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.
The murders and suicides pointed to the hardships facing many. The feeling of camaraderie long prevalent in rural communities was often damaged beyond repair. Moreover, some of those who were struggling reported feeling shunned by their friends and neighbors.
Joan Blundall: People who I had sat with in church didn't come to church anymore. And it was foolish of me but I thought, well, we'll just knock on the door and see what is happening. And the farmer did not want to speak to me. I came back again, didn't want to speak to me, came back again. This was a man who used to drive me to church. And he said, don't you know we just can't go anymore. And he was the first farmer I spoke to who was about to lose the century farm.
Bob Lewis: I heard often times that they were thought of or people were thought of that were having financial problems as poor managers. Quite frankly I didn't see that so much. I saw people that were victims of circumstances that were beyond their control. I had a family that they both had off farm jobs and good insurance and farming several hundred acres and they both got laid off within a month of each other from their jobs so they lost their insurance and within two months after their insurance was gone their daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Theresa Sullivan: I remember going to church, going to mass and I just felt, I just felt creepy. I thought people were, all they were doing was criticizing us, I just felt creepy up and down my spine. But after mass there was a neighbor lady came to me and she put her arms around me and she said, it's alright Theresa, we like you, you are good people. And that meant a lot.
Reverend Ed Kail: You had the folks who were well positioned further along in their life cycle blaming the younger folks and how to call them to some kind of understanding and compassion apart from the grace of ten, fifteen years it could be you.
The family structure suffered. Farm men put up walls of silence, isolation and denial. Farm women often had to take on more responsibility regarding the farming operation. Alcohol abuse and domestic violence became more common.
Gary Lamb: I was at a court hearing once for a farmer and he said something I didn't think I'd ever hear. He told a judge, he said, you can take my wife, you can take my kids -- and there was tears rolling down his face -- but he said, don't take my farm. And I thought, my God, think of the kind of pressure that was on this guy. He's willing to sacrifice his family just to keep his farm. There was something there that people like you and I would never understand, see, because we haven't been in that position that we're ready to lose the farm. And to some of them that meant more than the family and it's unfortunate, it doesn't make sense but that was the reality of it.