Main Street in Crisis: The Great Depression and the Old Middle Class on the Northern Plains

By Catherine McNicol Stock | Go to book overview

5
RESISTANCE Agrarian Insurgency and the Farmers' Holiday Association

By the spring of 1932, many Dakota farmers were troubled -- and angry. Drought and dust, together with low prices, high costs, and insurmountable interest rates, had made it impossible for them to make a living. But financial conditions alone did not account for the anger. Dakotans also believed that they were witnessing the wholesale destruction of the values and social structures upon which they had built their lives. These were times, the editor of North Dakota's Dickinson Farmers' Press contended, when "the good farmer [was] in equally bad straights [sic] as . . . the shiftless, improvident neighbor who never did . . . show any signs of honest industry and conscientiousness. A worthy farmer cannot be expected to sit back and watch his work of a lifetime taken away from him without raising his hand in protest."1

Protest they did. Between 1932 and 1935, thousands of Dakotans joined the Farmers' Holiday Association (FHA), a new farm organization championed by Milo Reno of the Iowa Farmers' Union. Founded to raise prices for farm commodities and to stop foreclosures on farm property, the FHA brought the farmers' concerns into the national spotlight. During the early New Deal period, the governors of five states, in addition

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