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The Stag Table: 1940

The Stag Table: 1940

May 1940. "Boys eating their lunch at the WPA nursery school at Casa Grande Valley Farms. Pinal County, Arizona." Photo by Russell Lee, Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Looks like cabbage, carrots and spinach. The spinach of course is eaten last (some things never change). If there was any meat, it's long gone. Brings to mind what my father used to say to me and my three younger brothers when there was a rare reluctance to finish our plates: "At least eat your meat!" Not 'til I was an adult did I realize why he said that. Meat was the only thing on the plate he and my mom couldn't grow -- thus it was the only thing on the plate he had to PAY for!

A Cooperative is not Socialism

KAP, Casa Grande Valley Farms was a cooperative. It operated under cooperative principles, which mostly involve providing economies of scale. The Federal government has been supporting agriculture through cooperatives since the Federal Land Bank was formed in 1916. The FSA my have initially allocated the same resources to each member as part of getting each farm started, but to say the government dictated nearly every aspect of their lives is ridiculous. The FSA did not tell everyone when to go to bed, where to worship, what to purchase at the general store, etc. Further, such a statement totally contradicts your later statement that "The settlers were unable to cooperate because they were involved in a ceaseless struggle for power." According to your first quote -- the FSA controlled all the power.

Eat your greens

The one youngster is leaving his greens until last (albeit his tongue is out in anticipation of the next bite of whatever has his attention -- potatoes? Cabbage? Anyone?) while the other seems to be throwing down on his. My grandchildren would be retching. Something I am not proud of. In other news, I would love to have a set of those dishes.

That lettuce is tough

Perhaps the boy might have an easier time with the lettuce, if he ate his spinach and channeled his inner Popeye.


So many things to like in this photo. The boys’ towheaded cuteness. The tongue with the morsel of food on the left. Eating everything on their plate without objections due to food allergies or vegetarianism (I’m assuming). Their readiness for action at such a young age. Eating it all with a spoon (no need for fork and knife). And (another assumption), I would bet on them to kick the butts of any current daycare kid the same age. (I realize I’ve said so many potentially objectionable things, but I don’t care.)

Food pyramid

I can't help the impression that even back then kids considered some types of greens to be greener than others.

What I can't make out is whether these kids were saving their favourite greens to enjoy them last, or whether that leafy stuff (kale? spinach?) is actually at the bottom of the pyramid of preference.

A failed experiment

Casa Grande Valley Farms was an FSA experiment in a socialistic system, where all farmers were assigned equal work, paid equal wages and had equal housing. The government dictated nearly every aspect of the lives of the tenants.

However, human nature and the dilemma over differentiating work ethics took over and the experiment failed after only two years. Edward Banfield, in his book on the project, put it this way; “The settlers were unable to cooperate because they were involved in a ceaseless struggle for power”.

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