Review of Reviews

Self-Support for the Unemployed

EDWARD DIX November 15 1934
Review of Reviews

Self-Support for the Unemployed

EDWARD DIX November 15 1934

Self-Support for the Unemployed

EDWARD DIX

WHEN THEY SAY at Kingsley Farm that the place is doing well, more likely than not they are thinking less of farming than of the men who work the farm, for Kingsley is one farm in Ontario where they do not measure profit by the yield of the acre.

In the heart of rich farming country not far from Toronto itself, commanding nearly 400 productive acres, it is a profitable farm, no doubt of it. But wheat, vegetables, fruit, chickens and pigs do not concern i Kingsley Farm so much. It is only half the i story; the other half—the half that counts — is the men who are making Kingsley j Farm.

There arc sixty of them, and they are there because they have nowhere else to go. They are farm laborers because they have no other work to do.

Willing men, all of them, strong, able and intelligent, it's no secret that if they had their own way, they would choose differently; but rather than the heartbreaking repetition of looking for jobs where there aren't any, rather than an aimless drifting from day to day in a Toronto hostel, they came to Kingsley Farm to work—not for the sake of the farm or farming but for what working at this time means to them.

They’ve turned the old farmhouse into a place that would look good on the most prosperous Ontario farm. Here the men live. Here are their dormitories, their reading room, dining room, kitchen, laundry. See how they keep everything bright and neat; how, outside the house, the lawns are cut, the hedges trim, the flower beds attended. This impression of thoroughness and care follows you into every part of the farm—the barn, the vegetable and flower gardens, the fields, the chicken house.

It’s work for its own sake here, and payment is food, shelter, clothes and the daily ration of tobacco.

It’s an experiment grown out of necessity that they are trying out in that pleasant countryside. Its purpose is the restoration to some sort of order and hope of men broken and bewildered by unemployment, and it has been going on unobtrusively and successfully for the last three years. It is probably the only one of its kind in Canada.

When the project of a farm for unmarried unemployed men suggested itself to the group of Toronto businessmen who had taken over from the city the management of the Toronto hostel—now the Toronto Hostel, Incorporated—they weren’t sure the idea would catch on with the men, though they were willing to try.

In those days in Toronto, as in every Canadian community, the problem of the single unemployed man was acute. It is true there was relief for him, and he had his hostels. But the problem, as these businessmen saw it, did not end there. The problem was: how were you going to keep these jobless men from giving up, how were you going to preserve their spirit and morale?

Well, here was this farm, 400 acres of it, near the small town of Aurora. It could ! be leased. Why not turn it into a centre—a working centre—for the men? It seemed a good idea. Would the City of Toronto help? It would, to the extent of forty cents a day for each man. Were there citizens in Toronto public spirited enough to see the good in the plan and support it? There were, many of them.

Would the men go?

Well, said the men, what have you to offer us if we go?

Work, lodging, food, clothes, tobacco, for one thing, it was explained. For another a chance among healthy surroundings to mend your health if want and poverty had broken it, to patch up your spirit if bad luck i had shattered it—a chance to do something while waiting for something better to come along. In other words, a breathing space;

a rest; a chance to renew your strength.

The men seemed agreeable. Would they be paid for their work? No. Would they be restricted? No. Would their hours be long? No. PYom eight-thirty to noon and from one-thirty to five-thirty. Would the food be good? Better. Would they be able to keep up their connection in the city? Yes. There was a truck to town every .Saturday.

Yes, said the men, they would go to Kingsley Farm.

And from that day, three summers ago, they have been going there, hundreds of them, men of all classes—professional men, artisans, tradesmen, laborers—and since the farm can accommodate as many as sixty at one time it never wants for men to work in its fields.

Is there any future in the plan? Well, Kingsley Farm isn’t solving the unemployment problem. There will be as many unemployed men working there this winter— and, for all we know, many more winters to come --as there have been in the past three years. But there are other phases.

Are they happy? They are. But happiness with them is now a matter of proportion.

Is working on a farm doing them any good? At least it is benefitting their health, though it isn’t putting any money in their pockets. Kingsley Farm would give anything to be able to pay them, but at least it is making them fitter for the time when they get a job. It is keeping up their spirit.

Walking through the farm, looking at the men at work, you know it’s no use sentimentalizing about it or feeling sorry for them; that it’s distorting the picture to think that this man who was well on the road to a successful career must now feed pigs, or this man, once rich and his own boss, must clean out a stable yard. At least they’re working; they can eat now, they have a place to sleep and tobacco to smoke. A man could be worse off these days.

That autumn evening, the men were coming in from the fields. The day's work was done, it was their supper time. In the dining room they were all there, and while they sat eating, other men bustled about, bringing in more food from the kitchens, the food that they all had helped to produce.

And looking at them sitting there, you realized suddenly that they were not all young men ; that the greater number of them were middle-aged.

“Yes, the average age runs about fortyfive,” said the man who had been showing me around. “The middle-aged men are our problem here. What's to be done with them? Industry won’t absorb them again. No one will have them. Yet they are all strong and willing, and there are still many good years of hard work ahead of them. No, no one wants the man of forty-five years and over these days.”

Then he added: “It's the government’s job, I suppose. They’ll have to deal with the problem sooner or later. Yet here at Kingsley Farm we feel we may be able in time to do something. If we could make the farm more than self-supporting; if we could afford in time to pay them for their labor, that would be something. We would be able to take care of the middle-aged man, then.”

And that is the idea behind Kingsley Farm.

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ANEW electric erasing machine, light, compact, and durable, is designed to be held in the fingers like a pencil, rather than in the fist and thus to enable the operator to main;a;n accurate finger control when erasing pen or pencil lines from tracings or drawings. The machine is operated by a self-contained electric motor operating on 110 volts.—Scientific American.