Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9781935195344 Published May 2012

A Family Farm

Life on an Illinois Dairy Farm

Robert L. Switzer

A Family Farm

Robert L. Switzer

Distributed for Columbia College Chicago Press

With an Appendix by Frank E. Barmore
254 pages | 71 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2012
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9781935195344 Published May 2012

During the past century two-thirds of all family-operated farms in America disappeared. A Family Farm is the personal story of one such farm from 1916 to 1991, told from the perspectives of four generations. The story begins with the author’s grandparents, whose primitive way of farming in northern Illinois, described in evocative detail, was closer to the nineteenth century than to the twentieth. Their daughter, the author’s mother, loses her hopes for a scholarly life during the Great Depression, and—though bookish and unsuited to farm life—returns to the farm with her husband, who describes in his own words his youthful years on a poor Illinois farm and as a rural schoolteacher. The family attempts to modernize the old farm and introduce up-to-date agricultural techniques, but their sons, the author and his brother, leave the farm after high school and unwittingly doom it to failure. It is the author’s children who provide a brighter perspective, delighting in visits to their grandparents’ farm even as they grow aware of its decline. A Family Farm ends with an elegiac description of death and of the winter auction at which the accumulation of seventy-five years of hard work and frugal living is sold to the highest bidder.
            Richly illustrated with art work, photographs, and documents, and set within the context of current trends in agricultural economics and rural life, A Family Farm offers an intimate and historical perspective on a now vanished way of life.


Chapter One: Charlie and Mabel and Elva (1916–1937)
Chapter Two: Stephen’s Story (1920–1946)
Chapter Three: Stephen and Elva Modernize the Farm (1946–1957)
Chapter Four: The Boys Leave Home: Stephen and Alva Alone (1957–1977)
Chapter Five: The Long Twilight (1977–1991)
Chapter Six: The Family Farm No Longer (September–November 1991)
Chapter Seven: Postscript

Image Galleries
Appendix: The Barmore Family Farm
      Frank E. Barmore
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