The Agrarian Ideal was Only Ever as Real as the American Dream


From it’s conception, Americans have fantasized about owning their own land to farm and subsist off of, a simple life where you work and care for yourself and yours by living off the land! However, it isn’t that simple. While this idea was easy to make true in the early stages of America because there was an abundance of cheap land, surplus quickly became profit, and from there was the downfall of the so-called agrarian ideal.  

The issue with the agrarian ideal is that as soon as the growth of food goes from simply trying to feed your family for the year being sold in markets, there’s a sudden push of competition that instantly leads to the death of the idea. As people try to make the land they could have farmed for generations more and more competitive, they dry up the resources and kill the soil faster, which means there is a need for new land, which means war with natives, imperialism, and power struggles that the agrarian ideal is supposed to free people of. 

Thomas Jefferson can call those who toil the land god’s chosen (while owning slaves who toil the land) all he wants, but the truth is the agrarian ideal never was truly seen in America.  A country whose economy is built on the back of people farming for themselves, while relying on other industrialized nations for all the comforts industry brings, will never be powerful or rich enough to hold its own against industrial nations that want to take that breadbasket for themselves.  Hence why the Native Americans were conquered by Europeans.  It’s also important to mention that this agrarian ideal was a key factor in the use of slaves, which would also destroy the very ideal life that it proposes.

The agrarian ideal, unfortunately, was only ever as real as the American Dream.