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Harvest of Hope

Harvest of Hope: Family Farming/Farming Families

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Harvest of Hope
    Book Description:

    The image of the family farm as storehouse of the traditional values that built this nation -- self-reliance, resourcefulness, civic pride, family strength, concern for neighbors and community, honesty, and friendliness -- persists, as many recent surveys show. But the reality of this rich tradition is rapidly changing, eroding the security once represented by these nostalgic images of rural America.

    Although the United States is still by far the world's leading overall producer of agricultural products, the number of American families making their livelihood through farming is much diminished, and if our demographers are correct, the number of family-operated farms is destined to fall still further in the coming decades as consolidation, cycles of boom and bust, and corporate invasions redefine who will farm the land.

    Harvest of Hopeis a story of farm family life through the words of those who live it. The saga of the generations who have lived and worked on Basin Spring farm in western Kentucky is the thread that binds together the stories of eighty other farm families. They talk about their family businesses, their way of life, and the forces reshaping their lives.

    The challenges of making a living in farming either strengthen families or break them. Technology, government programs, and community changes that are supposed to be the hope for their future often come with unexpected drawbacks. The stories in this book -- tales of growing up in farming, working in a multifamily business, juggling jobs on and off the farm, and struggling to maintain financial security and comfortable working relationships -- reveal what American farming families know about hope and survival in a changing world.

    The authors offer a multifaceted view of the present situation, as well as suggestions for ways of enhancing the positive elements that have enriched and inspired Americans in the past. It is an analysis that highlights the myths and realities of a business and way of life that has a powerful hold on the American imagination. The reader comes away from this work with a clear idea of the tribulations farming families endure and the delicate balance between the spiritual and other rewards of farm life.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5952-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface: Harvest of Hope
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Prologue: Basin Spring Farm
    (pp. 1-7)

    Farmers are storytellers, for their lives are the stuff of stories and myths. These stories and myths are what my dreams have been made of. Some have been dreams realized, some have been mirages, and others are still imagined as our lives change, as we go though our life at Basin Spring Farm. At the heart of my dreams have been these beliefs, real and imagined:

    A family farm is where you raise chickens and have fresh eggs every day.One of my overriding impressions when I first visited Basin Spring in the summer of 1967 was the hen house....

  5. 1 Family Farming in Changing Times
    (pp. 9-23)

    Family farming is rural America. The image of rural America as the storehouse of the traditional values that built the nation—self-reliance, resourcefulness, civic pride, family strength, concern for neighbors and community, honesty, and friendliness—persists, as many recent surveys show. Farm families accept these images of farming and farm life as their own. Many farm families live on farms that have been farmed by their ancestors over many past generations. They base their images of farming and farm life on this rich tradition, and they have felt secure in these images. What we have found in our studies of...

  6. 2 The Ties That Bind Farming Families
    (pp. 25-49)

    I wanted to be a perfect farm wife, and I had a clear idea of what that should be when we moved to Basin Spring Farm in the fall of 1974 with our daughter, not quite two, and our seven-week-old son. I am a girl from northern Delaware who grew up in the country but had never lived on a farm until I was twenty-nine. A girl who spent childhood summers on salt water beaches and sailed in Sunday afternoon races at the Lewes Yacht Club.

    My great-grandfather founded a dairy in a small town in upstate New York, where...

  7. 3 Growing Up on a Family Farm
    (pp. 51-75)

    My mother-in-law grew up at the foot of Scott Hill Farm in Stith Valley, a twenty-minute ride down the road from Basin Spring Farm, just over the Meade County line. My father-in-law was raised in Breckinridge County within sight of the house where we have lived for over sixteen years. He walked or rode on horseback across Basin Spring on his way to grade school in Irvington. The family moved to Basin Spring in 1929, and he occupied the same bedroom that would later be used by his son and grandson.

    Jim has always been a farm boy. He was...

  8. 4 Merging Families and Business
    (pp. 77-101)

    Four generations of the Foote family have lived at Basin Spring Farm. My father-in-law dreamed of owning this farm when he walked across it as a boy on his way to school in Irvington. His father owned it first and moved the family into the old frame house in 1929 when my father-in-law was in high school.

    Grandmother and Grandaddy had lived here nineteen years when they sold it to Jim’s father and mother in 1948. Jim was four years old when the family moved to Basin Spring, and he grew up here with two brothers and two sisters. The...

  9. 5 The Economic Challenges of Farming as a Business
    (pp. 103-127)

    When the farm crisis occurred in the early ’80s, once again we heard people, especially government officials, talking about the unfortunate but necessary loss of farm operations that were simply marginal to the business of farming. We heard that the farm families who lost their farms to foreclosure were poor business managers who either had greedily expanded their operations beyond their management skills or never were really serious about the business of farming. They talked about farming as a business as if it were like any other business in America—take a big dose of good management, add a generous...

  10. 6 Farming as a Business: Strategies for Success
    (pp. 129-157)

    One thing about farming that has changed in Jim’s lifetime is the government. Government farm programs are a big part of our farm business today, but they are so complicated to keep up with, that it seems we are farming paperwork instead of the land. Unfortunately, despite the number of programs and their complexity, they only begin to compensate for the vagaries of the market and the weather. Sometimes they are a trade-off. The Payment-in-Kind (PIK) program paid farmers to take cropland out of production in 1983 and ended up rescuing many from the ravages of the drought. That was...

  11. 7 Public Work
    (pp. 159-183)

    The work never ends. But now it is more than long hours. It is an eight-hour working day, plus commuting half an hour or more each way, and coming down the drive at the end of the day (or night) to home, family, and farm.

    The super-working-woman, mom-wife of urban and suburban exploits pales when compared with a farm wife and mother who also works off the farm. It makes me wonder, Can this truly be done? Can we commute to public work, keep the dust balls at bay and the clothes washed and the garden weeded, keep the livestock...

  12. 8 Farm Families, Neighbors, and Their Communities
    (pp. 185-203)

    The landscape is changing radically in Breckinridge County. The only lights that Jim could see at night when he was growing up were stars in the sky, except for the lights at the neighbor’s down the road.

    Now the hillsides are dotted with security lights after dark. Jim and his brother recently counted twenty-three lights on Sinking Creek hill alone. Within the last year five new building sites have been bulldozed on prime farmland along U.S. 60 from Sinking Creek to Tiptop on 31W. Twelve new houses have gone up and three trailers have been installed in a field that...

  13. 9 An Unbroken Circle of Hope
    (pp. 205-227)

    Jim’s mother died on March 13, 1991. Mother Mary.

    I cannot believe that she is gone. I cannot imagine that we will never again fix a Sunday meal together and put all the leftovers up for supper, or cut corn off the cob for the freezer, or ride in the truck out to the field to see how the men are doing, or leaf through old photographs while she tells me of this relative or that one.

    I will no longer enjoy her banana cake with brown sugar icing, or the best fried chicken this side of the Mason-Dixon line...

  14. Epilogue: Basin Spring Farm
    (pp. 229-231)

    . . . it begins in childhood, in the heart of a child, with a dream, with the love of a dream, a dream that lingers in the soul and mind and fingertips until all you can do is lay claim to it.

    It is a dream of seasons, of stacking wood in January and feeding calves in the frosty February dawn, of sowing greens in early March and hearing April’s bullfrog chorus at the spring. It is fencerow thick with May honeysuckle, the fields and trees alight with June fireflies. It is cutting hay in July and cutting tobacco...

  15. Index
    (pp. 232-238)