Focusing on the Great Plains states of Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota between 1929 and 1945, Down and Out on the Family Farm examines small family farmers and the Rural Rehabilitation Program designed to help them. Historian Michael Johnston Grant reveals the tension between economic forces that favored large-scale agriculture and political pressure that championed family farms, and the results of that clash.
The Great Depression and the drought of the 1930s lay bare the long-term economic instability of the rural Plains. The New Deal introduced the Rural Rehabilitation Program to assist lower- to middle-income farmers throughout the country. This program combined low-interest loans with managerial advice. However, these efforts were not enough to compete with the growing scale of agriculture or to counter the recurring drought of the era. Regional conservatism, environmental factors, and fiscal constraints limited the federal aid offered to thousands of families.
Grant provides extensive primary source research from government documents, as well as letters, newspaper editorials, and case studies that focus on individual lives and fortunes. He examines who these families were and what their farms looked like, and he sheds light on the health problems and other personal concerns that interfered with the economic viability of many farms. The result is a provocative study that gives a human face to the hardships and triumphs of modern agriculture.
About the Author
Michael Johnston Grant has a Ph.D. in history. He works for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.