Blue Shadows Farm: A Novel
Jerry Apps University of Wisconsin Press, 2009 Library of Congress PS3601.P67B58 2009 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
Fans of Jerry Apps will delight in his latest novel, Blue Shadows Farm, which follows the intriguing family story of three generations on a Wisconsin farm.
Silas Starkweather, a Civil War veteran, is drawn to Wisconsin and homesteads 160 acres in Ames County, where he is known as the mysterious farmer forever digging holes. After years of hardship and toil, however, Silas develops a commitment to farming his land and respect for his new community. When Silas’s son Abe inherits Blue Shadows Farm he chooses to keep the land out of reluctant necessity, distilling and distributing “purified corn water” throughout Prohibition and the Great Depression in order to stay solvent. Abe’s daughter, Emma, willingly takes over the farm after her mother’s death. Emma’s love for this place inspires her to open the farm to school-children and families who share her respect for it. As she considers selling the land, Emma is confronted with a difficult question—who, through thick and thin, will care for Blue Shadows Farm as her family has done for over a century? In the midst of a controversy that disrupts the entire community, Emma looks into her family’s past to help her make crucial decisions about the future of its land.
Through the story of the Starkweather family’s changing fortunes, and each generation’s very different relationship with the farm and the land, Blue Shadows Farm is in some ways the narrative of all farmers and the increasingly difficult challenges they face as committed stewards of the land.
Winner of the Margaret Mead Award of the Society for Applied Anthropology
The farm crisis of the 1980s was the worst economic disaster to strike rural America since the Depression—thousands of farmers lost their land and homes, irrevocably altering their communities and, as Kathryn Marie Dudley shows, giving rise to devastating social trauma that continues to affect farmers today. Through interviews with residents of an agricultural county in western Minnesota, Dudley provides an incisive account of the moral dynamics of loss, dislocation, capitalism, and solidarity in farming communities.
With very few people engaged in agriculture today, it is no surprise that most Americans have little understanding of the challenges that modern farmers face. This book provides readers a glimpse into life on a modern Missouri farm where a variety of grains, grass seed, corn, and cattle are produced. All of the conversations, events, and descriptions are drawn from the author’s experience working alongside and observing this father and son family farm operation during the course of a year.
Farming today is technologically complex and requires a broad set of skills that range from soil conservation, animal husbandry, and mechanics to knowledge of financial markets and computer technology. The focus on skills, in addition to the size of the financial risks, and the number of unexpected challenges along the way provides readers with a new perspective and appreciation for modern farm life.
n telling the story of five generations of her family and its farm in the Arkansas Delta, Margaret Jones Bolsterli brings together her own research, historical perspective, and family lore as it reaches her from the days of her great-grandfather down to her nephew. The result is a family saga that is at once universal and personal, historical and timeless. During Wind and Rain moves from the land’s acquisition in 1848 through the Civil War and Reconstruction, the 1927 Flood, the Great Depression, and the drought of 1930 to the modern considerations of mechanization, fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation. The transformation of dense swamp and forest to today’s commercial agriculture is the story of two hundred acres worked by people sowing their fate with sweat, ingenuity, and luck. From the hoes of Bolsterli’s great-grandfather Uriah’s time to her nephew Casey’s machinery capable of cultivating an acre in five minutes, During Wind and Rain poignantly portrays five generations of farmers motivated by dreams of “a crop so good that the memory of it can warm the drafty floors of adversity for the rest of one's life.”
Farm Girl: A Wisconsin Memoir
Beuna Coburn Carlson University of Wisconsin Press, 2020 Library of Congress F587.P6C37 2020 | Dewey Decimal 977.542042092
When Bunny Coburn was growing up, neighbors came together in times of hardship. No matter the trouble, they faced it with determination, camaraderie, and resourcefulness. In the midst of the Great Depression, despite record-breaking heat and crop failure, growing up on the family farm was nevertheless filled with bucolic pleasures. Farm Girl is Beuna "Bunny" Coburn Carlson's loving tribute to the gently rolling hills of western Wisconsin. With an inviting and fluid voice, she shares intimate moments of happinesses from her childhood: collecting butternuts for homemade maple candy, watching her father read by the flickering light of a kerosene lamp, and the joy of finding a juicy orange at the bottom of a Christmas stocking. Underlying each vignette is the courage of a strong family surviving adversity and finding comfort in one another. Hers is a memoir that readers can dip in and out of with pleasure.
A monumental transfer of farmland is occurring in the United States. The average American farmer is fifty-eight years old, and the 40 percent of farmland owners who lease their land to others are even older: sixty-six on average. Five times as many farmers are over sixty-five as are under thirty-five. What will happen to this land? Who will own it? What if one child wants to farm but can't afford to buy out the nonfarming siblings? What if keeping the farm in the family means foregoing the significant profits that could be earned from selling it? These sometimes painful and divisive questions confront many farmers and farmland owners today. How they answer them will shape their families and the land for generations to come.
The Farm Legacy Letters project, developed by the member-driven nonprofit Practical Farmers of Iowa, is designed to help farmers and farmland owners think about their farm’s future and talk about it with their families. An essential complement to handbooks on business succession, this book gathers the letters and stories of midwestern families about the land they cherish—how they acquired it, what they treasure most about it, and their hopes for its future. Some of the writers descend from families who have owned a particular patch of the earth since the 1800s, while others became farmland owners more recently—one as recently as 2015. Some are no longer farmland owners at all, because—after careful thought about what mattered most to them—they sold their land to the next generation of farmers.
All of these writers hope that, by sharing their farmland legacies, they will encourage others to ponder and then write about the histories, accomplishments, challenges, and hopes for their farmland for the generations who come after they are gone.
Farming has always been a dangerous occupation. In the middle of the twentieth century, as farmers adopted a wide array of new technologies, from tractors to pesticides and fertilizers, the dangers became more acute. The economic pressures that agriculture faced in this period compounded the perils of these powerful new tools, as farmers struggled to stay profitable in the face of widespread consolidation.
In this study of the farm safety movement in the Corn Belt, historian Derek Oden examines why agriculture was so dangerous and why improvements were so difficult to achieve. Because farmers were self-employed business owners whose employees were mainly family members; because they lived far from aid such as hospitals and fire stations; and because they had to manage such a diverse array of new technologies, they could not easily adopt the workplace safety and public health reforms designed for factories and urban settings. In response, beginning in the 1940s, farmers and a new breed of farm safety specialists relied upon an increasingly elaborate educational campaign to lessen injuries and illnesses on the farm.
Several government, business, and nonprofit organizations—from the US Department of Agriculture to the National Safety Council and 4-H and the Future Farmers of America—worked together to publicize both the dangers of farming and the information farmers needed to stay safe while driving tractors, applying anhydrous ammonia, or repairing machinery. By the 1960s, however, the partnership began to break down, and by the 1970s the safety movement became increasingly contested as professional and policy divisions emerged. This groundbreaking study incorporates agriculture into the histories of occupational safety and public health.
The year is 1955. Andy Meyer, a young farmer, manages the pickle factory in Link Lake, a rural town where the farms are small, the conversation is meandering, and the feeling is distinctly Midwestern. Workers sort, weigh, and dump cucumbers into huge vats where the pickles cure, providing a livelihood to local farmers. But the H. H. Harlow Pickle Company has appeared in town, using heavy-handed tactics to force family farmers to either farm the Harlow way or lose their biggest customer—and, possibly, their land. Andy, himself the owner of a half-acre pickle patch, works part-time for the Harlow Company, a conflict that places him between the family farm and the big corporation. As he sees how Harlow begins to change the rural community and the lives of its people, Andy must make personal, ethical, and life-changing decisions.
Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Outstanding Book, selected by the Public Library Association
The Cacapon and Lost Rivers are located in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia’s eastern panhandle. Well loved by paddlers and anglers, these American Heritage Rivers are surrounded by a lush valley of wildlife and flora that is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Although still rural and mostly forested, development and land fragmentation in the Cacapon and Lost River Valley have increased over the last decades. Listening to the Land: Stories from the Cacapon and Lost River Valley is a conversation between the people of this Valley and their land, chronicling this community’s dedication to preserving its farms, forests, and rural heritage.
United around a shared passion for stewardship, the Cacapon and Lost Rivers Land Trust and local landowners have permanently protected over 11,000 acres by incorporating local values into permanent conservation action. Despite the economic pressures that have devastated nearby valleys over the past twenty years, natives and newcomers alike have worked to protect this valley by sustaining family homesteads and buying surrounding parcels.This partnership between the Land Trust and the people of this Valley, unprecedented in West Virginia and nationally recognized for its success, greatly enriches historic preservation and conservation movements, bringing to light the need to investigate, pursue, and listen to the enduring connection between people and place.
In this much anticipated companion volume to Stories from the Round Barn, Jackson assembles a collection of rich narratives and a cast of inspirational characters to joyously illustrate life. In the tradition of Willa Cather, Jackson writes of innocence, simplicity, and what happens when both are messily shattered by the intrusion of animals, children, war, epidemics, and progress itself. With wit and compassion Jackson recollects the hardships and satisfactions of farm life as lived according to her grandfather's motto: "Life as Well as a Living."
On Behalf of the Family Farm traces the development of women’s activism and agrarian feminisms in the Midwest after 1945, as farm women’s lives were being transformed by the realities of modern agriculture. Author Jenny Barker Devine demonstrates that in an era when technology, depopulation, and rapid economic change dramatically altered rural life, midwestern women met these challenges with their own feminine vision of farm life. Their “agrarian feminisms” offered an alternative to, but not necessarily a rejection of, second-wave feminism.
Focusing on women in four national farm organizations in Iowa—the Farm Bureau, the Farmers Union, the National Farm Organization, and the Porkettes—Devine highlights specific moments in time when farm women had to reassess their roles and strategies for preserving and improving their way of life. Rather than retreat from the male-dominated world of agribusiness and mechanized production, postwar women increasingly asserted their identities as agricultural producers and demanded access to public spaces typically reserved for men.
Over the course of several decades, they developed agrarian feminisms that combined cherished rural traditions with female empowerment, cooperation, and collaboration. Iowa farm women emphasized working partnerships between husbands and wives, women’s work in agricultural production, and women’s unique ways of understanding large-scale conventional farming.
Persistent Progressives tells the story of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union’s evolution from an early movement against monopolists and wholesalers to a regional trailblazer for agriculture ideologies built on social democracy, the family farmer, and cooperative enterprises. As a continuing advocate for saving the family farm, the Farmers Union legacy provides a unique window into the transformation of the agriculture and rural communities in Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Using data spanning decades, author John Freeman covers the founding of the RMFU in 1907 until the present, demonstrating how members continually sought to control the means of production and marketing by forming cooperatives, providing consumer services, and engaging in politics. Powering this evolution was a group of “practical idealists”—the Farmers Union leaders and titular persistent progressives who shaped the organization’s growth and expansion. Initiated by Jim Patton, who brought the organization out of its oppositional roots and into its cooperative advocacy, the RMFU passed to John Stencel and then David Carter, joining hands with agricultural conservationists and small organic producers along the way to carry the torch for progressive agrarianism in today’s urbanized world. Shaken but undeterred by some notable failures, its leadership remains convinced of the efficacy of cooperatives as a means to achieve justice for all.
Discussing the broader social, economic, political, and environmental issues related to farming, ranching, and urbanization, Persistent Progressives seamlessly blends regional history with ongoing issues of agricultural and economic development.
Fresh from receiving a doctorate from Cornell University in 1933, but unable to find work, Charles M. Wiltse joined his parents on the small farm they had recently purchased in southern Ohio. There, the Wiltses scratched out a living selling eggs, corn, and other farm goods at prices that were barely enough to keep the farm intact.
In wry and often affecting prose, Wiltse recorded a year in the life of this quintessentially American place during the Great Depression. He describes the family’s daily routine, occasional light moments, and their ongoing frustrations, small and large—from a neighbor’s hog that continually broke into the cornfields to the ongoing struggle with their finances. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal had little to offer small farmers, and despite repeated requests, the family could not secure loans from local banks to help them through the hard economic times. Wiltse spoke the bitter truth when he told his diary, “We are not a lucky family.” In this he represented millions of others caught in the maw of a national disaster.
The diary is introduced and edited by Michael J. Birkner, Wiltse’s former colleague at the Papers of Daniel Webster Project at Dartmouth College, and coeditor, with Wiltse, of the final volume of Webster’s correspondence.
Shepherd: A Memoir
Richard Gilbert Michigan State University Press, 2014 Library of Congress SF375.32.G54A3 2014 | Dewey Decimal 636.31092
Upon moving to Appalachian Ohio with their two small children, Richard Gilbert and his wife are thrilled to learn there still are places in America that haven’t been homogenized. But their excitement over the region’s beauty and quirky character turns to culture shock as they try to put down roots far from their busy professional jobs in town. They struggle to rebuild a farmhouse, and Gilbert gets conned buying equipment and sheep—a ewe with an “outie” belly button turns out to be a neutered male, and mysterious illnesses plague the flock. Haunted by his father’s loss of his boyhood farm, Gilbert likewise struggles to earn money in agriculture. Finally an unlikely teacher shows him how to raise hardy sheep—a remarkable ewe named Freckles whose mothering ability epitomizes her species’ hidden beauty. Discovering as much about himself as he does these gentle animals, Gilbert becomes a seasoned agrarian and a respected livestock breeder. He makes peace with his romantic dream, his father, and himself. Shepherd, a story both personal and emblematic, captures the mythic pull and the practical difficulty of family scale sustainable farming.
Six Generations Here: A Farm Family Remembers
by Marjorie L. McLellan, with an essay by Kathleen Neils Conzen and a foreword by Dan Freas
Discover the story of the Krueger family, as images of farm, family, and landscape reveal the struggles of rural immigrant life in Wisconsin. Drawing on snapshots, memorabilia, and interviews, Six Generations Here brings together the voices of the past and the present to create a distinctive portrait of Wisconsin farm life.
Leaving their German home in 1851, the Kruegers came to America for economic opportunity. But like other immigrant families, they struggled to make ends meet. Only with the whole family helping out did they manage to get their Watertown farm up and running. By the turn of the century, they had achieved a life of middle-class comfort in the midst of the rigors of dairy farming. Over the generations, the Kruegers incorporated their past traditions with the needs of the present, adapting to the challenges of rural American life and, when necessary, breaking from the past. Despite these changes, their commitment to hard work and family persisted, shaped their identity, and ensured their success.
Through photographs, documents, and family stories, the Kruegers left a deep history of who they were and how they sought to be remembered. Follow their family through six generations as they compile a rich and varied record of Wisconsin life.
Stories from the Round Barn
Jacqueline Dougan Jackson Northwestern University Press, 2000 Library of Congress S521.5.W6J28 2000 | Dewey Decimal 977.587
Using stories, anecdotes, history, and even veterinary science, Jacqueline Dougan Jackson recreates life on the Dougan Guernsey Farm Dairy, founded in 1911 by W.J. Dougan near Beloit, Wisconsin. A fascinating mix of biography, oral history, and creative nonfiction, STORIES FROM THE ROUND BARN is a moving tribute to the legacy of generations past. 53 photos and line drawings .
Food sovereignty—or the right of a people to operate and control their own food and agricultural systems—has all but disappeared throughout much of the world, usurped by multinational corporations engaging in industrialized farming and global trade. The Struggle for Food Sovereignty examines the prospects and struggles of family farms, peasants, and others in the fight for control over local sustenance and rights of access to land and food. The authors examine the issues in both the global north and south, finding a common vision even amid apparently radically differing political and economic conditions.