Sunday, May 20, 2012

Depression-Era "Live at Home" Program: A Revival?

During the Great Depression in North Carolina, Governor O. Max Gardner established the "Live at Home" program, a state-sponsored initiative to encourage rural struggling farm families to produce what they would need for sustenance at home, or, as we know it today, to homestead!

Governor O. Max Gardner,  Image Source

The trying economic times during the early 1930s meant that cash crops like cotton and tobacco were no longer bringing the sums farmers once knew. The "Live at Home" program encouraged and helped to train families to devote more land to growing foodstuffs that would be needed for survival rather than using that land for cash crops. That way, families could spend less on food and essentials produced at home that they were formerly buying at the general store or local market. With fewer cash crops being sold, this would help prices to rise.

Governor Gardner partnered with the College of Agriculture from what is today North Carolina State University, the Department of Agriculture and the Extension Service to assist him in his efforts to grow and consume locally-grown food, train families in the arts of raising livestock, canning and preserving, and cultivating successful vegetable gardens. Home demonstration agents and 4-H clubs helped spread the campaign and educated local communities. The program proved to be very popular, so much so that local and county groups began hosting their own Live-At-Home training events and homegrown feasts.

Governor Gardner especially promoted the Live-At-Home program in public schools, implementing curriculum that taught children basic homesteading, gardening, and animal husbandry skills. Don't you think this is a GREAT idea for today's youth as well?

In this time of economic recession and financial hardship for many, perhaps we need a revival of the "Live at Home" program. Tutorials, educational resources, classes, training--all of these things could help families get started with homesteading to ease their pocketbook and make their home a healthier place.

What do you think? Is a revival of the "Live-At-Home" program needed? Would it make any difference?

(For more information on the Live-At-Home program, please visit for a wonderful article written by my former fellow co-worker and Associate Curator at the NC Museum of History, Diana Bell-Kite.)

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