What Is Southern Agrarianism?


The Goals of The Southern Agrarian blog

  • Live it – The Southern Agrarian movement, born in the 1920’s, is rooted deep in Southern soil. The need to return to this simpler, more self-reliant way of life has never been greater than it is today.
  • Grow it – Gardening in The South with a strong focus on heirloom (open pollinated) varieties.
  • Raise it – Raising chickens, ducks, and other small livestock in The South.
  • Use it – Canning and cooking the bounty of your garden in both traditional and non-traditional Southern dishes.
  • Prepare for it – Agrarianism is about being rooted in the land – not being a dependent cog in the complex machine of urban life. A big part of this is building a self-sufficient life by growing it, raising it, using it, and living it so that we can safely weather the storms that regularly sweep through human society.

In short, this is about leading the way to a life set free from the bonds of an increasingly complex society and the vulnerabilities that go with it. At some point, every complex society collapses and sinks under its own weight; we don’t want to be tied to that ship when it goes to the bottom. We have a responsibility to our families and to our people, and that responsibility does not go away simply because the grocery store shelves may be empty.

The Southern Agrarian movement in its purest form was described in the book, I’ll Take My Stand, (first published in 1930) by Twelve Southerners. Two of those “Twelve Southerners” – Stark Young and Frank Lawrence Owsley – were my cousins. Stark Young’s section of I’ll Take My Stand is titled Not In Memoriam, But In Defense; Frank Lawrence Owsley’s section is titled The Irrepressible Conflict.

From the Wikipedia entry for Southern Agrarian:

The Southern Agrarians bemoaned the increasing loss of Southern identity and culture to industrialization. They believed that the traditional agrarian roots of the United States, which had reigned since the nation’s founding in the 18th century, were important to its nature. Their manifesto was a critique of the rapid industrialization and urbanization during the first few decades of the 20th century in the southern United States. It posited an alternative based on a return to the more traditionally rural and local culture, and agrarian American values. The group opposed the changes in the US that were leading it to become more urban, national/international, and industrial. Because the book was published at the opening (1930) of what would eventually become the Great Depression, some viewed it as particularly prescient. The book was anti-communist. I’ll Take My Stand was originally criticized as a reactionary and romanticized defense of the Old South and the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. Some critics considered it to be moved by nostalgia…

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute has published books which further explore the ideas of the Agrarians. “All the articles bear in the same sense upon the book’s title-subject: all tend to support a Southern way of life against what may be called the American or prevailing way; and all as much as agree that the best terms in which to represent the distinction are contained in the phrase, Agrarian versus Industrial…

“Opposed to the industrial society is the agrarian, which does not stand in particular need of definition. An agrarian society is hardly one that has no use at all for industries, for professional vocations, for scholars and artists, and for the life of cities. Technically, perhaps, an agrarian society is one in which agriculture is the leading vocation, whether for wealth, for pleasure, or for prestige – a form of labor that is pursued with intelligence and leisure, and that becomes the model to which the other forms approach as well as they may. But an agrarian regime will be secured readily enough where the superfluous industries are not allowed to rise against it. The theory of agrarianism is that the culture of the soil is the best and most sensitive of vocations, and that therefore it should have the economic preference and enlist the maximum number of workers.”
Introduction: A Statement of Principles”
I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition

The Southern Agrarian is published by Stephen Clay McGehee. Born-Again Christian, grandfather, husband, business owner, Southerner, aspiring Southern Gentleman. Publisher of The Southern Agrarian and Be A Southern Gentleman. President/Owner of Adjutant Workshop, Inc. (a software development company), Vice President of Gather The Fragments Bible Mission, Inc. (Sierra Leone, West Africa), Kentucky Colonel, Quartermaster and Webmaster – Military Order of The Stars and Bars.

Enjoy these photos of the Southern Agrarian life. Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Stephen Clay McGehee.

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