A FARMER'S WISDOM
Look to the Land. By Lord Nordabourne. I (Dent, 7s. 6c1.).
Reviewed by VINCENT McNABB, O.P.
" Few people realise as yet that the agricultural problem is by its nature every hit as much a townsman's problem as It is a farmer's problem."
" This book . . is an attempt at a biological and economic conspectus of our present situation. As such it must start from the soil."
" Large-scale monoculture (the growing of one crop only) upsets the balance of factors in the soil in many ways. There is no giveand-take between crops. Disease spreads easily. Nature always provides a mixture of plants, and of animals; only so can living matter he kept constantly in circulation without wastage."
" We in England ought to he able to get as war as possible to perfection as anyone. We are perhaps favoured beyond and above all nations, in that we have a soil and climate unequalled in the world for rts combination of richness and variety. The variety is as important at the richness. That is probably why we have in the past produced the finest livestock in the world—and of all classes of livestock which derive their vigour and qualities from the soil, none is more important than ourselves.
" The answer, then, to the question as to whether Britain could be self-supporting in food is an emphatic ' Yes.' " " Unduly specialised farming is not compatible with the proper treatment of the soil. Carried out on a large scale, it is in part ✓ e.sponsible for the present state of the soil of this unhappy world."
" Bearing In mind the characteristics of real farming as distinct from that farming which is mere trading in. or processing of, stolen fertility, we can fry to see what the farming of the future might be like, particularly as far as Britain is concerned. Farms should be much smaller than they are at present, esperially on the more fertile lands. The labour and thought now bestowed on any. given area needs to be concentrated on a much smaller area. Fur more people would be wanted on the land."
" Every inducement to-day is towards organisation in bigger units, even in farming.
"The assumption that small holdings ttecesserif) mean hard labour and deprivation of the advantages to he derived from machinery is only justified under present economic conditions. not necessarily under others."
" The only situation in which labour it an asset and not a mere inevitabk item of cost is the more or less self-supporting farm run by a family."
I HAVE made these gatherings of ▪ wisdom from that noble book of some 200 pages written by Lord Northbourne and called fitly Look to
What I have presumed to write about it 1 have also presumed to call a " Farmer's Wisdom," because Lord Northbourne not only owns land but farms land. As he preaches only what he practises, his preaching has truth's ultimate claim to our hearing ear.
I have also called his preached practice, wisdom, because the great thinkers like Aristotle and Aquinas tell us that wisdom is the knowledge of the proximatea which we reach when we judge them by ultimate things or causes. In other words, wisdom puts first things first, and then judges, measures and values secondary things by the things that are, and are put first.
The essential wisdom of Look to the Land is seen in its clear vision of the ultimate in agriculture, and indeed in organic life. For him the ultimate or first material cause of all bodily life is the soil. Only the soil is the ultimate physical reality. All else is but an effect or a token of that ultimate reality.
A SPECIAL token at Lord Northhourne's a-a wisdom is his reference to " townsmen." Too often the " agricultural question " has been looked on by the townsman as the irritating creaking of a clumsy political machine. Lord Northbourne's appeal to the townsman is now reinforced by the frantic S.O.S. of was. Even in the slums of Notting Hill, and St. Pancras and Whitechapel a nation depending for what it eats on foreign lands, is now appealing to the slumdwellers to Grow More Food—Dig for Victory.
With rationed quantities of even the necessities of life we might go beyond what the farmer says, by saying that the agricultural problem is especially a townsman's problem. We have proof upon proof of what we might add. But setting out of these proofs would mean another and a longer article.
It is to be noticed that the farmer's wasdam of Look to the Land is not jest warwisdom. There is hardly a page on which our
eyes are hurt by the word war. Yet, of course, there is not a page denying the principle that a country's best land organisation, i.e., a land-organisation, is that country'S best organisation for that best justified war. i.e., a war of defence. Lord Northbourne's aim at seeing the biological implications of the land is a wise intent SD See the land as the basic possibility, not just of a successful war. hut of a full human life.
Luis almost casual reference to the family 11 though casual, does not mean that in farming the family is possible but not necessary. Indeed, though this or that farm might he succesaftzfly run by other than a family. yet, by nature. i.e., by God, the family is the co-operative tinily which alone can give successful farming an indefinite duration. Soviet Russia's, ignoring of this principle came near to being the death of Russia's agriculture.
Dramatically enough, Lord Northbourne finds himself seconded by the visible father of Christendom. In writing to the United States Hierarchy Pope Pius XII reminded them that the setting aside of the natural law has meant the " flight from the land." and that this " flight from the land " has meant such a flight from the home, that marriage is looked upon as a sport !
Lord Northbourne's words on the family unit come fitly from one living in a country once famous for its homes; and even for the inusic of its word " home." But hie Words on England charged with the experience of one who knows England, are ringing with a threat of doom — that lauman doom which is always the fruit of human desire.
Ile reminds us in these islands, " set in a silver sea," that God has set us in a place apart. The uncertainties and dangers of our encircling waters defend us against foes. The " richness and variety of our soil " defend us against disease and death. In the distribution of God's earthly gifts we are " a favoured nation."
Yet, like the Prodigal, we have sought life by leaving our home for foreign lands, and for the things we thought were provided only by foreign lands. The unrest and want that have come of this foreign quest are now, by God's will, turning our thoughts back to the home with its homestead where feasting and dancing came easily and naturally into their awn.
I T is to the credit of the Catholics of these favoured islands,that they have had a little group who have seen what Lord Northbourne sees, and saw it years before he ventured to write what he had seen.
This little group of Catholics could not forget that when Jesus of Nazareth began to speak to man's soul of its redemption and growth He began at the beginning by a parable on the soil. The seed of this little group's example seemed to follow at worst on the barren paths of tradition where it was eaten by the birds. At best it rooted and grew up only to be choked by a hundred oppositions.
But a movement so within the ordinary invitations of God's wisdom could not finally be choked. Even the very evident signs of human weakness or sin are not fated against a design of God.
Perhaps war has given the truth an opportunity denied to it by peace. Perhaps our Nazareths have more chance than ever, now that our Babylons are asking us, for safety's sake, to fly from Babylon. Perhaps. too, the national crisis which has called forth the Sword of the Spirit may obtain that collective ecclesiastical blessing which will turn our crusade of rightful war into a still more necessary crusade of fruitful peace.