Non-profit grows Austin

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, May 21, 2011

We continue to explore the development of Austin Acres this week, with detail on the group that planned the project in 1933. 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:

“A local group composed of J. C. Hormel, M. F. Dugan, Treasurer of the company; Park Dougherty, President of the company-controlled bank in Austin, and now vice-president of the company; R. P. Crane, local lumber dealer and heavy stockholder in the company; N. F. Banfield, President of First National Bank of Austin; Jacob Herzog, and W. C. Wiegand, local Smith-Hughes teacher, organized a non profit corporation. Under advisement from Washington they obtained options on possible sites, prepared a project proposal, and formally requested a Federal loan. A study made by the Division of Subsistence Homesteads indicated, among other things, that more than 200 families in the area were then supplementing their cash income by subsistence farming. On Dec, 15, 1933, the project proposal was approved and an allotment of $125,000 was made available by the Secretary of the Interior for it’s development.

The local corporation, known as Austin Subsistence Homesteads, Inc., with the aid of specialists from the University of Minnesota and Iowa State College [Editor’s note: now Iowa State University in Ames, IA] examined several tracts of land and promptly bought 216 acres within a mile of the city for $10,310, an average of $48 per acre. It is generally considered a good buy.

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Local engineers and a local architect were employed to prepare plans for subdivision and construction. Under the direction of the corporation they developed plans for an inexpensive Cape Cod style of house. It was to contain a living room, two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a dining alcove on the first floor, and an unfinished second floor large enough for three bedrooms. It was to be wired but was not to be equipped with electric fixtures, provision was to be made for future installation of a furnace and bathroom, but neither was to be put in at first. A chicken house was planned as the only out building aside from the privy. Houses were to be placed in straight rows along straight roads. The guiding principal was low cost. Families were to be encouraged to add facilities as they desired and as they could at some later time.”

[Editor’s note: The Smith-Hughes teacher mentioned in the first paragraph refers to a federally-funded Vocational Agriculture teacher, so named because of the Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education Act of 1917, which established the program.]

Thursday: Tour from Owatonna, 1:15 p.m.

Coming Soon

Cooking Tips & Trends

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.

Family Fun Day

The Attractions of Austin, Austin CVB,&  Austin Area Chamber of Commerce present Austin Family Fun Day on Saturday, June 18. These attractions will be open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with free admission: Mower County Historical Society, Paramount Theatre, Hormel Historic Home and The Hormel Institute.

The SPAM Museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with free SPAM Samples.

The Jay C. Hormel Nature Center is offering free “Summer Solstice Ecoblitz” from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pre-registration is required for Ecoblitz activities. Forms for registration are available at the Nature Center. For more information or questions contact the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau at 437-4563.