Departmental Honors Project Title
Date of Award
College of Liberal Arts
By the time of the Stock Market Crash in 1929, farmers in America were already in financial trouble with the drop in demand after World War I. With poverty and malnourishment rampant, the motto of the Great Depression became “waste not, want not.” The government focused on alleviating human suffering in President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Hundred Days” of 1933 and instituted numerous legislative acts for relief, with special attention paid to farmers. As the rest of the nation fell into economic hardship, the government gave unprecedented attention to agriculture and developed relief programs to aid farmers and their families. Some historians claim that the New Deal only aided large farmers; however, I argue that small farmers in Minnesota survived the Great Depression because of the New Deal’s agricultural programs. Furthermore, I contend that commodity diversification prior to the market collapse and the utilization of a barter economy in rural areas enabled continued ownership of farm land and allowed for the passage of farms to the next generation.
For that end, I utilize oral histories to gauge farmers’ perspectives of the New Deal agricultural programs- opinions otherwise undocumented in scholarship. I also employ newspaper articles from agricultural communities in Minnesota to support the farmers’ viewpoints. In addition, United States Farm Census Reports provide the numerical evidence for the increase of small farms in Minnesota during the Great Depression, reinforcing my claim that small farmers in Minnesota were not beaten out by larger landholders, but survived because of the New Deal programs, subsistence practices, and rural barter economies.
Phillips, Kacie, ""Waste Not, Want Not": Farmers' Reactions to the New Deal in Minnesota" (2015). Departmental Honors Projects. 33.