The rural crisis of the 1900s plowed a deep furrow across the economic, political, cultural, social, and psychological landscape of the Upper Midwest. Rooted in the financial problems of farmers, the crisis rippled not only through farm families but also into the region's small towns (Buttel, 1909; "Farm Crisis," 1986; Cinder et al., 1986; Heffernan and Heffernan. 1986; Rosenblatt, 1990: 3-13). Responses to the crisis were many and varied. Some people, although in actual numbers only slightly greater than the previous fifty years, followed perhaps the most traditional response to rural crisis and fled in search of work to more prosperous towns and cities (Buttel, 1989: 59-60; Cordes, 1986; "Farm Numbers," 1906; Rosenblatt, 1990; Satcerlee and Goreham, 1985; Waterfield, 1986; 5-7). others formed organizations of the political left and right, like the National Save the Family Farm Coalition, the North American Farm Alliance, the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition, the Posse Comitatus, the Farmers Liberation Army, and the National Agricultural Press Association, to protest conditions (Browne, 1988; 66-88; King, 1985; Malcolm, 1985a; Scholar, 1985). Still others, more tragically, turned inward, falling into emotional and physical health problems, sometimes even taking their own lives and those of family, friends, and business associates ("Farm Loan Aide," 1986; Heffernan and Heffernan, 1966; Langham, 1988; Levitas. 1985; Malcolm, 1985b; Malcolm. 19B5c; Robbins, 1986). One response to the crisis, a reaction from the educational institution of the rural community, emerged in the form of the Farm, Small Town, and Rural Peoples' Conference (FSTRPC). Faculty members of the University of South Dakota at Vermllllon hosted this day-long conference on January 31, 1966, to address problems stemming from the crisis.* The FSTRPC's theme was "Perspectives on the Farm Crisis." William Janidow, the governor of South Dakota, and Tom Daschle, the congressional representative of South Dakota, provided keynote addresses, and sixteen other regional leaders spoke. More than four hundred area farmers and town's people attended ("Farmers Caught," 1986; Murphy, 1986; Heeren, 1986). Regional news media supplied extensive coverage of the conference. The NBC affiliate from Sioux City provided periodic live coverage as did South Sioux City radio station KWSL/KGLI: Other television and radio. The FSTRPC provides an unique opportunity to explore the thoughts of the regional leaders concerning the rural crisis. This paper examines the conference's content, relying on transcripts from the videotapes, to gain a sense of how leaders in the Upper Midwest conceptualized and responded to the crisis. From the transcripts of the FSTRPC, a number of different ideological strands are isolated. These ideological strands emerge from the leaders' differing economic, political, and social vantage points. The leaders, of course, diverge on specific points about the crisis, but they also share a kind of consensus. Where they disagree and agree reveals much. Before turning to examine the thoughts of the leaders, a theoretical discussion is provided. ' Barbara Johnson, Associate Professor of Social Work, Department of Social Behavior, The University of South Dakota, and I (then Assistant Professor of Sociology, Department of Social Behavior, The University of South Dakota) acted as coordinators for the first FSTRPC. A second conference entitled "Small Town America; What Is Its Future?" was held on October 24. 1986, and a third "Working in Rural America: Employment, Underemployment , Unemployment!" on January 29, 1988, The University of South Dakota and the Chamber of Commerce of Vermillion,South Dakota, sponsored this trilogy of conferences. Stations and newspapers from Sioux City and Sioux Falls sent reporters. The University of South Dakota's Department of Mass Communications videotaped the entire proceedings for preservation as an historical document.
Langham, Thomas C.
"Ideological Currents Of The Rural Crisis: The Fats, Small Town, And Rural Peoples' Conf,"
Great Plains Sociologist: Vol. 5:
1, Article 3.
Available at: https://openprairie.sdstate.edu/greatplainssociologist/vol5/iss1/3