The Ties that Bind: An Inquiry in the Perseverance of Farming, Fiber Arts and Rural Ways of Life in the Face of Suburbanization

dc.contributor.authorWebster, Blythe
dc.description1 broadside
dc.description.abstractAs we progress into the next millennia it is worthwhile to note the direction our society is moving in; looking to trends in the past century can help illuminate the decades to come, but can also influence decisions about where we as a society want to go in the future. One-hundred and fifty years ago, the United States was still an overwhelmingly rural country. Since then, rural populations have almost consistently declined with each decade, and the characteristic rural institution, the family farm, is disappearing from the rural landscape faster each year. An integral part of who we are as a nation is lost with each foreclosed and bankrupt farm. Still we sit by and do nothing while family after family loses property and a way of life passed down through generations that has shaped who we are as Americans. Beginning in the 1970s a large number of people were going ‘back-to-the-land’ to regain a disappearing connection. The 1990s saw another shift in population, with more and more people leaving urban areas for rural communities. Yet the profiles of these more recent urban-rural migrants are quite different than the generation before them. In a very real sense this current urbanrural migration is just the next extension of the suburbs, yet another destructive force for rural life and communities. Still, in other areas of American life we see recognition of the importance of traditional skills and knowledge associated with rural life. This is most obvious in the sphere of the fiber arts: knitting, spinning and weaving. Today Americans, and not just women, are turning to these century old traditions for many reasons, not the least being an escape from modern life. There is almost an inherent recognition of the place fibers play in individuals’ development as well as American culture. Yet, while rural communities are on the decline, some small farmers are holding tight, and traditional skills are being sought after. How and where do these major trends in American society meet? And most importantly why are these realities here and now? The best way to measure the answers to these questions is to talk with those individuals still working small farms and participating in the fiber arts. That is the purpose of this study, to find out why these people are still holding on to rural life and tradition, even in an area that epitomizes the aforementioned “new suburbanization.”en
dc.titleThe Ties that Bind: An Inquiry in the Perseverance of Farming, Fiber Arts and Rural Ways of Life in the Face of Suburbanizationen