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The Town Herd: Community cooperation in rural turn-of-the-century Nebraska

 
William Lewis
Posts: 9
Location: Willamette Valley
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I've moved this post from the Homesteading forum.

Recently read this interesting aside in a pre-1900 book on home-made Nebraska windmills:

"This mill is used to pump water for the town herd. The larger as well as the smaller towns have their own herds. The cow herders, usually boys with ponies, go from house to house and drive together the cows of their herd, consisting of seventy-five to one hundred head each. These were driven to neighboring farms or to the open prairie pasture lands where they are fed, watered, and cared for during the day, and returned at night to their respective stalls. Thus a large number of people in towns and villages are able to have their own milk at small expense."

Do any Permaculture texts or teachers suggest this sort of intra-community cooperation? Permaculture it seems is typically presented on a private homestead-scale model with the focus on economics of human-to-the-rest-of nature interaction, but not much on economic co-operatives. The example above is a less-formal version of the farm co-operative, which arose in response to the stranglehold that bankers and railroads--the moneyed elites--had on farmers a century ago.

Permaculture seems to be practiced primarily by discrete entities, i.e., The Homestead, or, The intentional community. Although it strives for something better than the mainstream conventional modern nuclear family with house and yard, it is arguable that townfolk of turn-of-the-century rural America were way WAY ahead of where we need to be (or get back to) in terms of living qualitatively better lives while using a mere fraction of the resources and energy the typical permaculture homestead uses today. And it was done in large part due to a more economically and socially open, integrated community with less adherence to the kinds of money-related rules we have become accustomed, forcibly, to accept.

Does anyone have examples of how their permaculture homestead, backyard operation, or IT has participated in a kind of cooperative venture beyond their borders as the example above? That kind of cooperation was common in those days. Most of us have heard about the cooperatively owned threshers and how everyone would go farm-to-farm to bring each others' crop, cooperatively owned mills, etc. . .
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9407
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Sure, we share food, vehicles, tools and labor with neighbors.  This kind of sharing is common in rural areas. 

 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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The community herd is a very old concept which probably came to Nebraska with settlers from some parts of Europe.  It allowed individual families to keep their dairy animals while living in town, and provided employment to the young herdsmen.

Kathleen
 
                        
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
Sure, we share food, vehicles, tools and labor with neighbors.  This kind of sharing is common in rural areas.   


agree.  I'm working down in south-central KY on some land my father is still paying off.  He's got 113 acres, and the neighbors have 30-something.  They've run their cattle on his property for over five years now free of charge, used his tractors and heavy equipment, built and re-built his fences, kept an eye on his property while he's away, given him free eggs by the dozens...

Community is something that I feel is worth far more than an independently economically viable homestead.
 
Lee Einer
Posts: 169
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Here in northern New Mexico we had many such cooperative strategies.

Among them-

The ejido system of common land ownership- AKA community land grants-

The acequia system of democratic common water management by those who use the ditch-

A system of livestock gifting that enabled new herds to be established-

The matanza - a communal slaughter of pigs. Rather than develop a host of methods to preserve pork, community members would regularly hold matanzas. Young and old would show up, everyone had their role, the elders would direct, the children would gather firewood and water to scald the pig, women would cook, men would butcher, etc. The pork was cooked up and much of it consumed at the matanza. Care was taken also to distribute some to the elderly and infirm who could not participate. And into the evening, the singing, the music, the drinking.

In the old part of the town in which I live, one of the arroyos is named the manteca arroyo. Manteca being Spanish for lard. It is where many of the matanzas were held.

The matanza was not only a food distribution system, it was a cultural keystone. Through the matanza, everyone was brought together, and the lesson was reaffirmed that so long as everyone accepted their role in the community and contributed, everyone received what they needed in return.

There are events called matanzas in the area nowadays, but IMO they are not the same, they are usually some affluent dude putting on a feed, with employees doing the slaughtering and the cooking. Sends a far different message along the lines of "kiss the rich guy's backside and you'll get free food." Ick.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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