Part four of the MER documentary series, A Sense of Place. Program is titled “How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm?” and focuses on life on the farm and of the farmer.
Program contains various interviews, readings of author works, including Meridel Le Sueur and Louis Jenkins, and music segments.
Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.
This young snort from the agricultural School came out there to North Dakota to look over my land and my stock. He said he was going to appraise everything on my farm for the government. He said he was going to make a report on everything there and help me pull out of the red. Well, he looked over everything wrote it all down in the record need is a pen stuck his nose into everything there. He thought he just about had everything when he saw an animal looking around the house. We keep the Old Goat because we had him so long what TV on squirt Aston what's for I said, you're the expert here. You tell me I ain't supposed to tell you will he said I don't know what it is. I'll just have to wire back and find out what it is so I can put it down on my report.Alright, I says laughing you do that. So he wired cleaned Washington to secretary Wallace, I guess and he said there's an object here and I don't know what it is. It's long and lean with a bald head chin whiskers and feeling stomach a long sad face and sad cadaverous eyes. What is it and Wallace wired back you wet behind the ears mewling baby jackass. That's the farmer.We are at the crossroads of History. We don't want to be railroaded through we don't want fold up like a jackknife. There are things Solomon dear to us. This is a grave situation and we must stand together. Where are we to stand upon the future? The farmers are on the March? For a lot of reasons we're we're taking people from Atlanta putting the wrong place where we have more arable livable land in the United States than any country in the world. And instead of encouraging are people in cities to move there and they become a part of that. We're doing to get away around we're taking people from the farms and moving them into the cities. And if you travel the roads in any of our fighting States, you see Mt. Farm houses that are still standing. Miles and miles of them in the end they're concentrated in just one farmer by me at all. They appointed me to their Relations Board the spring and it's part of a few other bills that they have started in this District. I know something other group. I know therefore I have started was. The door the teachers have to get involved in studying minority groups. I forgot the name of it, but it's one of those call the cultural go by the way. And I didn't know this at the time either until the last meeting or this one of the representative came to our meeting and asked for references to study agriculture. because we seem to be the minority in this country ready. They work hard day in and day out and they satisfy themselves. They tend to satisfy themselves in large part with the what they consider a realistic appraisals of what's available to them. That doesn't mean that they should have what they have or they deserve what they have simply means that if you're living in a relative state of deprivation, if you always are looking as a at the highest levels of rewards and Eye Society, whether it's through TV commercials or someplace else is going to be a terribly frustrating experience one has to make the adjustment in a society where there is many an equities as there are in our society. I knew I had we can live on very little we've had extremely send years. I mean poverty Years Years with a couple thousand dollars income. But I raise all my own food organically here. We Supply ourselves totally in food. Password so I sell food organic stores and restaurants in the city and of the Guthrie, that's my biggest customer. Enjoy it. I don't think a lot of people actually realize that this could potentially be farming country it what it's traditionally been logging country in mining country. And that's the way it's always been looked at. But actually if a person is really willing to work and not take a risk. It's certainly you're not going to have a bumper crop of tomatoes or anyting but there are crops that can be raised up here fact a lot of people they look at you like you're crazy when you tell him you're trying too far and they just tell you why you won't be able to make it. A sense of place a documentary series, which looks at regions and regionalism in the state of Minnesota produced by Minnesota educational radio under a grant from the Minnesota Humanities commission. This program is called how you going to keep them down on the farm. From the days when 160 Acres of fertile Prairie Land in Western Minnesota felt like a kingdom to Scandinavian immigrants through grasshopper plagues droughts and the depression of the 1930s to today's immense agribusiness Enterprises and their opposites phenomenon, tiny organic operations. The idea of the farm has held claim to the imagination of minnesotans 0 Farm kids come to town to be where the action was could listen with Rye Amusement to City types who talked of getting a little piece of land somewhere being my own boss, but they knew what working with the land was all about and if all else failed that knowledge in their bones was not exactly like money in the bank, but a means to survival anyway, They're all Farmers to so it's been in the farm end of it. I think that there unless it's going to change. I mean Farmers always have been farmers and their sons. I've always been farmers and there's a very I've been very few people born in the city. Come through farm and started farming Ralph blinker has been farming his 157 Acres of Stearns County for a dozen years. He has a dairy herd and crops that help sustain it and though he's not a rich man. He's doing nicely blinker and his wife Korean are rearing a children in a spacious new home on their traditional Family Farm. once you're in the in the business you just grow with it and I just love to see things grow allowed to see what they see in the ground and see it come up and harvested and livestock new babies born as a calf. I love to see you come up and go. Is the daily routine of a fact to wear with which I just went and did one job everyday in the rest of my life. I don't accomplish anything and but working with something a cruise. I'm satisfied. I've got more of a risk in this business man. Ain't I play with nature? But this is part of everybody to find me business. If I had to do all the work alone in this Farm, I don't think it be this efficient because it is too many things to touch and turn over and do my brother lives next door, and we should be in Partnership and we want it back and forth. But there's nothing a specific that's for him or for me it will we do it all at Daily round of chores and the blank are youngsters all learn how to be good Farmers from the time. They're three years old has lot of things to do in the farm work. being a cows feeding calves when you first and then you put some milk and a calf pill and then and I know you should feed the cows and not if they're small and you just hold out so they can drink out of When they get bigger, like half a second date and beating all that drive tractor. Sometimes scared of hair you get strong. healthy Mickey Nike hat gentlemen's sometimes and sometimes and play Mattress By infection. meditate sometimes and sometimes all you got to be here. I have a veterinarian and a half mechanic and a half an accountant. And a strong back and a weak mind. Sometimes enjoy it when it rains and I can sit down and think awhile. By the direction for example 1972 the rains too much then will you want to see the bad things about it? Because it can dry on us. Midas in your mind, you just single different a small farmer Fred Andrew president of the superior farming company of California and Arizona told reporters in the March 1973 issue of Saturday review society. And there's no way you can do it today you need technology and you need efficiency and there's no way the individual farmer can do that is a big man. He's a small man. He's a laughing working tall man. He comes in all of sort of shapes and sizes. Happy sad wide and lean. He's a farmer. He's tomorrow's breakfast with a grin on his face is the nation's breadbasket with a cock left. Eyebrow. He wakes at dawn to feed the world. He carries Nations on his big shoulders. He holds the Earth in his hands and lives by the sun. And the rain is America riding a tractor democracy wearing a straw hat. He's freedom holding a whole. He's the future of the world in the pair of blue overalls University of Minnesota sociology. Farming where this Diversified farming a whole series of products to commercial specialized for me. I am I say that about 60% of the farmers in the countryside are Marge home in the sense that they're not really essential to the production of food and fiber in this country as a whole now. I know that sounds right crass and if I were a farmer and somebody said that I would resent that statement, but when you look at the picture you find that 80% of the product of food and fiber in this country having to be produced by about 20% of the farmers. That means that the remainder produce very little and you could say that. Hey. Even those 20% who produced the 80% are not practicing the highest levels of efficiency with regard to inputs technological inputs and other ring but labor inputs and so forth Russell the land and squeeze life from the angry soil armies march on his muscles cities eating his labors. He feels the marketplace and makes the wheels of Commerce World. He's a farmer politicians promising things Bankers respect him middleman live off him. He's day labor and capital list handyman and boss toolmaker mechanic veterinarian salesman purchasing agent production manager weather forecaster and Good Neighbor given the organization of the family farm. And having a farm life more less coterminous with the life of the farmer himself and not thinking sort of an indefinite timeline the way the corporation does and then thinking of hiring labor and so forth to work on a farm as a corporation does you would think the limit the Enterprise to the availability of family labor into the activities of the farm owner? So you have a completely different frame of reference as well as timeline that you happen to be working within the Family Farm see that timeline of changing a nose of efficient Farms, even though they remain Family Farm as many of them have a timeline that exists beyond the life of the family in the sense. They're beginning to think of extending the farm and definitely the one they make Capital Investments and land Investments some other family may take it on or they may sell at a certain point to another family so that the lifespan of the farm that is what buildup in a decline in the farm is not the same as the buildup in a person's life. Another client has was true of the old family fun. He likes the smell of alfalfa fields and the look of dawn coming over a mountain and the sound of cattle in the middle and the Johnny jig of a hold of the music of small streams and look of trees climbing a hill. He likes the breath of air filter through growing fields and the echo of a Sharp axe cutting into a tree trunk. He likes the look of corn chucks at Autumn time and the smile of a harvest moon. He's a farmer still a lot of quote Family Farm as Farmers farming. Let's say of the way it wasn't a past in terms of the value system of the so-called family farm is probably best represented by part-time Farmers today most of them. Well, let's say 1/3 or better of the farms in the United States are part time Farmers. They produce about 2% of the marketable farm products. They're out there because they're the values that they associate with that type of activity and that's the old notion of family farming. You see it was a way of life. Not a business Enterprise. It had certain value is Beyond profit-making in terms of the the values that it might have for one set up aesthetic appreciation of his environment or the interrelationship between him and his wife these so-called social economic and of the family unit operation the togetherness values or whatever else one might associate traditionally with farming. He's the meat and potatoes of a Nation. He's a ham and eggs on the menu at a restaurant. He's Halloween pumpkins and cold watermelon to the Fourth of July picnic. He's the turkey and yams and a Thanksgiving Day dinner table. He's a farmer tan and lean he's always the first of the Pioneers he breaks Frontiers and clear is the earth contains the land for the city men to come. He's a strong man and a gentle man strong enough to hold a plow in line against the harder and gentle enough to caress a newborn calf with Loving Hands is tall strong Sons fight the nation's Wars and is busting wife brings gentleness and peace to the rock play in the wild valleys. The fact remains that there are still Millions upon millions of people who are seeking to fulfill their life. So desires and experiences in Open Country Inn in small communities throughout the country and I think that's what we should do is consider Equity among different types of social structures for Citizens is a whole had to in order to do that. We're going to have to begin to think of the to what degree can we permit people to live in areas that might have to be subsidized not only economically but socially, you know, in terms of some type of social policy regarding Social Services, which might cost US dollars but in the final analysis way to say this is a desirable balance of types of social organization and types of life experience that Americans may choose. He's a farmer always Yvette's his muscles in his know how I'm the heat of the Sun in the turn of a rain cloud. Sometimes you win. Sometimes he loses the gods make him sweat for his winnings your bills are schools and he was a law. For the church's he takes a wild man and teams into the peaceful acres and he makes the Smoke Rise From friendly chimneys dotted across the plains. His hands hold the church bells on Country Sundays. He lives by the code of the land never refuse is a helping hand to a friend or stranger. He's America's best customer. He's the world's most constant. Hope he's the most useful man in America. He's a farmer. Steven Pitt writing in the North Country Annville number 5, why did my parents like farming so much? Why do they never complain? Why do they never want to sell the farm and seek a different way of life? How could they be unaware of what was happening around them? How could they actually choose to live in a farm when so many others were selling their Farms finding comfortable jobs and leaving the good life. Feeling to find the answers to these questions by the time I finished high school. I was resolved to find the good life, which my parents for some reason had ignored. Well, I graduated from college earn a master's degree got married and found a job tomorrow. I will have to get up at 6 in the morning and start my hour drive to work over an overcrowded congested freeway. I'll have to work in a windowless office breathing air polluted by Cigar and cigarette smoke. I'll fight my way through traffic to the grocery store to buy a quart of milk. I'll have to make a TV dinner because my wife will still be on the freeway trying to get home from her job. I'll take my son to the zoo to see the animals. I'll see about getting the air conditioner fixed. I'll send a check to the health spot. I'll apologize to my wife for complaining constantly about my job my boss the traffic the noise and a million other things. I am 25 years old today. I know now why mom and dad never thought the good life. They had it all the time. a farmer by a farmer by I would not marry a railroad. I'd rather. And If Ever I marry all in my life, I would not marry a doctor. Beverlye Mario in my life. I would not marry a lawyer mandatory. the office guy Minnesota poet Lewis Jenkins And she smells the clean sheets. The farmer's wife remembers the 1930s wind-whipped the clothes on the line blows her dress tight against her heavy legs the farmer and his dirty over all searches through years of broken Machinery behind the barn searches through tall sunflowers through the nests of rabbits and mice with a wrench in his hand looking for exactly the right part or one that might do seven skinny cows lie in the mud where the tank overflows throughout the hot afternoon the windmill continues to pump long drafts of cool water. Just like a mob coming in really you don't you don't believe it. You can't see anything but this wave of people coming down the aisles. You don't really I don't know how to explain it. It's a real experience ever the first time. You've been at the market on a Saturday for instance, which is your really your busiest day. It's just unbelievable. You know, if the doors are closed and everybody's inside the market kind of all the farmers are just kind of waiting and tensed up and standing by the booth and you hear this noise outside of the market. I know what else you can call it. It's just human noise and then the next thing, you know the doors open and Paul you just flooded nearest people standing six or seven. In the lines are probably 10 lines across the front of each Booth. You know, it's just like a big sale at one of your supermarkets or something, you know, it's just Fantastic, but it's funny cuz you're dealing right with the people, you know, when you can talk to him a little bit and everybody's got kind of a funny word or a kind word to say and we don't see too many grouchy people coming on. vegetables just a good group of people I can. guys are getting it and it's big happy family trading is what it is you. Bob and Chris Walton are performing the somewhat remarkable feat of growing in the rocky soil and capricious climate of Northeastern Minnesota. Just outside to lose some 17 Acres of vegetable crops for sale through the farmer's market and out of the home on their tenant Farm in their mid-twenties and rather more practical than philosophical The Waltons had no Farm experience in their backgrounds. They learn how to do it through college courses County agent's advice from other farmers and sometimes difficult experience. We had over the country all over the world. In fact, it was a bad year for farming. I wouldn't go into farming it if I didn't feel that you could make Not only living and support your family in a relative amount of comfort certain. You're not going to be driving Cadillacs, but you can have a car and have most of the Comforts that anybody else can having you can have a decent savings plan and you can look forward to retiring and supporting yourself comfortably I speak of subsistence farming. As being just that being able to support yourself and live comfortably for the duration of your life. You're not going to be hiring 10 or 20 other families and supporting them. You're just going to be subsisting yourself. You have to look at it from the family standpoint. My wife is as you know, one artist. Scioscia this is advantageous for her. She has to country living and she can pay you. Here. She has the quiet in the serenity that the country provides and I enjoy wildlife and I enjoy being able to raise my ducks and geese and chickens without somebody disturbing them constantly, and I enjoy being able to walk out in the field and have a beer fairly close by sort of like when our nation was young, you know on the pioneering family issue pioneering, you're certainly not a Pioneer in in the strict sense of the word, but your a pioneer as far as yourself goes your own values in your own ideals your you're still searching and you still developing and so are most of these other people that are going back to the Lander and you are helping one another just as the Early settlers did they really especially in this area? There isn't too many places you can go to for advice. you don't want to sound like you're trying to be a Hermit but it is nice to get away from people in the lookout and know that there's nobody back there, you know, just the land that just gives you a feeling of self-assurance and I don't know really how it it can or how it does but it does it just makes you feel good sit there and know that you're By yourself just you and land from rain gather a book of poems by Franklin Brainerd recently published by the Minnesota writers Publishing House. I put in cedar posts instead of pitch and was glad with the more temporary thing each has its Grace and strength, but I knew that cedar would see me through I felt the times as if there were something pompous about a longer impermanence. I have seen too many monuments of death whose carvings grow illegible in rural graveyards, the single hand its index finger up stands reminding and rum about the sign going home. Will manure is a temporary thing and so are the songs of those who sing walking behind the spreader. And all I take for better the singing of the folk who walk and know their walk. And if my Cedar Post become the soil that holds them and the rest of wires fail. I know another will build his fence on the same old heaving ground sensing that even wear my old post and they will no longer do on the biggest organic and that isn't any conceit that's their exaggeration. We can either five years ago after I left the Guthrie Theater. Variety reason I got family that I want to get out. But that wasn't the real reason. I think I was sick of the city's. I mean, that's an Escapist attitude. I did I run away from the city. I ran back to the kind of world that if I didn't know exactly from living in Nebraska on the front. I knew it was going to be like this particular Community just was a lucky guess I'd games now farming and writing near the town of Somerset Wisconsin farming in the north Midwest. It's the north far as I'm concerned. We get 90 days over lucky of growable weather. I'm really only invite about 5 months here with my animals. I've got 30 some head of cattle out there. I'm involved in a lesser capacity all year round, but that doesn't so really I can work for 5 months and then I'm free the rest of the year and it's the guy and I really enjoy the labor of farming and gardening. Yeah every did I tap my head work. It has had work in the sense that I hope Farmers aren't listening. It's idiot labor. I don't need to involve my head very much because most of it is very simple or not. I'm not talking about the decision to have to give me the actual labor throwing. Hey cleaning manure that kind of thing and what I'm doing that Your head really racist ahead. You're not aware of it. You know, it's like this like a question. It's like an empty prayer that things just heard a fill-in plus. I found that I'm writing more and more about the people. I grew up with what your real people and people are living with now. I mean, I think some of my best writing is about people who are non City people or Village People. I think you learn a different kind of respect for life, and I don't mean any exalted. lyrical kind of that's soul thing. I I'm not into that at all so much more kind of direct. You see yourself. You see people reflect an animals rather than seeing them rather than putting any kind of. Anthropomorphic Soul or something and I can tell him to watch a cow to try to nurse back or something. You get involved you're suddenly aware of how vulnerable you are yourself the few you invest so much of yourself and that you can't be a ride or relay and tell you what? I've hurt yourself. And since I'm kind of way, I don't mind a psychic way at all. But until you realize how much you care about things and you will learn that real very quickly on a phone. I hear you're open to things all the time. Every part of you has to be. I mean the people in the country will you tell me how to love again and not just love myself and my family my friends but the love of the world we've got people here. It sounds like an exaggeration but they can't wait to get up in the morning the love the love the change of climates when it's 40 below out here. It's a kick to them. It's a challenge to them and I get up at the bracing and I didn't have that feeling in the cities when it was cold and worried about your car wouldn't start. It wasn't trying to fight it not out here by Franklin Brainerd. Husband I come to you know, girl but a woman Earth from North Dakota. I have known the farm have milk cows have fortman or into the spreader have smelled the Deep ammonia of horse urine. I have borne the womb burden. I have borne and bear the what was of children. What was that? Hang is unaccountable is Moondogs or a dry differ? I come to you no girl, but I come rich with peasant blood and warm is Sundog potatoes. You shall have me warm beside you when winter turns over the roofs Edge. You still have me like something he'll for winter coming live with flavor from the double doors Root Cellar and when I take the pies from the oven and when I take the bread that used to do all the kitchen in the afternoon come kiss my neck and walk with me through the lake Garden. The farmer is the man is told by meridel Le Sueur in her book Northstar country published in 1945 by Dulce, Sloan and Pierce New York excerpts from the Articles how Fred Andrews tills the soil with a computer Saturday review Society March 1973 and 02 be back on the farm by Steven pitch North Country Annville number five poems by Franklin Brainerd originally published in North Stone review and now included in his book ring gatherer published by the Minnesota writers Publishing House 1973 and by Louis Jenkins from a forthcoming book to be published by the same princess music from the album so early in the morning and anthology of the 12 string guitar both on the tradition label and Oscar brand and Jean Ritchie an Archive of Our folk music production and special things to Chuck lilligren for reading the Dan Valentine verse. What is a farmer?