The present day relevance of the Farmers Holiday movement

The book has become a popular reference for students studying this time period.  A common question we get from students is about the present day relevance of the Farmers Holiday movement.  Below is the response from the author.  If you have any questions for the author please feel free to include them in the comment section under the “GET A FREE COPY OF THE BOOK” tab.

The question is as to the relevance of the history of the Farmers Holiday movement to today.

I am thankful for the question because one cannot appreciate where we are today without an appreciation of the forces and the reaction to the forces that brought us to the present circumstance.

Sadly, historians have ignored the Farmers Holiday movement and thus go on the pretense that there wasn’t fierce resistance to the transition of our society from an agricultural society to an industrial society.

Agricultural society was much praised by our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, for example, was quite contemptuous of urban society vis-a-vis rural society.

It is quite evident that the farmer can live quite independently.  He can produce his basic necessities on the farm and thumb his nose at urbanity.  It is this independence, of course which made the westward expansion possible.

It is this desire for independence on the part of the farmer that had to be crushed to produce our present society.  The farmer, in turn, fought bitterly to maintain his lifestyle.

The struggle was not only on our country highways.  A constant propaganda war was also waged against the farmer.  The farmers were portrayed as “Hicks” or “Rubes” and were made the butt of jokes.  The “Farmer’s Daughter” was portrayed as one who was of somewhat loose morals and naive.

This portrayal had its effect.  I recall at the University of Minnesota in the late fifties a professor suggesting that rural girls had at least the image of being looser in morality than urban girls.  Just recently a disc jockey on a Duluth station used the phrase, “He walks like a farmer.”  The Farmer magazine continues with its comedy “The song of the lazy farmer.”  As it has for at least seventy years that I remember.  This demeaning of rural fold is also on NPR in the personage of Garrison Keillor.

The transition of the United States to an urban industrial society was obviously successful.  The number that were driven off their lands was substantial.  The poverty of these displaced farmers is portrayed in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.

All is, of course, connected to all.  One does not get a complete understanding unless one has all the pieces and puts them together as in a giant jig saw puzzle.

This army of displaced farmers now became a pool of workers for industry which would soon begin gearing up for World War II.  Although my immediate family continued to struggle on the farm, I had relatives who were displaced farmers who went to work in the shipyards in Seattle.  I admit they enjoyed their prosperity and became quite urbanized.

The children became quite urban; they enjoyed Garrison Keillor and learned to believe dependence on the government and industry was the good life rather than the life of independence on the farm.

The farmers that stayed rural became tenant farmers before finally being driven from the farms altogether.  We thus got what we call megafarms which would make the introduction of genetic modification, for example, easier.

I suggest that if it wasn’t for the defeat of the Farmers Holiday movement we would not be in the position of making it our business to involve ourselves in matters throughout the globe.  After all, it was George Washington in his farewell address that warned us about foreign entanglements.  He could say this because the country at the time was composed almost exclusively of small farmers.


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