Biblical values revived in family economy, time-tested trades
Biblical values revived in family economy, time-tested trades
Randall Murphree
Randall Murphree
AFA Journal editor

Above, bar graph for a butcher.

September 2021Durable Trades: Family-Centered Economies That Have Stood the Test of Time is a book among books – a volume of infinite value for families who dare hope to regain lost ground in weakening family relationships.

When Rory and Becca Groves left their Minneapolis suburb in 2012, it was not a totally comfortable decision, yet their minds were positive, their motives pure.

They were buying a small farm. They would create an environment in which they could invest more of themselves and their Christian values in their children. They were leaving city certainties for country question marks. For Groves, it would soon lead to abandoning the daily commute into the city and becoming fully immersed in life on the farm.

Computer codes to chicken coops, it was a learn-by-doing process. In that process, Groves began to study the events and eras that have most heavily impacted American family life – things like unfathomable scientific discoveries, erratic economies, industrial advances, public education, and world wars.

Then came his research into a broad spectrum of occupations – trades, he calls them. But don’t be misled by the word trades. Groves explores everything from physician to plasterer, midwife to minister, butcher to banker.

Analyzing reality
His exhaustive research resulted in Durable Trades. The book is a well-documented observation of how the nation’s upward track to affluence is in stark contrast to the family’s downward trajectory toward dysfunction.

In the Preface, Groves spells out his personal sobering state-of-the-society:

As Western nations revel in unprecedented wealth and power, we are increasingly preoccupied with collapse. … Corporately we have specialized in every field of knowledge. But individually we lack the basic understanding to feed, clothe, and shelter ourselves – knowledge that has been passed down through every generation except the last two or three. We are abundant with things but wracked with loneliness and starved for meaning.

Durable Trades establishes a historical context in Part I. Groves spent more than 2,000 hours and 3 years gathering data and narrative accounts. He cites 300+ sources, and offers a bibliography of 200 resources. The book went to press in early 2020 just before the world fell captive to the coronavirus. But its timely release makes the thought-provoking, reader-friendly volume highly relevant to today’s challenging family dynamic.

Activating recovery
The meat of Durable Trades is in Part II, practical evaluations of 61 vocations in which many generations have provided for families’ needs. Groves’ research also assures those vocations’ stability for the future.

“I present key findings that most indicated success for family-centered economies over the last two centuries,” Groves writes. For each trade, he studied and assigned numerical value to five elements – historical stability, resiliency, family centeredness, income, and ease of entry.

He also interviewed dozens of tradespersons and professionals, men and women. Next he combined their subjective insights with his more objective research and created a simple bar graph for each trade. Each graph is reinforced with additional information.

For example, consider how Groves measures the five elements for the butcher. (See illustration above.)

Groves admits that ranking trades is not an exact science, and his conclusions cannot guarantee success. Subsequently, he offers nine factors that will surely enhance the success of any wage earner in any field. They include having a passion for the work, seeking mentors, working toward ownership, avoiding debt, and more.

Durable Trades is a fascinating look at work in the context of today’s chaotic culture. The options he suggests can change a family’s future for the better.   

Front Porch Republic Books
290 pages,

(See the Groves family story here.)