Chasing the Agrarian Dream in Bells Bend, Tennessee

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Verlyn Klinkenborg
Essay Abstract: 
Bells Bend, the last rural corridor in Davidson County, Tennessee, immediately neighbors the city of Nashville. It’s protected by a horseshoe bend in the Cumberland River and by a community that has repeatedly fought off urban development—most recently a four-billion-dollar proposal in 2008. A growing number of young people have moved to Bells Bend and, without much prior experience in agriculture, started small-scale farms as an argument against urbanization. In this portrait of Bells Bend, I explore its agricultural history. I place it in context of the rural South and consider it in relation to Nashville. I describe the agriculture there now, as well as the history of development battles over the last few decades. I then examine intellectual approaches to agrarianism in the American tradition as a way to situate Bells Bend. I characterize the new agrarianism in Bells Bend by discussing the landscape and politics that sustain and surround it.