MA 12




25.08 linear feet (24 boxes) sound recordings-nonmusical, moving images, still images


South Dakota Farmers Union is a non-profit advocacy organization uniting farmers, ranchers and rural communities that work under three core principles; education, cooperation and legislation. The records are comprised of correspondence, meeting minutes, constitutions and by-laws, publications, scrapbooks, photographs, oral history interviews, audio visual materials, and the records of local unions.

Historical Note

Newspaperman Isaac Newton Gresham founded the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union at Point, Texas in 1902. The Union was organized to protect and promote the interests of family farmers. The Union became a national organization in 1905.

The Farmers Union came to South Dakota about 1914. Former members of the Nebraska Farmers Union who moved to South Dakota to farm introduced the organization. Farmer’s Union officials did much of the early work in organizing from Nebraska.

The Farmers Union of South Dakota was organized into a state unit at Mitchell on March 16, 1917. This was the first state convention to be held in South Dakota. There were fourteen counties represented at the convention by 268 delegates. By this time, there were 134 locals in South Dakota.

The educational program of the South Dakota Farmers Union has been a vital part of the state organization. The Union pioneered many activities in education that other state units adopted. One of the important functions of the early Union was the collective purchasing of supplies such as flour, coal, twine, etc.

Content Notes

The records are comprised of correspondence, meeting minutes, constitutions and by-laws, publications, scrapbooks, photographs, oral history interviews, audio visual materials, and the records of local unions.

Series 1. General.

The General series is composed of correspondence, constitutions and by-laws, clippings, speeches, minutes, advertising material, and scrapbooks. The minutes are from the 11th Annual Convention in 1926 to the 31st Annual Convention in 1946. Financial statements can be found in nearly all of programs. Also included is material dealing with a 1972 Supreme Court case that dealt with funding public schools with property tax funds. This material consists of clippings, correspondence, exhibit evidence, interrogatories, and material dealing with other states.

Series 2. Collected Material.

The Collected material is composed mainly of National Farmers Union publications as well as publications from various state Farmers Unions organizations.

Series 3. Local Unions.

The Local Unions series is composed of charter records for local unions throughout the state of South Dakota with some material pertaining to more specific local unions. Material consists of attendance records, minutes, and correspondence with some accompanied by photographs.

Series 4. Photographs.

The Photographs are composed of over 33,000 photographs and negatives dealing with the youth program, conventions, picnics, tours, dedications, South Dakota Union Farmer.

Series 5. Publications.

The Publications consist of programs, action programs, handbooks, and brochures from South Dakota Farmers Union. The programs are from conventions dating from 1938 to 1983. These include an agenda for the conventions and advertising. The action programs include program and policy statements of the South Dakota Farmers Union as adopted by delegates at annual conventions. These action programs date from 1954-1988. The handbooks include proceedings of the annual conventions and bylaws of the Union.

Series 6. Audio-Visual.

The Audio-visual material is composed of audiocassettes, microcassettes, open reel audiotapes, wire recordings,

A description of the items may be found in each file in this series. Some items were marked with descriptions but many are vague or non-existent. The items have not been examined beyond this information.

From a preliminary review it appears that the films consist of state camp activities, tours, picnics, and parades. An item of note is a film titled "From the Good Harvest" produced by Bill Snyder Films. It is the story of how people working together built a great marketing service and supply cooperative to serve farmers in the Upper Midwest.

The audiocassettes and reels appear to be recordings of both state and national conventions and radio spots for Agriculture in Review and advertisements for Co-op month. There are some politically related recording for both senatorial and gubernatorial races in South Dakota with some featuring George McGovern and Hubert Humphrey. The wire recordings appear to be interviews in Washington, D.C. with one interview with Hubert Humphrey. Researchers should ask staff for assistance with material in this series.

Series 7. Cooperative Legacy Project.

The Cooperative Legacy Project was organized by Chuck Groth, South Dakota Farmers Union communications director from 1972-2008, spearheaded what came to be known as the Cooperative Legacy Project in which he conducted interviews with dozens of Farmers Union members, cooperative managers, farm organization leaders and grassroots activists. He compiled over 110 hours of audio and detailed the history of Farmers Union and the cooperative movement in South Dakota. The interviews are born digital audio recordings (MP3 and WAVE format files). They are accompanied by documents and photographs scanned by Groth during the interviews (TIFF and JPEG files). The material in folders consists of signed releases and rough transcriptions.

SDSU Archives and Special Collections

For more information follow this link:




South Dakota State University Archives and Special Collections, Hilton M. Briggs Library, Brookings, South Dakota.


Copyright restrictions apply in different ways to different materials. Many of the documents and other historical materials in the Archives are in the public domain and may be reproduced and used in any way. There are other materials in the Archive carrying a copyright interest and must be used according to the provisions of Title 17 of the U.S. Code. The Archive issues a warning concerning copyright restrictions to every researcher who requests copies of documents. Although the copyright law is under constant redefinition in the courts, it is ultimately the responsibility of the researcher to properly use copyrighted material.