Willard Cochrane and the American Family Farm

By Richard A. Levins | Go to book overview

2
The Golden Age

Willard Cochrane was seven years old when he first visited his grandparents' farm. During the summer of 1921, he and his mother began the long trip from southern California to Iowa in grand style on the Santa Fe Chief. He spent most of his time in the observation car, sometimes marveling at the deserts and mountains, sometimes watching wealthy businessmen play cards while he waited impatiently for calls to the magnificent dining car. They changed to a less-memorable train in La Junta, Colorado, and then in Omaha to one he can scarcely recall at all for the final run into Stuart, Iowa. Aunt Annie and Uncle Willie Wilson met them at the station, and soon they were all enjoying a huge breakfast featuring fried chicken and pies. Outside, a horse and buggy stood ready to provide travel on the last nine, dusty miles to a farm some forty miles west of Des Moines.

A farm typical enough of its time, it was about one hundred acres with a small river through the property providing water for the animals. What land his greatgrandfather had cleared of trees and tall grass prairie, maybe sixty acres in all, grew corn for the pigs, oats for the horses, and hay for the cows. The remaining land was about half pasture and half forest. Grandfather Chambers occasionally proposed selling some of the valuable black walnut trees when money was scarce, but Grandmother would hear nothing of spoiling the place of so many Sunday picnics.

Ten or so cows provided milk for cream, which they sold, and skim milk for fifty or more pigs, the family's other big source of income. Grandmother had a huge garden and worked through the summer to can enough vegetables to fill a small cavelike area under the house. The beet crop was especially good that year, and there were always lots of potatoes. Memories of the famine that drove

-13-

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Willard Cochrane and the American Family Farm
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgments x
  • 1 - Family Farms in Form but Not in Spirit 1
  • 2 - The Golden Age 13
  • 3 - The Treadmill 26
  • 4 - Professor Cochrane Goes to Washington. 44
  • 5 - An Unreconstructed Liberal 62
  • 6 - Heartland 79
  • Notes 83
  • Selected Writings of Willard Cochrane, 1939-1997 85
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