YES. Historians & social scientists (of capitalism, ag, political history, EVERYTHING) treat agriculture like it's this special world apart from the rest of society. It's not- it's the foundation of modern society, & deserves every bit of critical treatment we can throw at it. https://t.co/I1cV5zg5mz
I haven't had a chance to read through that particular book but yeah there's something distinctively shitty about English-style agriculture that carried through the colonial process.
stay with me here pic.twitter.com/dB8LADS0jm
An old, very experienced crop scientist made an off-hand comment to me once in grad school that I'll never forget.
"English farmers visit their fields. German farmers work all day in their fields. Dutch farmers SLEEP in their fields."
These are 3 very closely related cultures- based on row crops & dairy in cold wet NW Europe, Protestant, speaking German-derived languages, similar foodways- lots of meat, milk & potatoes.
On paper you'd expect them to have the same farmways. But they're so hecking different.
It's really interesting to me that even after 200-400 years of European presence in North America for these cultures to blend,
the US horticulture industry has a heavy presence of Dutch descendants, considering how many US farmers in general are of English descent.
Like. It seems like half the US horticulture industry is owned by descendants of Dutch or Italian immigrants. There'd also be tons of Japanese Americans in the industry if it weren't for WW2 incarceration.https://t.co/wQYSR5FIV5
The thing is, it's not like being good at growing vegetables in genetic. There's no gene locus for "can competently water tomatoes." It's learned behavior.
I think this is just because in the US, we treat farming like a thing you learn from your parents & just ... do. It's not something you go out & get trained on & set up a practice like you would dentistry, engineering, or even cutting hair.
(Yes, there are ag schools. Most of their grads go on to work *for* farmers rather than becoming farmers themselves, & aren't the decision-makers the way a dentist or cosmetologist w their own practice would be.)
The sustainable ag movement sells this parent-to-kid transfer of knowledge as beautiful & traditional & "knowledge gained over generations" blah blah blah.
What they DON'T tell you is it means farm families can be kinda stuck with the approach they came over the ocean with.
I don't mean "they don't ever adopt new practices or crops." I mean that when they do, it's like swapping out fresh limbs onto the same skeleton. The fundamental approach of ~how farming should work~ can be v slow to change.
You go to a Dutch or Italian produce farm & a strong percentage of them run like "Here's our cooler for melons, it's 33°F. Here's our cooler for tomatoes and basil, it's 43°F. Here's our cooler for...." It's clean & logical & they're moving high-dollar crops around.
Anglo veg farms got a lot more "Here's 1 cooler," it's somehow wrong temp for every crop, their tracking system makes no sense, they co-store crops that release ethylene & crops damaged by ethylene, mostly crops that tolerate bad handling & low-value (like cabbage) & it's dirty.
English foodways lean really hard towards "Grow grain, then turn it into meat, dairy, bread, & alcohol & eat THAT."
It's centered on crops that store at room temperature & aren't very time-sensitive compared to most fruits & veg.
And you just can really see that approach mirrored when a lot of Anglo farms try to branch out into produce. Fruit & veg are more profitable, but also take a lot of handling & care after harvest. Produce is just a whole new ballgame if you came up in the Anglo farmways.
Sidenote: If you ever wondered why the USDA keeps calling the entire sector of fruit & vegetables-- which really should be like 1/3 to 1/2 of everybody's diet-- "specialty crops," there it is. It's the legacy of English farmways.
Anyway… the weird part is Dutch & German food traditions & climate are pretty similar, so you'd think their descendants' US farms would be in the same boat. But they really aren't. IDK what the Germans are up to but again, Dutch Americans low-key run the US hort business.
And again, it's not bc of genetics or even "national character" per se. It's because the US ag business model is based on inheriting land rather than, idk, being qualified for the job. So small attitudinal biases that existed 100+ years ago got to multiply unchecked.
Dutch & German farmways were already p different prior to colonizing the Americas due to different land tenure practices. No I don't have fine-grained details, that's something I'm still doing the research on.
But they're distinct enough that it literally became a farm saying.
As far as I can tell at this moment, German & Dutch farming traditions just involved a lot more hands-on work from the farm owner. English settlers tended to expect their farms to work more like an estate where someone else did the work. Yep, even the "small family farmers."
Now here's where it gets interesting.
Your "blood and soil" types have this idea that there's this relationship and harmony between The Land and The People, and farming and food are the way they are because of National Character or some shit.
If that were the case, then you'd expect English, Dutch, & German farmways to be more or less the same. Same food, same God, same weather and soil, same Germanic languages to school the spirit or whatever.
But they couldn't be more different.
Why are they so different? Because of land tenure, social practices, and what "being a farmer" meant in those different cultures when they arrived in the US. And because of English settlers' relative ease of access to land.
In other words... because of class dynamics.
tl;dr Social structure, class, and financial & political practices are way more influential on how agriculture changes or stays the same over the generations, than any kind of mystical ~national character.~
This is a lot of spaghetti. It's something I've been chewing on for the last few years working in agriculture. There's *something* going on w how "traditional American family farming" doesn't work as well as we want to think it does. This is how I'm making sense of it right now.