The Rural Economy of New England: A Regional Study

By John Donald Black | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 27
Part-Time Farms

Part-time farming is commonly looked at from three different angles these days. To Carey McWilliams and his kind, the part-time farms are merely farms too small to support a farm family -- the family has so little land that it has to go outside for part of its living. To a larger group, living on a little farm near to a job offers an important way of supplementing an inadequate income from a non-farm job. To still a third group, a part-time farm offers the advantages of suburban living -- space, air, sunlight, recreation, and a chance to grow things. New England's part-time farming needs to be looked at from all three of these angles. Throughout the nineteenth century and down to 1920, the first angle gives the truest perspective. Since then, the second and third; the second especially during the period of unemployment from 1930 to 1940, and the third since the full employment of the war years set in. The interest in part-time farming in this book is primarily as a way of using land and making part of a living from it.

Part-time farming began in earnest in New England along with the spread of small factories to water-power sites soon after 1800. Rural New England was definitely overpopulated in those days, and men could live on farms near by and work in these factories. The cheapening of farm products with the opening of the Erie Canal and with the building of the railroads gave further stimulus to part-time farming. The subsequent migration of the factories to the larger cities on the railroads and tidewater checked the growth of part-time farming in the latter half of the last century, but it never stopped it altogether. This was the period of heavy immigration from Europe, and later from Quebec, and most of these immigrant families had lived on farms in their homelands. Then when Ford's Model T appeared and workmen could afford to drive 20 miles to work, part-time farming took on a new spasm of growth to be accentuated by unemploy-

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