Wessels Living History Farm - York Nebraska Farming in the 1930s
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1930s Farm Life

  Cecil and Willard Bolton  
The Great Depression changed the lives of people who lived and farmed on the Great Plains and in turn, changed America. The government programs that helped them to live through the 1930s changed the future of agriculture forever. Weather touched every part of life in the "Dirty 30s": dust, insects, summer heat and winter cold. York County farm families didn't have heat, light or indoor bathrooms like people who lived in town. Many farm families raised most of their own food – eggs and chickens, milk and beef from their own cows, and vegetables from their gardens.

People who grew up during the Depression said, "No one had any money. We were all in the same boat." Neighbors helped each other through hard times, sickness, and accidents. Farm families got together with neighbors at school programs, church dinners, or dances. Children and adults found ways to have fun for free – playing board games, listening to the radio, or going to outdoor movies in town.

When the dryness, heat, and grasshoppers destroyed the crops, farmers were left with no money to buy groceries or make farm payments. Some people lost hope and moved away. Many young men took government jobs building roads and bridges. By 1940, normal rainfall returned, and federal programs helped to boost farm prices and improve the soil. Ted Kooser poemAbout the same time, a new government program started to hook up farmhouses to electricity, making farm life easier and safer.

As you can see in the Water Section, large numbers of people were driven out of Nebraska and the Great Plains because of the Depression. Yet, a majority "toughed it out" and stayed. And millions continue to stay, despite decades economic pressure to leave. Those live here, like former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser (right), have developed a love affair with their home states. In his poem "So This Is Nebraska," Ted explains part of what it feels like to live here.

Written by Claudia Reinhardt and Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.


 

Surviving the Weather


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Farming in the 1930s