New Pioneers: The Back-To-The-Land Movement and the Search for a Sustainable Future

By Jeffrey Jacob | Go to book overview

PREFACE

New Pioneers had one of its beginnings in my grandmother Jacob's backyard. A widow who survived the Great Depression on a school teacher's salary, Florence Jacob practiced pioneer frugality on a modest city lot on Salt Lake City's east bench from the 1920s through the 1960s. Self-reliance for my grandmother was more than a necessity; it was a way of life. Even in the 1950s, after she had gained a measure of affluence, she still cultivated a microfarm variety of fruit trees and berry bushes, a grape arbor, and a vegetable garden that imperialistically captured even the most marginal of her yard's empty spaces. Competing for my grandmother's attention, I feigned interest in her horticultural preoccupations to move from the middle of a pack of nineteen grandchildren to the status of first assistant gardener. I was summarily put to work drying ripe apricots on the garage roof, and served at my grandmother's right hand in the kitchen as she made pear nectar. Growing food in the city, blocks away from a grocery store, did not always make sense to me, though I did appreciate my grandmother's attention, as well as pies made from frozen gooseberries that came out of her oven in midwinter, in part the product of our industry from the previous summer.

My next conscious encounter with the issues of self-reliance came while I was a graduate student at Syracuse University in upstate New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s. My academic interests focused on the nature of underdevelopment in the United States and the Third World, and I was putting together a research project that would allow me to see the underside of poverty by following shoeshine boys and other poor working children through the streets of Guatemala City. Though preoccupied with explanations for urban poverty in Latin America, I happened to come across the first numbers of the Mother Earth News and the Whole Earth Catalogs on the magazine racks of an off-campus bookstore I frequented. As I

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