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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 tohundreds of requests for some detailed description of the way of life and of theexperiments with domestic production referred to in my previous book, This UglyCivilization. Since the collapse of the great boom in October, 1929, these requestshave greatly increased in number.

    It is not an exaggeration of the situationtoday to say that millions of urban families are considering the possibility of flightfrom the city to the country. But the realization that there had been for fully halfa century a flight of millions from the country to the city seems to me an essentialprelude to consideration of any move back to the land. Not only had the proportionof farm population to city population in the United States declined over a long periodof years, but for many years prior to 1930, the total farm population of thenation 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 andforth, between city and country, is to me evidence of profound dissatisfaction withliving conditions both in the country and in the city. It is something which thoseconsidering a change in their ways of living should carefully ponder. The industrializationof agriculture during the past century--its transformation from a way of life toa commercial business--has very clearly increased the migration of farmers and farm-bredpeople from the country to the city. And since most of the migrants in the otherdirection--from the city to the country--actually consist of people who at one timehad lived on farms, it is evident that what we have had for many years are intolerableconditions in the country driving people out of the country, and then intolerableconditions in the city, driving them back again.

    The question to which I have been seekingan answer is whether the way of life described in this book is a way out for a populationevidently unhappy both in the city and in the country. Those who are interested inthis question, and those who are considering such a way of living, may find in thisvolume 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 questof comfort in a civilization evidently intolerably uncomfortable will find them fullydiscussed in This Ugly Civilization.

    We are living in one of the most interestingperiods in the world's history. Industrial civilization is either on the verge ofcollapse or of rebirth on a new social basis. Men and women who desire to escapefrom dependence upon the present industrial system and who have no desire to substitutefor it dependence upon a state controlled system, are beginning to experiment witha way of living which is neither city life nor farm life, but which is an effortto combine the advantages and to escape the disadvantages of both. Reports of theDepartment of Agriculture call attention to the revival of handicraft industries--themaking of rugs and other textiles, furniture, baskets and pottery--for sale alongthe roads, in near-by farmers' markets, or for barter for other products for thefarm and home. Farmers, according to the Bureau of Home Economics, are turning backto custom milling of flour because they can thus get a barrel of flour for five bushelsof 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, meatclubs have been growing in number; a heavier canning and preserving program is beingcarried out; bread-baking, churning, cheese-making and other home food-productionactivities have been revived; home sewing has increased greatly, and on some farmswhere sheep are raised, skills and equipment little used for many years are beingcalled upon to convert home-grown wool into clothing and bed coverings; soap-makingfor family use has increased; farm-produced fuel is being used more freely; lumbermade 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 recognitionand support. President Roosevelt flatly and frankly announces as a major policy ofhis administration and as a primary purpose of his life to put into effect a back-to-theland movement that will work. "There is a necessary limit," he saidearly in 1930, "to the continuance of the migration from the country to thecity, and I look, in fact, for a swing of the pendulum in the other direction. Allthings point that way. . . . The great objective . . . aims at making country lifein every way as desirable as city life--an objective which will, from the economicside, 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 promotionof subsistence farming and for the development of self-help organizations have alreadybeen made.

    In Dayton, Ohio, for nearly a year,a sociological experiment of far-reaching significance has been under way. In thisindustrial city, the support of the Council of Social Agencies has been given toan organized movement based upon production for use (as contrasted with productionfor the market), and for homesteading with domestic production, as described in thisbook. As consulting economist for the Dayton movement, it has been my privilege towatch a development which promises, because of the interest other cities are takingin it, to make social history. The recent development of the homestead movement inDayton is described in the chapter entitled "Postlude," a sort of postscriptto 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 mindthat 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 FreshFood
IV. The Loom and the Sewing-machine
V. Shelter
VI. Water, Hot Water, and WasteWater
VII. Education--The Schoolof Living
VIII. Capital
IX. Security versus Insecurity
X. Independence versus Dependence

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