How to be a Good Agrarian

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I hung out with Michael Jordan outside Chicago about twenty years ago.

No, not basketball Michael Jordan. I’m talking about Michael Jordan, the English professor from Hillsdale College.

We met at a Touchstone conference at Mundelein Seminary. He saw my name tag and said he enjoyed my articles. Being a narcissist, I was smitten, and we talked a bit and took a few meals together. Because we only lived an hour apart, we kept in touch for awhile and met for lunch once, but then drifted away into life.

I bumped into him a few months ago at a Hillsdale cross-country meet. He had just retired due to some health problems. We caught up a bit and I haven’t seen him since.

And then yesterday, I read (what I think is) a farewell essay to Hillsdale alumni. It’s a pithy, fast-paced piece: beautiful in its simplicity, wise in its advice.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link. Maybe he’ll see this post and send me a link or the entire article.

For today, though, here are a few of my favorites from his “How to be a Good Agrarian in the 21st Century.”

  • Be a member of your community, not a mere consumer in the global economy.
  • Be as self-resilient you can be in terms of home economics and home culture.
  • The food you raise yourself will be better tasting, more nutritious, and healthier than what you find at the supermarket.
  • Try to avoid specialization and the division of labor: When you can, be your own doctor, plumber, carpenter, painter, etc.
  • “Throw out the radio and take down the fiddle from the wall.” Quoting Andrew Lytle from the excellent I’ll Take My Stand.
  • Settle in a particular place, ideally the place where you were born and where your extended family lives.
  • Every few years read The Memory of Old Jack, Hard Times, and other agrarian writings to remind yourself how you ought to live and work, and how you ought not to live and work.