dayton is described in the chapter entitled "Postlude," a sort of postscript to this book. Even if this movement fails to develop a new and better social order, as many of those working in it have faith that it will, there is no doubt in my mind that innumerable families will be helped by it to a more secure, more independent, more expressive way of life.

    RALPH BORSODI





Prelude to the First Edition
1. Flight from the City
II. Domestic Production
III. Food, Pure Food, and Fresh Food
IV. The Loom and the Sewing-machine
V. Shelter
VI. Water, Hot Water, and Waste Water
VII. Education--The School of Living
VIII. Capital
IX. Security versus Insecurity
X. Independence versus Dependence

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