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Back to the Land in the 1930's: Roots of the New Agrarianism in Vermont

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Most of us associate the term "back to the land" with the movement of urban- and suburbanites to Vermont in the 1960s and 1970s. But the roots of this movement are much deeper. Back-to-the-land movements have come and gone in waves throughout the past century. At the beginning of the twentieth century, as the United States became a nation of city dwellers, Americans looked "back" to the farm for the first time. Twenty years later, the Great Depression encouraged a second look back, as city dwellers remembered with longing the security and stability of farm life. Thirty years later, many Americans turned once again to a rural life now only a distant memory--this time looking for a simplicity and naturalness they found missing in suburbs and cities. Each of these movements had demographic and economic consequences, but perhaps more than anything else they were a literary phenomenon. Books and magazine articles lighted the way for would-be back-to-the-landers in each generation. And books expressed the unfulfilled longing of many who never went "back" themselves. Three Depression-era accounts of back-to-the-land experiments in Vermont laid the groundwork for the gradual transformation of Vermont as a state--and as a state of mind.

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