What’s a New Agrarian?

Every piece of farm work is also an attempt to solve a problem, and therefore it should have its intellectual interest. It needs but the informing of the mind and the quickening of the imagination to raise any constructive and creative work above the level of drudgery.

— Liberty Hyde Bailey, 1905

A New Agrarian is someone who believes that there is and must be a future for rural places as rural places and as a fully integrated part of the 21st-century world. A future, that is, in which rural places neither wither away nor become so urbanized that they lose their rural character—yet one that is truly a future, not a hidebound extension of the past for its own sake.

What would that future look like? It would mean people taking charge of their lives from the ground up—literally. People taking a hand in raising their own food, an active role in building and leading their communities, responsibility for their own lives and livelihoods. Meaningful exchange between cities and rural communities without the intervening mishmash of suburbia. Respect for creation, community, a sense of place.

Beyond that, a rural future is an open question, waiting for anyone willing to take up the challenge of answering it. The answers will not be easy. But if we’re willing to ask difficult questions, face the answers honestly, and put into practice what we learn, it will be a good start.