.... Improved methods of farming mean that fewer people are being needed to carry on the work of the farm, ....
In the second place, we know that the returns from farming are being used to an increasing extent to support urban homes. In some cases the family may live for only a portion of the year in the city, but some of the large western farms have really come to be business enterprises supporting urban homes. This is interesting because it is such a reversal of the picture we used to have, particularly in the South where urban business was used to support the rural home. The man of business took his family out to the country to live because of the advantages and joys of living in the open country.
1 Adapted from "The Development of Better Farm Homes," Agricultural Engineering, April, 1926. (Address, National Farm Homes Conference sponsored by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, Chicago, February 18 and 19, 1926.)
In the third place, there is the health situation. Various rural studies tend to show that in spite of the abundance of fresh air and sunshine in the country the rural child is not developing on a par physically with the city child. The difficulty, where this is true, lies primarily in the home and the community agencies closely associated with it.
These are the facts: The proportion of rural to urban population is decreasing. The urban home is attracting even those engaged in agriculture. Seemingly the rural child, contrary to the earlier situation, is below the urban child in physical development, and even mentally does not seem to show the same development. This is the most alarming part of the picture for, after all, the most important contribution of the country home to the nation has been the country child.
In any program for the development of the rural home, we need first to find out, if we can, the causes of the present situation. An important factor has been the economic condition of the agricultural industry. Many have left the farms discouraged. Home conditions have been at the root of this discouragement in many cases.
Also, as agriculture has come to be more specialized there has tended to be too complete a separation between the farm and the farm business. .... While the frontier farm was self-supporting, the returns came largely in terms of family living; now we think in terms of a cash crop which has to be exchanged for family living. In the enthusiasm for developing the business, the farmer is likely to lose sight of the end, a satisfying home life, in his interest in the means to that end, farming. There is a tendency "to produce more corn, to feed more pigs, to buy more land," in an endless circle, and in this circle the home for which it is all maintained is lost from sight. This situation has made an economic adjustment in this period of low prices for farm produce more difficult. The spread between what the farmer gets now and has been getting for the last two or three years for his product, and what he must pay for necessities, has been too great. Agricultural economists have told the farmer that the solution for his problem is to produce a larger amount of what the family needs. That this can be done has been shown by studies made in the Department of Agriculture and in the states. It has been made more difficult, by the very complete separation of the farm business from the family living.
Probably second in importance have been the long hours of household work. There is more work to be done, the rural family is larger, the hired help must be fed in many cases, and at times this means much extra work, and in addition, the woman helps with the milk, the chickens, and sometimes with the garden. Fewer conveniences, water in the house, electricity and gas, are lacking in the larger percentage of the country homes. Houses are planned without much thought of the work which must be done in them. Domestic service is not available, even if the price could be paid. Outside agencies to take over some of the home tasks are not accessible. The laundry, the corner bakery, the commercial ice cream maker, are just commencing to reach out to the country home.
In the third place, the absence of community social agencies, which supplement home life, discourage many. Poor schools, absence of church associations, lack of facilities for wholesome recreation, libraries, and health agencies, all these have an important bearing on the development of the rural child, as well as the satisfaction rural life offers to the family as a whole. These can be provided and are being provided in the more forward-looking communities. The conditions under which these can be extended need to be studied.
We have tended to measure the returns from country life in terms of urban standards and ideals, and false values have been attached to these, rather than stressing the real values of country living. The late Secretary Wallace expressed this in the statement, "Too many people assume that urbanization and civilization are the same." That there is a real appreciation of the values of country life by the women themselves was brought out by comments sent in by homemakers contributing to a time study undertaken by the University of Missouri. One housewife said that though the hours are longer, they are made up for by the greater satisfaction. Besides being more free than the city woman to set her own standard of living, the rural homemaker has another important advantage. In the summertime at least, she is out-of-doors a great deal. We sometimes fail to estimate the value of outdoor life to the health of the individual. An urban housewife reported that she had all labor-saving devices and conveniences but that she was mostly fatigued from too much indoor life and too many scattered interests. She compared her present situation with the situation in which she lived previously, when she kept house in a sod house with no labor-saving devices. In addition to her housework she gardened, made butter, helped with the milking and other farm chores. Yet, under these conditions, with her simple standards of living, she enjoyed the best of health from out-of-door life and no hurry or worry.
Practically, the domination of urban standards has made it more difficult for the rural homemaker to obtain house designs and furnishings adapted to her needs. The largest buying power has been concentrated in the city, and urban needs have set the standard for things that are produced. They dominate rural architecture, house plans, equipment and furnishings. Examples of this are seen in every rural community. Not only are the exterior designs planned obviously for urban conditions, but certain requirements such as a side entrance, a washroom for the men, and a laundry on the same level as the kitchen are lacking.
Now what is our program for the development of the rural home? I am putting first, better thought-out farm plans. I think in too many cases we have not thought out the whole farm plan before locating the house. Taking into consideration the fact that agriculture is a method of living as well as a business, a plan that makes the most of the natural beauty and contributes most to the aesthetic as well as the physical development of the family.
In the second place (and that is the job we should turn over to the American Institute of Architects), we want to develop a type of rural architecture which is suited to rural surroundings and needs, not one that is copied from city dwellings but one which expresses the spirit of the open country and takes advantages of its opportunities. This is not going to be one for the country as a whole because our country is too varied to have any one type of architecture to express the spirit of it in all the different sections. These plans should provide for convenience where convenience is most needed, attractive surroundings, and furnish a background for the development of wholesome family life.
Attention must be paid to planning for comfort and health, as well as convenience. Sunlight, the prevailing breezes, adequate ventilation, water supply in the house, waste disposal and central heating are all factors which contribute to these. Add to these well-balanced food, simply but tastefully prepared, and you have the foundation for family health.
In the next place we want better labor-saving equipment for the home, and if there is any one place where we need to work together, I think it is here. We need first (and this must be the home economics contribution) to know what equipment is going to help the homemaker most. Time studies will show us this. It will be determined not only by the amount of time and labor saved but also by the amount and cost of available labor. Efficiently arranged kitchens and labor-saving devices are more usual in California, partly as the result of the labor situation, and these have developed slowly in the South where domestic labor has been more abundant. Washing machines are more generally used than dish washers. The greater number and efficiency of the washing machines as compared with the dish washer are factors in this, but the number of small hands in the usual household able to wash and wipe dishes but unable to do the more strenuous job of washing clothes, has probably been a contributing factor.
Comparative studies of different types of equipment must be made by the equipment people themselves, since they cannot be made by government or state institutions. There is nowhere that the housewife, either rural or urban, has been exploited more than in the sale of labor-saving equipment. Better business is going to stop this, and it must come from the equipment people themselves. There are too many designs. Experimenting has been done largely at the expense of the housewife, and that is the reason she is paying what she now does for such equipment. It has been costly experimenting. Now is the time for standardizing household equipment. Fewer designs are needed. They should be better, and they can be cheaper with still a fair profit. We need better trained salesmen for these devices, and that too is a question of better business. We need better servicing for them, because they are not going to take the place they should in the home unless they are better serviced, and only a few of the equipment people are recognizing as they should this servicing need and providing for it.
We are going to pay more attention to the beauty of these homes. While this will develop more slowly perhaps than convenience and health factors, it is going to be looked upon as quite as important.