Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Victory Gardens and Southern Agrarianism

It would be easy to take a cursory glance at Southern Agrarianism and think that it is about everyone being a farmer or some sort of Utopian vision, but that would be far from the truth. In fact, Southern Agrarianism is very much like the Victory Garden programs during both the First and the Second World Wars.

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.
Introduction: A Statement of Principles in the book, I’ll Take My Stand

Victory Gardens were about making people aware of the fundamental importance of food. It was about promoting the idea that food is everyone’s job – not just commercial farmers. It was about encouraging people to achieve some level of self-reliance. Each of these fits within Southern Agrarianism.

Southern Agrarianism is, of course, far more than that since it is a cultural movement; however, let’s continue with the comparison to the Victory Garden program. In addition to the posters and programs that encouraged people to grow their own vegetables and raise their own chickens, the Victory Garden programs were also about educating people in how to do it. Victory Garden programs were not just here in America – it was also done in England, where the situation was far more critical. Part of the Axis strategy was to cut off shipping and starve England.

Just like the Victory Garden programs, one of the aims of The Southern Agrarian blog is to share information on the how-to aspects of growing your own food and increasing your level of self-sufficiency. Some of the upcoming posts include reviews of tools like the SoilSaver Composter, the Hoss Wheel Hoe (both the double wheel and the high arch models), the Blackhawk corn sheller, and many other things found in our tool shed.



Sheep being raised and grazed on the White House lawn.


Victory garden in England – 1944.


Program to encourage the raising of pork in England.


  1. Joe Putnam

    Hey Stephen,
    My random thoughts: After reading this post, it occurred to me that people sometimes revert to trad ways during times of crisis. And when the crisis ends, they revert to their modernism. To find those who will voluntarily move toward a trad lifestyle during times of *relative* ease and plenty, on account of theological or philosophical reasons, is much rarer.
    On a side note, I am planning a practical agrarian post for later this month, on work boot selection. Hint: Doc Martins are not made for hard use…

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Good point, Joe. Yes, there are relatively few who choose the traditional life. I suppose that it is about how one defines comfort. For us, there is great comfort in looking out the window and seeing a nice vegetable garden, fruit trees, and a flock of chickens – as we eat fresh eggs for breakfast.

      I was thinking this morning about how, in time of crisis, the urbanites would instinctively look to the rural areas for food – not realizing that those fields don’t grow packages with microwave instructions printed on them, nor do those fields grow trendy restaurant menus. How many urbanites would even know how to prepare something fresh from the garden? There are, of course, many urbanites who try to eat right, and they buy fresh vegetables and prepare them; they are a big step ahead of their urban brethren who are pure consumers. Growing that produce, however, is something they are not prepared to do.

  2. Fugitive Agrarian

    Looking forward to learning from your homesteading experiences and sharing from ours.

    By the way, the Carhartt britches have not fared so well either, unfortunately. We’re trying the double-layered knee version now, but only slightly more hopeful about these. After three and a half years of near daily wear of the dozen some-odd pairs, we might chalk them up to pretty rather than hardy. May try Dickies next, but that line is not carried by the few local stores we use.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      I have a couple pair of the double-knee Carhartt pants, and they have done very well for me. One pair finally wore out, but that was some years ago when there was a lot of very hard, heavy work to do cleaning up after a hurricane. I definitely got my money’s worth out of them. I fully expect the other pair to last for a very long time. I seldom have to do the kind of work that does anything more than get them dirty though. The Carhartt chore coat that is hanging next to the door has also done very well – highly recommended. It’s tough and warm and should last another couple of decades (which would pretty much be about all I could expect to last myself!).

  3. Judy LeRoux

    The concept I find interesting is that almost no one makes a note that any garden is a plus, for mindfulness, and a healthy body or at least feeling better.
    There nothing like a hot cup of tea, in the early morning with the birds singing, while you sit in the garden enjoying that part of the day.
    Enjoy reading what ya all write.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Beautifully said, ma’am! One of the great things about Southern Agrarianism is that it is not just about the “nuts and bolts” of growing things: It is about WHY we do it. It is about the spiritual aspects of being close to the soil. It is about the concept of Stewardship – we are only one link in a chain that extends back in time and forward to generations not yet born.

      As for the hot cup of tea: Twinings Earl Grey, three and a half minutes, a teaspoon of turbinado sugar, and life is good… I’ve been tossing around some ideas for a post or two that revolve around tea, the history of it, and as an example of money not being the key to enjoying the good life. As you so well illustrated – it is the simple things in life that make it so enjoyable.

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