Iowa Public Television


Farmers Battle the Farm Crisis Alone

posted on October 10, 2013

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This segment is part of the The Farm Crisis documentary, which examines the tragic circumstances faced by farmers for most of the 1980s, when thousands were forced into bankruptcy, land values dropped by one-third nationally, and sky-high interest rates turned successes into failures seemingly overnight. 

But these actions and others like them did not necessarily represent the experience of most farmers.  Studies suggest that less than two percent of Midwestern farmers actually took part in public protest during the 1980s and that fewer than one in a hundred joined political action groups.  Most farmers, both men and women, were silent, battling the crisis alone.

December 6, 1984 -- I feel a hundred years old.  Fourteen years of farming and we never made a dime.  I'm 44 years old and I'm back to zero.  I'm ready to sell out.  I hate to lose my homeplace, but I can accept defeat when I have to.  I could mourn forever all the lost dreams.  I don't sleep well and the rage in me is about to explode.  I just can't go on.  I have to hide my feelings from the kids, from the folks.

Kaye Hagedorn: Well, I had always been taught that you didn't talk about finances, that or politics or church were kind of forbidden topics.  So I might crab about the prices or about having to borrow money or something like that but no, you really didn't confide about the troubles that you were having.  And we didn't feel that we could turn to Dean's parents either because in the first place his dad at this point had passed away and his mom's health was kind of fragile and she just depended on him so much.  So there wasn't any place to turn.

Paul Lasley: And how tragic it is, proud people, hardworking are caught in the vortex of these global and international forces that they can't control.  And the level of hurt that you could see in their eyes, proud people and often times very stoic and not showing emotions.  So the bigger sweep was the level of despair, the sense of loss.

Tags: agriculture documentaries families farm farm crisis farmers Iowa rural