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Liberty Hyde Bailey

Liberty Hyde Bailey: Essential Agrarian and Environmental Writings

Edited by Zachary Michael Jack
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Liberty Hyde Bailey
    Book Description:

    Before Wendell Berry and Aldo Leopold, there was the horticulturalist and botanist Liberty Hyde Bailey (1858-1954). For Wendell Berry, Bailey was a revelation, a symbol of the nature-minded agrarianism Berry himself popularized. For Aldo Leopold, Bailey offered a model of the scholar-essayist-naturalist. In his revolutionary work of eco-theology, The Holy Earth, Bailey challenged the anthropomorphism-the people-centeredness-of a vulnerable world.

    A trained scientist writing in the lyrical tradition of Emerson, Burroughs, and Muir, Bailey offered the twentieth century its first exquisitely interdisciplinary biocentric worldview; this Michigan farmer's son defined the intellectual and spiritual foundations of what would become the environmental movement. For nearly a half century, Bailey dominated matters agricultural, environmental, and scientific in the United States. He worked both to improve the lives of rural folk and to preserve the land from which they earned their livelihood. Along the way, he popularized nature study in U.S. classrooms, lobbied successfully for women's rights on and off the farm, and bulwarked Teddy Roosevelt's pioneering conservationism.

    Here for the first time is an anthology of Bailey's most important writings suitable for the general and scholarly reader alike. Carefully selected and annotated by Zachary Michael Jack, this book offers a comprehensive introduction to Bailey's celebrated and revolutionary thinking on the urgent environmental, agrarian, educational, and ecospiritual dilemmas of his day and our own. Culled from ten of Bailey's most influential works, these lyrical selections highlight Bailey's contributions to the nature-study and the Country Life movements.

    Published on the one-hundredth anniversary of Bailey's groundbreaking report on behalf of the Country Life Commission, Liberty Hyde Bailey: Essential Agrarian and Environmental Writings will inspire a new generation of nature writers, environmentalists, and those who share with Bailey a profound understanding of the elegance and power of the natural world and humanity's place within it.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5883-5
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Editor’s Preface Sower and Seer: Essential Agrarian and Environmental Writings of Liberty Hyde Bailey
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    Zachary Michael Jack
  4. Introducing Sower and Seer, Liberty Hyde Bailey
    (pp. 1-38)

    Before Wendell Berry and Wes Jackson, before Aldo Leopold and Henry A. Wallace, there was Liberty Hyde Bailey.

    In fact, the works of Wallace, Leopold, and Berry, arguably the most influential land-use voices of the twentieth century, all evoke Bailey as a seminal influence. For Vice President Henry A. Wallace, whose grandfather, “Uncle Henry” Wallace, served on the Country Life Commission with Bailey, Bailey was a personal hero. For Wendell Berry, he was a revelation, a symbol of the nature-minded agrarianism Berry himself popularized for the Boomer generation. For Aldo Leopold, Bailey offered a model of the scholar-essayist-naturalist, so much...


    • My Father’s Hoe
      (pp. 40-43)

      Either side the clock in my workroom hangs a weapon.¹

      On one side is a fearsome musket that one of my ancestors is said to have captured in the War of the American Revolution. On the stock is crudely punctured the legend, “Samuel Mash, 1777.” The bayonet and its leather sheath are still in place; I shudder to think what horrible traffic that blade may have executed. There is also the bullet-case, made of a block of wood into which two dozen holes are bored for the balls, three-fourths-inch wide and nearly three inches deep, enclosed in a crude leather...

    • The Honest Day’s Work
      (pp. 44-48)

      Yesterday for some time I observed eight working men engaged in removing parts of a structure and loading the pieces on a freight car.² At no time were more than two of the men making any pretension of working at once, most of the time they were all visiting or watching passers-by, and in the whole period the eight men did not accomplish what one good honest man should have performed. I wondered whether they had sufficient exercise to keep them in good health. They apparently were concerned about their “rights”; if the employer had rights they were undiscoverable.


    • Nails
      (pp. 49-51)

      The significance of this situation did not come to me then.⁴ Probably I had been told by some wise person that a boy’s time was worth money and that nails and such trifles are cheaper than hours; and, besides, the old stick and the big rusty nails probably did not look any too attractive to a hungry boy.

      A boy’s time—has it only a cash value? Is that not the time when habits of frugality, industry, obedience, and self-help should be formed, and can these results be stated in any kind of bookkeeping? There are hours or minutes when...

    • From Haying-Time to Radio
      (pp. 52-59)

      “Haying-time” in that day, fifty years and more ago in what was then called “The West,” was a momentous event.⁵ Dates were reckoned from it. With house-cleaning in early spring and sheep-shearing later on and hog-killing in the autumn, it was one of the epochs of the year. It was interesting to see the great fleece come off the sheep and to watch the thin, wraith-like animal that was hidden within it take strangely to the field and try to make itself at home again, but there was no event in the work of the year that seemed to change...

    • Soil
      (pp. 60-63)

      They would have us believe that mechanical power will be so abundantly distributed and so pleasantly adjusted that the farmer may keep his hands in his pockets and not even drive a horse; for all the tillage will be accomplished by oversight rather than by labor.⁶ It is said by others that in some remote future we may cease entirely to till the soil in the current sense and raise food and other supplies from improved kinds of trees and shrubs that require planting only once in a generation or two and no attention of tillage in the meantime. It...

    • The Daily Fare
      (pp. 64-76)

      It was more than three centuries ago that native Thomas Tusser, musician, chorister, and farmer, gave to the world his incomparable Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry.⁷ He covered the farm year and the farm work as completely as Virgil had covered it more than fifteen centuries before; and he left us sketches of the countryside of his day, and the ways of the good plain folk, and quaint bits of philosophy and counsel. He celebrated the Christmas festival with much conviction, and in the homely way of the home folks, deriving his satisfaction from the things that the land...


    • The Separate Soul
      (pp. 79-83)

      Many times in this journey have we come against the importance of the individual.¹ We are to develop the man’s social feeling at the same time that we allow him to remain separate. We are to accomplish certain social results otherwise than by the process of thronging, which is so much a part of the philosophy of this anxious epoch; and therefore we may pursue the subject still a little further.

      Any close and worthwhile contact with the earth tends to make one original or at least detached in one’s judgments and independent of group control. In proportion as society...

    • The Struggle for Existence: War
      (pp. 84-88)

      We may consider even further, although briefly, the nature of the struggle for existence in its spiritual relation.³ It would be violence to assume a holy earth and a holy production from the earth, if the contest between the creatures seems to violate all that we know as rightness.

      The notion of the contentious and sanguinary struggle for existence finds its most pronounced popular expression in the existence of human war. It is a widespread opinion that war is necessary in the nature of things, and, in fact, it has been not only justified but glorified on this basis. We...

    • The Keeping of the Beautiful Earth
      (pp. 89-91)

      The proper caretaking of the earth lies not alone in maintaining its fertility or in safeguarding its products.⁴ The lines of beauty that appeal to the eye and the charm that satisfies the five senses are in our keeping.

      The natural landscape is always interesting and it is satisfying. The physical universe is the source of art. We know no other form and color than that which we see in nature or derive from it. If art is true to its theme, it is one expression of morals. If it is a moral obligation to express the art sense in...

    • The Habit of Destruction
      (pp. 92-97)

      The first observation that must be apparent to all men is that our dominion has been mostly destructive.⁵

      We have been greatly engaged in digging up the stored resources, and in destroying vast products of the earth for some small kernel that we can apply to our necessities or add to our enjoyments. We excavate the best of the coal and cast away the remainder; blast the minerals and metals from underneath the crust, and leave the earth raw and sore; we box the pines for turpentine and abandon the growths of limitless years to fire and devastation; sweep the...

    • The Country-life Phase of Conservation
      (pp. 98-105)

      Neither conservation nor country life is new except in name and as the subject of an organized movement.⁷ The end of the original resources has been foreseen from time out of mind, and prophetic books have been written on the subject. The need of a quickened country life has been recognized from the time that cities began to dominate civilization; and the outlook of the high-minded countryman has been depicted from the days of the classical writings until now. On the side of mineral and similar resources, the geologists amongst us have made definite efforts for conservation; and on the...

    • The Middleman Question
      (pp. 106-109)

      I recognize the service of the middleman to society.¹⁹ I know that the distributor and trader are producers of wealth as well as those who raise the raw materials; but this is no justification for abuses. I know that there are hosts of perfectly honest and dependable middlemen. We do not yet know whether the existing system of intermediary distributors and sellers is necessary to future society, but we do not see any other practicable way at present. In special cases, the farmer may reach his own customer; but this condition, as I have suggested, is so small in proportion...


    • The Integument-Man
      (pp. 112-114)

      I wrote a nature-study leaflet on “How a Squash Plant Gets Out of the Seed.” A botanist wrote me that it was a pity to place such an error of statement before the child: it should have read, “How the Squash Plant Gets Out of the Integument.”¹

      Of course my friend was correct: the squash plant gets out of an integument. But I was anxious to teach the essence of the squash plant’s behavior, not a mere verbal fact—and what child was ever interested in an integument?

      It is the old question over again—the question of the point...

    • The Meaning of the Nature-study Movement
      (pp. 115-126)

      It is one of the marks of the evolution of the race that we are coming more and more into sympathy with the objects of the external world.² These things are a part of our lives. They are central to our thoughts. The happiest life has the greatest number of points of contact with the world, and it has the deepest feeling and sympathy for everything that is. The best thing in life is sentiment; and the best sentiment is that which is born of the most accurate knowledge. I like to make this application of Emerson’s injunction to “hitch...

    • The Fundamental Question in American Country Life
      (pp. 127-131)

      How to make country life what it is capable of becoming is the question before us; and while we know that the means is not single or simple, we ought to be able to pick out the first and most fundamental thing that needs now to be done.⁵

      It is perfectly apparent that the fundamental need is to place effectively educated men and women into the open country. All else depends on this. No formal means can be of any permanent avail until men and women of vision and with trained minds are at hand to work out the plans...

    • The Outlook to Nature
      (pp. 132-134)

      So great has been the extension of knowledge, and so many the physical appliances that multiply our capabilities, that we are verily burdened with riches.¹¹ We are so eager to enter all the strange and ambitious avenues that open before us that we overlook that soil at our feet. We live in an age of superlatives, I had almost said of super-superlatives, so much so that even the superlatives now begin to pall. The reach for something new has become so much a part of our lives that we cease to recognize the fact and accept novelty as a matter...


    • The Brotherhood Relation
      (pp. 137-142)

      A constructive and careful handling of the resources of the earth is impossible except on a basis of large cooperation and of association for mutual welfare.¹ The great inventions and discoveries of recent time have extensive social significance.

      Yet we have other relations than with the physical and static materials. We are parts in a living sensitive creation. The theme of evolution has overturned our attitude toward this creation. The living creation is not exclusively man-centered: it is biocentric. We perceive the essential continuity in nature, arising from within rather than from without, the forms of life proceeding upwardly and...

    • The Neighbor’s Access to the Earth
      (pp. 143-153)

      When one really feels the response to the native earth, one feels also the obligation and the impulse to share it with the neighbor.⁴ The earth is not selfish. It is open and free to all. It invites everywhere. The naturist is not selfish—he shares all his joys and discoveries, even to the extent of publishing them. The farmer is not selfish with his occupation—he freely aids every one or any to engage in his occupation, even if that one becomes his competitor. But occupations that are some degrees removed from the earth may display selfishness; trade and,...

    • Country and City
      (pp. 154-157)

      I am always interested in Thoreau’s “poetical farmer,” not because I recommend his kind of farming, but because of his philosophical point of view:⁸

      [George] Minott is perhaps the most poetical farmer, the one who most realizes to me the poetry of the farmer’s life, that I know. He does nothing with haste and drudgery, but everything as if he loved it. He makes the most of his labor, and takes infinite satisfaction in every part of it. He is not looking forward to the sale of his crops, but he is paid by the constant satisfaction which his labor...

    • The Principle of Enmity
      (pp. 158-161)

      This day are millions of men ready to give their lives. This day will thousands be sacrificed. These are stupendous facts.¹⁰

      The pity of it is that they are sacrificed for the ancient Principle of Enmity or Antagonism. On no other principle or theory could they be sacrificed. They throw away their bodies—bodies that have been nurtured in pain and in hope, that have grown and matured through long watchful years—that a form of governmental organization may be maintained, a cult of racial selfishness, a range of commercial unmorality, a kind of enterprise that is not sound else...

    • Democracy, What It Is
      (pp. 162-165)

      Now, therefore, may we see more clearly, the scaffolding having been removed. We behold a structure much simpler, and therefore much more beautiful, than we had conceived.¹¹

      Democracy is a state of society. It is such a constitution of the social order as allows each member to develop his personality to the full and at the same time to participate in public affairs on his own motion. The demos is self-controlling.

      So, likewise, is peace a state of society. Certainly it is not an agreement not to fight, not even a successful conciliation, not a treaty or an understanding. A...

  9. V. NATURE

    • The Ways to Approach Nature
      (pp. 168-171)

      When a youth, I was told that it was impossible for me to study geology to any purpose, because there were no outcroppings of rocks in my region.¹ So I grew up in ignorance of the fact that every little part of the earth’s surface has a history, that there are reasons for sandbanks and for bogs as well as for stratified rocks. This is but another illustration of the old book slavery, whereby we are confined to certain formal problems, whether or not these problems have any relation to our conditions.

      The landscape is composed chiefly of three elements—...

    • The Forest
      (pp. 172-176)

      “This is the forest primeval.” These are the significant words of the poet in Evangeline.³ Perhaps more than any single utterance they have set the American youth against the background of the forest.

      The backgrounds are important. The life of every one of us is relative. We miss our destiny when we miss or forget our backgrounds. We lose ourselves. Men go off in vague heresies when they forget the conditions against which they live. Judgments become too refined and men tend to become merely disputatious and subtle.

      The backgrounds are the great unoccupied spaces. They are the large environments...

    • The Spiritual Contact with Nature
      (pp. 177-179)

      A useful contact with the earth places man not as superior to nature but as a superior intelligence working in nature as conscious and therefore as a responsible part in a plan of evolution, which is a continuing creation. It distinguishes the elemental virtues as against the acquired, factitious, and pampered virtues.⁵ These strong and simple traits may be brought out easily and naturally if we incorporated into our schemes of education the solid experiences of tramping, camping, scouting, farming, handcraft, and other activities that are not mere refinements of subjective processes.

      Lack of training in the realities drives us...

    • The Holy Earth, the Statement
      (pp. 180-187)

      So bountiful hath been the earth and so securely have we drawn from it our substance, that we have taken it all for granted as if it were only a gift, and with little care or conscious thought of the consequences of our use of it; nor have we very much considered the essential relation that we bear to it as living parts in the vast creation.⁶

      It is good to think of ourselves—of this teeming, tense, and aspiring human race—as a helpful and contributing part in the plan of a cosmos, and as participators in some far-reaching...

  10. VI. FARM

    • The Democratic Basis in Agriculture
      (pp. 190-194)

      For years without number—for years that run into the centuries when men have slaughtered each other on many fields, thinking that they were on the fields of honor, when many awful despotisms have ground men into the dust, the despotisms thinking themselves divine—for all these years there have been men on the land wishing to see the light, trying to make mankind hear, hoping but never realizing.¹ They have been the pawns on the great battlefields, men taken out of the peasantries to be hurled against other men they did not know and for no rewards except further...

    • The National Movement
      (pp. 195-202)

      The present revival of rural interest is immediately an effort to improve farming; but at bottom it is a desire to stimulate new activity in a more or less stationary phase of civilization.² We may overexploit the movement, but it is sound at the center. For the next twenty-five years we may expect it to have great influence on the course of events, for it will require this length of time to balance up society. Politicians will use it as a means of riding into power. Demagogues and fakirs will take advantage of it for personal gain. Tradesmen will make...

    • Women’s Contribution to the Country-life Movement
      (pp. 203-207)

      On the women depend to a greater degree than we realize the nature and extent of the movement for a better country life, wholly aside from their personal influence as members of families.¹⁴ Farming is a copartnership business. It is a partnership between a man and a woman. There is no other great series of occupations in which such copartnership is so essential to success. The home is on the farm, and a part of it. The number of middle-aged unmarried men living on farms is very small. It is quite impossible to live on a farm and to run...

    • One Hundred and Twenty-nine Farmers
      (pp. 208-215)

      To actual farmers I wrote in April 1926, as follows, choosing persons, as far as possible, who make their living from farming:¹⁹

      Now that the discouragements of agriculture are so much stressed, I am asking farmers in various parts of the country whether they really experience joy in farming and to indicate to me, if they will, what is the main satisfaction they find in the farmer’s life.

      I received reply from 129 persons, sometimes more than one letter, in thirty-three states and four Canadian provinces, fairly indicating the continent from Maine and New Brunswick to California and British Columbia;...


    • What Literature Can Do for Us
      (pp. 217-222)

      Some of us do not enjoy nature because there is not enough sheer excitement in it.¹ It has not enough dash and go for this uneasy age; and this is the very reason why we need the solace and resource of nature so much. On looking over the lists of Christmas books, I was surprised to find how often the word “sensation” occurs. In the announcement of the forthcoming number of a magazine, I find twenty articles, of which at least nineteen are to be “tragic,” “thrilling,” “mystery-laden,” or otherwise unusual. The twentieth one I hope to read. One would...

    • The Threatened Literature
      (pp. 223-225)

      A fear seems to be abroad that the inquisitiveness and exactness of science will deprive literature of imagination and sympathy and will destroy artistic expression; and it is said that we are in danger of losing the devotional element in literature.⁵ If these apprehensions are well founded, then do we have cause for alarm, seeing that literature is an immeasurable resource.

      Great literature may be relatively independent of time and place, and this is beyond discussion here; but if the standards of interpretative literature are lowering it must be because the standards of life are lowering, for the attainment and...

    • The Tones of Industry
      (pp. 226-227)

      One of the clearest notes of our time is the recognition of the holiness of industry and the attempt to formulate the morals of it.⁶ We accept this fact indirectly by the modern endeavor to give the laboring man his due.

      The handworker is more or less elemental, dealing directly with the materials. We begin to recognize these industries in literature, in sculpture, and in painting; but we do not yet very consciously or effectively translate them into music.

      It is to be recognized, of course, that melody is emotional and dynamic not imitative, that its power lies in suggestion...


    • Apple Tree
      (pp. 229-230)

      The wind is snapping in the bamboos, knocking together the resonant canes and weaving the myriad flexile wreaths above them.¹ The palm heads rustle with a brisk crinkling music. Great ferns stand in the edge of the forest, and giant arums cling their arms about the trunks of trees and rear their dim jacks-in-the-pulpit far in the branches; and in the greater distance I know that green parrots are flying in twos from tree to tree. The plant forms are strange and various, making mosaic of contrasting range of leaf size and leaf shape, palm and grass and fern, epiphyte...

    • Wind
      (pp. 231-234)

      It is explained that wind is air in motion.² So be it; but this does not tell me why the wind brought me the scent of April or roared down my chimney when the storm drove over the hills.

      The wind is taken out of the limbo of conjecture and is a subject for scientific study; it is so with all the phenomena of nature; yet in all this reassuring progress, not one whit of human interest has been lost. The mysteries are more rational, but they are mysteries still. To the accumulated legend and literature of the holy past...

    • Rain
      (pp. 235-238)

      This morning the boughs are heavy with rain.³ The herbs are laden to the ground, some of them with their heads caught in the soil. The downpour began before midnight. We were aroused by the wind in the trees and the patter on the roof.

      We lay awake to hear the drift in the leaves, until the roar was in the spouts; then sleep was sweet in the balm of the rain. At last the heat was broken. We were eager in the early morning to feel the freshness and to see the new earth. For still Elijah calls to...

    • Weed
      (pp. 239-241)

      They called it a weed, but it was only a thistle.⁴ If thistles were more useful than wheat, we should call them a crop and the wheat would be a weed. Professor [Isaac Phillips] Roberts used to say that the worst weed in corn-fields is corn, by which he meant that corn is customarily planted too thick. I sowed petunias in my garden; they made a glorious sight and my man was proud of them. Next year I planted onions on the place; the petunias came up again from self-sown seeds and he cursed them as weeds. If next year...

    • Peach
      (pp. 242-243)

      Here I hold a peach.⁵ It is a shapely oblong-spherical body nearly three inches in diameter, pleasant to clasp in the fingers, choice in its fragrance, captivating in its intergrade of tints. I do not know why it came here. I know that last winter a bare tree stood in yonder orchard, giving no sign of any intention but to be a bare tree. Then one day it shook itself loose in the glory of the resurrection we know as spring, and a sheet of pink brilliancy covered it.

      The blossoms fell. Leaves came. A little object began to swell...

    • Horse
      (pp. 244-247)

      Whatever may be the case in the present hour, in my youth every farm boy must have a colt of his own.⁶ This colt was to be of the driving horse type; the boy would break him and train him and have visions of a red buggy with spindle spokes, and felloes with black lines and bowed thills with stripy ornaments. The harness would be of the lightest and simplest fashion, without breeching or collar or hames; only a breast collar would answer for the smart turnout that was in the boy’s mind; and the horse of his fancy would...

    • Evening
      (pp. 248-249)

      Uncle Daniel quit when the sun did.⁷ It was “blasphemous-like” to work in the field after the sun had finished. The sun was Uncle Daniel’s timepiece. He was up with the sun, for that was the beginning of a Lord’s day and one should not waste the Lord’s time in bed. He worked till the sun went down, and as a consequence he frequently took a half or whole day off. Sun-to-sun made a natural day, for did not the Good Book speak of the evening and the morning of the sixth day when man was put at work? Sometimes...

    • Morning
      (pp. 250-253)

      If few of us know evening, still fewer know the morning.⁸ This is attested by the daylight-saving expedient whereby, by setting the clock ahead, we get ourselves up an hour earlier for a season without shocking our sensibilities.

      The night has given us relief, if digestion is good, and courage returns with morning light; much of this courage is lost if we lie too long, dallying with the day. There is decision in prompt rising. If the first part of the night has not been spent in some time-killing occupation and if we have not contracted the easy indulgence of...


    • Journey’s End
      (pp. 255-258)

      At last the letter comes, the more welcome because it is earnestly desired.¹ It is a letter of keen comment and suggestive advice. When he met her² in the early college days he was attracted by her wholesome, unaffected manner, by her familiarity with a few real books, by a certain athletic resilient habit, by her dislike of personal publicity, and by the readiness with which she lent herself to the affairs of the institution and associates.

      The letter approves his pilgrimage in general. “It is well for you,” it says, “to leave the usual places, to measure yourself against...

  14. Index
    (pp. 259-261)
  15. About the Editor
    (pp. 262-262)