A return to Austin Acres

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, May 14, 2011

More on how Austin Acres was developed this week. From “A Place on Earth: A Critical Appraisal of Subsistence Homesteads” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Agricultural Economics published in 1942:

“Austin, in Minnesota, is a one-plant town. [Editor’s note: The author of this government report must not have had access to “Progressive Austin” with information on the additional thriving industry in Austin in the 1930s.] Its economic base is concentrated heavily within a large packing company. most of its citizens work for the company in enterprises that serve the company employees. The town has grown as the plant has expanded. In 1926, about 1,800 of its 1,200 citizens were employed in the plant. In 1939, approximately 3,000 of the estimated 18,000 population were so employed.

The fortunes of the town have ebbed and flowed with those of the company and although for many years the flow has been rather steady, the depression years of the early thirties found a slight ebb. A somewhat larger-than-usual proportion of the company employees were working only part time, seasonal peaks in employment were accentuated, and wages for a large percentage of the workers were low. It was almost inevitable under these circumstances, particularly in a town surrounded by good farm country, that some of its citizens should develop an interest in the subsistence-homesteads movement.

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The president of the packing company communicated his interest to M. L. Wilson, Director of the Subsistence Homesteads Division, shortly after the passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act made possible Federal loans for the purpose of establishing subsistence homesteads. Mr. Wilson replied, in a letter dated Sept. 15, 1933, that loans for the establishment of projects comprising 50 homesteads adjacent to decentralized industrial plants were being considered: “We rather interpret subsistence homesteads to mean 2 or 3 acres of land upon which a workingman’s house can be built. We feel that house and land should not sell for more than $2,000.” He invited the president of the company to submit his ideas and proposals.”

Monday: Board of Directors, 8:30 a.m.

Tuesday: Social Concerns: “God’s Angry Man—The Incredible Journey of Priv. Joe Haan,” presented by Wayne Quist, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Board of Trustees, 4 p.m.

Wednesday: Tour from Montevideo, 1 p.m.

May 21: Tour from Shakopee, 10 a.m.

Coming Soon

After several schedule changes, the HHH, Austin Convention & Visitor’s Bureau and Community Education will present the next Cooking Tips & Trends on Wednesday, June 8, at 6 p.m. Chef Jack Irwin of the Cedars will present “Produce on the Grill and Beyond” with quick and easy recipes for summer produce. A special guest from the Austin Farmer’s Market will also present a segment. To register, call Community Ed at 460-1700. Cost is $15.