An Early Missourian Farmer’s Mindset

Posted by tcmgo1 on Jun 12th, 2010

Gottfried Duden was a German immigrant farmer that homesteaded in Missouri in its early days when man and animal toiled together to farm the rich soils of God’s making to produce the very necessities of life. In the brief excerpt below he paints an amazing picture of the early American farm, one that spoke of incredibly hard work and humble trust in the Creator for success, not in debt-inducing technology and every form of insurance to back it up. Gottfried’s gutsy pioneering spirit to trust God without subsidies and other government “guarantees” is something for which the average American today would shudder even considering, let alone undertaking. In a time where Americans have foolishly traded freedom for security and productivity for entitlement, the picture he paints may serve us well as a sort of prescriptive model to get back to understanding the vital necessity of being locally productive, as it is a crucial element of the biblical model for civil and economic freedom.

This excerpt is from a report he made in the 1820’s for future German immigrants, which described his personal farming experiences in the rich river bottomlands of Missouri. Though I grant he may have embellished it so as to draw his fellow countryman here, it does, however, line up with the historic records of the “Little Dixie” region which spanned both sides of the Missouri River, which at one time was one of the most prosperous farming regions in the nation prior to the devastations of the War Between The States that ravaged much of western Missouri. It is taken from the Centennial History of Missouri, 1821-1921, by Walter Stevens. I have emboldened one sentence, which really stands out, as it testifies to an entirely different worldview than that of today’s American farmer.

A small family requires no more than four or five acres of land to begin with. Half an acre suffices for garden vegetables, another half acre for wheat, after which there left three or four acres for maize. The maize is the farmer’s main crop. One might call it the nurse of the growing population. It serves all domestic animals as food. The meal made of it, when cooked, with milk, furnishes a very nourishing, wholesome and palatable food. If it is kneaded with the boiled pulp of the pumpkin a kind of bread can be made of it which I prefer to wheat bread, especially if the dough has been made to ferment. The baking is done in covered iron pots, which are placed beside the hearth and are covered entirely with burning coals. In most of the households fresh bread is baked every day, which is not so much of a burden, since there are always supplies of burning coals on the spacious hearth. There are a great many varieties of maize here. Those with white or yellow kernels are the most common. Besides these varieties there are those of red, blue, and red and blue spotted kernels, a finally a kind whose kernels are transparent like pearls. The stalks become very high, ten, fifteen, indeed twenty feet high.


The garden supplies the best kitchen vegetables. Peas and beans prosper beyond expectation. Of the beans, only the finer varieties are raised. In order not to have to supply sticks for the beans and make special beds for them they are planted in the maize fields, where the high stocks of the maize furnish support for the vines. All these things thrive simultaneously, without the least fertilizer, and indeed after twenty years just as well during the first year. Cucumbers and melons are grown each year in great abundance without any special attendance being given them. The sweet potato is also a fine vegetable. When prepared by steaming, its taste resembles that of the fine chestnut.


During the second year, after the land is cleared, cotton can be grown; north of the Missouri, however, only for family use. It is the endeavor of the American farmer not to spend any money for food and drink, nor for clothing (finer alone excepted). For this reason he grows flax and hemp and keeps a small flock of sheep. The spinning wheel is nowhere lacking, and if the household does not own a loom, the housewife or one of the daughters goes, from time to time, to one of the neighbors who does possess one.


At one time the American farm was like a small village, having several buildings dedicated for the diverse elements of its self contained, small scale economy (once known as “home economics”), which produced a whole variety of items meant to meet the needs of the farmer’s family first, and then as production permitted to sell to the surrounding community, which created the synergy for a strong local economy. It wasn’t that long ago that forty acres of decent farmland and a good span of broke mules could do a lot towards building a prosperous “family farm” in Missouri.

When I say family farm, I am not talking about the modern mono-crop or commodity farm that is often run by families, though I intend no offense to them as I realize they work extremely hard, but the problem is that they do not work for themselves, but for corporate agribusiness as indentured servants that must perpetually consume their farming products (equipment, chemicals and fertilizers, etc.) to keep the farm going, a loosing arrangement over time, except of course, for the huge corporate farms that receive the lion’s share of hundreds of billions in federal subsidies, a form of corporate welfare paid for by the American taxpayer. The plight of the average American farmer reminds me of the joke about the farmer that was asked what he would do if he won the lottery. He answered that he would just keep farming until the money was gone.

Praise the Lord, however, that there appears to be a growing movement in the rural areas of America towards restoring the true family farm—an independent farm that produces most all of the needs of its human stewards and the inputs (fertilizers, feed, etc.) it needs to sustainably produce livestock and crops from year to year—though not in isolation, but in tandem with other neighboring farms of the same mindset. As it stands now, the locally productive family farm is a rare bird, a lost heritage, save among the Amish, and even they are fighting for their lives these days because of the debt-based system and ever encroaching governmental regulatory agencies that have them cornered, like everyone else.

Drive around the countryside here and you will see small farms abandoned everywhere with collapsed buildings and bone yards full of rusting equipment, a solemn testimony to the “consume and discard” mentality that dominates us today. An ever growing number of farmers do not produce anything on their farms for personal consumption and do their shopping at the local Wal-Mart, where they buy food produced thousands of miles away. Farms here still have lots of buildings, nice big steel ones, but they mostly house the behemoth pieces of equipment that produce the commodity crops for corporate America.

Walk through our local Wal-Mart and one will witness Americans in a very sad state of health and awareness, where grossly overweight folks fill their shopping carts to the top with pizzas, desserts, chips, pop, and other highly processed “foods,” if you can call it that, which are made from GMO products saturated with high fructose corn syrup and who knows what hormones, pesticides, and chemicals. What’s worse, many have no clue what real food is, where it comes from, or how it is produced, and sadly, many could care less, believing with entitlement faith that there will always be readily available food and the means to procure it, be it jobs, government subsidies, food stamps, and other forms of state welfare. What are they going to do when things reach the point in our nation where they will be forced to work by the sweat of their brow to actually produce the basic things they need? And if you don’t think this will ever happen, than you have no understanding how our economic system works or how incredibly vulnerable it truly is.

Folks, we have a real cultural disaster in the making and the state is not going to save anyone except itself, and that at your loss. We must turn to the Lord Jesus Christ and by His grace obey His righteous commands, wherein He promises that if we seek first His kingdom and righteousness, that all the things we need for life will be added unto us by His mercy and grace. Now there is true hope for the here and now, something we can truly put our faith into that will enable us to press forward, once again, as biblical pioneers like our forefathers.  — The Rural Missourian

4 Responses

  1. Carolyn Says:

    Great article! I lived that life in West Tennessee for ten years as a girl. I still remember the smells of the smoke house.

  2. Claudio Gomes Says:

    Thank you for the up lifting blog. Glad to have you back!


  3. Rural Missourian Says:

    Hi Carolyn, sorry to reply so late. Country life does a have a powerful affect upon one that stays with us. We are looking forward this fall (Lord willing) to making more sorghum molasses. Though it’s hard sweaty work, the fun and comradery of it makes it special. Say hi to Jim.

    Claudio, glad to have still on board as a reader. How is it going up there in Alaska?

  4. Clyde Roark Says:

    I have deep roots in southwest Missouri. Can’t wait to relocate from Ca.back there.Just read GODLY JUDGES
    2006 to now sounds like prophecy.

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