THREE things are needed in order to realize
the possibilities of the movement:
First, definition. Among those working at one
phase or another of the back-to-the-land movement there is the
widest disagreement as to what constitutes a subsistence homestead.
Is it only half an acre, or can it be as much as fifty acres?
Should homesteading be confined to areas around places where
industrial employment can be secured, or should it include farm
colonization projects in which crops such as cotton furnish
the cash income of the homesteader? A National Conference on
Subsistence Homesteading is meeting in Dayton as this issue
of Survey Graphic is in press and may furnish a definition.
an organizing and educational institution covering the whole
country. To provide the continuous education needs for a period
of years, as well as to furnish the government with responsible
local institution for supervising homestead groups which loans
are made, the cooperation of established institutions, such
as state agricultural and mechanical colleges, must be enlist
in the movement.
Finally, there is the necessity
for securing ample capital finance the homesteaders and the
communities they establish. While thousands of families have
or can secure the little capital needed to start homesteading
individually, there are hundreds thousands well fitted for homesteading
who are unable to consider it because of lack of finances. The
$25 million government funds available at present is sufficient
only for a comparatively small number of these families. Therefore
as soon as the division is ready for the expansion of the work,
Congress should appropriate ample funds for this purpose.
In what better way could government
money be spent in an effort to help thousands of hard-working
families rendered helpless by the depression and to bring about
business recovery? Most of the money would actually be used
to purchase lumber, cement, hardware, tools, tractors, agricultural
implements and small machinery of many kinds and would therefore
increase employment in the very industries now operating at
the low levels. I therefore suggest that Congress consider carefully
the possibility of appropriating at least a billion dollars
for this purpose in 1934. By this means the business of putting
the new land and population policy into effect would be promptly
got under way.
In October 1932, Survey
Graphic published a special number on Obsolete Cities. There
it was said, "Half of us live in or within twenty-five miles
of ninety-five metropolitan cities. And we live badly. They
are obsolete." What is the answer? Subsistence homesteads offer
one solution to this great modern dilemma.