Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sharecropping the 21st Century by Jeff Olson

We often think that sharecropping ended with Steinbeck’s Joads as they fled the Depression and Dust Bowl Oklahoma for the orchards of California. Their tragic story exchanged the myths of the yeoman for those of the wage slave. Sharecropping, however, survived Steinbeck and Depression.

Sharecropping, the exchange of land-use for a portion of the crop, continues, and is in fact, at the heart and the basis of American agriculture–rotting it from the core. Farmers just don’t call it sharecropping. Landlords don’t call it sharecropping. Nor do banks, newspapers, merchants or the federal government. But sharecropping today, just like farming, continues to change with the American economy.

American farming saw its first major transition while Jefferson was still alive. His dream of the independent, yeoman farmer on a small plot of Western land died before he did, we just don’t talk about it. The Market was already taking care of that. more...


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