Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Poor Farm


My wife and I both grew up with parents who were children of the Great Depression. If you were born of Boomer parents, you certainly missed a rearing of those who invented frugality. My parents understood poverty, rationing and making due with
little. They understood the underground economy.

You may see a documentary on the rural poor or inner city poverty, but back in the 20’s and 30’s that was the way the entire country was living. No matter how much pride you had you still needed to eat. People went on “relief” which was the predecessor to what we now call Welfare or TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families.)

My wife and I were having coffee on the porch this weekend. She was reading a book, Honey Moon With My Brother, about these brothers who were touring all wineries in Oregon, and she came upon a mention of Edgefield which was once known as a County Poor Farm in Portland and is now owned by the McMenamins and is an upscale resort and winery.

She asked what ever happened to poor farms. She and I both heard our parents warn of going to the poor farm. My parents spoke of them on the east coast and hers on the west coast. We also heard a lot about the WPA (Works Progress Administration 1935-1043). My grandfather on my mother’s side died of a heart attack on a WPA bus. My father’s father was a moon-shiner and sold whiskey out of his bakery so he was in good financial shape.

Poor farms were generally County run agricultural communes for indigent persons and families; predating Social Security. Some came about in the early 1800’s and many closed as late as the 1950’s. This was a way that those who were hopelessly unemployed or unemployable to survive with a place to sleep and food to eat while still contributing something to the community.

We wondered if a “Poor Farm” concept could work again. It seems unlikely that it would. Farms are often economic sink holes and any good that would come of them would come at a very high cost. It would build character, but few marketable skills.

In a perfect world we could have poor farms or industries that trained people while getting them back on their feet. I’m talking more then what Good Will claims to do. I’m talking about total immersion and transformation. Maybe it is an idea worth revisiting on some level.

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I've often wondered about those as well. And on some level I have to think that it would be better to have an economic sink like a workfarm than to see whole families living in homeless shelters.
Maybe a 401(c)3 org?
I stopped by earlier out of curiosity (I'm an Oregonian too) and didn't say anything - I like your style. Nice to meet you.

12:29 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Welcome, Mel!
Yours is a blog I am definately going to spend some time with. I was hooked on the first post I read and I'm going through your 100 things before I continue.

I agree with you on the 501(C)3 thing (is there a 401(C)3 as well. I may have the whole thing mixed up.

It could be good for those who truely want to work and learn a skill. Farming isn't all pulling weeds. There is mechanical and welding, crop science, carpentry and construction, statistics, husbandry and all sorts of things people can learn...that is if they want to. Besides a farm is a great place to reset your life and helps you see what is really important.

2:33 PM  
Blogger Donna said...

My parents were married in 1932, and yes, they DID give meaning to the word "frugal". Especially my mom.
You sure brought back memories by mentioning the poor farm: When Mother and Daddy would discuss bills, sometimes Mother would say, "This is going to send us to the poorhouse."

http://journals.aol.com/mosie1944/MYCOUNTRYLIFE/

2:42 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

I see you have have a horse, that is one thing that will send you to the poor house. All you need is a boat and you'll be there for sure.

3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, that would be my brainfart, really. It's a 501(c)3, not 401. I guess I was thinking of... cleaning my countertops? I dunno.
And thank you for the kind words! I appreciate it.

3:27 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Mel, I always like to shine a light and compliment that which is good, and shake a pointy stick at that which is not. It's fun getting to know you and I've put your blog on my bloglines so I will be notified when you publish any gems...no pressure though ; ) Do you prefer e-mails or comments?

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like either, and leave it to your discretion.
And now I'm going to go break out in hives from the pressure... ;)

4:46 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

There are few days off when you commit to a blog. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines. There is an obligation to entertain. It's an implied contract that the voices in my head made me sign in blood. I see you've got it, too.

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did bring back memories. I remember going to my grandparents house and digging potatoes out of their garden and eating geese or duck that one of the uncle's shot, of course fresh picked vegtables.
We were sent home with enough food to last until the next weeks visit. My parents found a house and put in a garden. I don't remember going grocery shopping or shopping period! My mother shopped for clothes and I wore them.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha ha - That was funny about the boat! Reminds me of the three 'f's:

if it Floats, Fly's or Fu--'s, your better off leasing it.

10:44 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Either your mother had a good eye for size or you looked funny until you grew into some of your clothing. Our childhood memories are precious.

And to the other Anonymous: Even leasing those things is a bad idea most times. It's kind of like picking up a hitch hiker, the best you can hope for is to break even.

8:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a bit of info for Guy:

Recently I found myself in the Heritage Museum here in Astoria. Apparently there was a poor farm in this neck of the woods. It was out on the banks of the Walluski.

Just passing on a bit of local history.

Love,
Anon

7:32 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Very cool! Did they just have a mention or were there photos, stories and history?

It is a really cool piece of American History, worthy of a Ken Burns documentary.

7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There were a few photo with captions. I bet if you asked the staff they could provide more information to you.

Love,
Anon

10:06 AM  
Blogger Mom of Three said...

My family also used to talk about the poorhouse. My grandparents all lived through the depression, but were mostly rural folk, so they could shoot or grow their food. Still, their families were large and nobody was fat by any means. You can look at the photos and see that much.

Slave Hubby actually was poor growing up. If he and his dad didn't go out and pop a few squirrels after work, there'd be no meat for anyone. Period. Sometimes they would get a rabbit.

On the other hand, we grew up in the OC, which sucked because we were actually middle class, which was poor in the 80s in that area. There was so much money there...but we always ate, well. Still, I am a tightwad, how do you figure?

8:52 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

What is the OC?

Three kids and living here, one must be a tight wad if you want to survive with the limited income the jobs around here offer.

8:03 AM  

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