Farm Life: A Century of Change for Farm Families and Their Neighbors

The Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History, in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), proudly presents Farm Life: A Century of Change for Farm Families and Their Neighbors, from November 10, 2011 through -January 7, 2012. This captivating exhibit allows visitors to gain insight into how families lived and worked on farms, as well as the economic and cultural roots influencing families today.

In 1900, forty-two percent of the American population worked in agriculture. A century later there were so few farmers that they were not even listed as a separate occupation on the 2000 census. Advances in technology brought greater yields, consolidation in production and distribution operations, and consequently, lower prices in agricultural markets. While such changes may be seen as benefits on a national scale (lower prices and greater abundance and availability), the strain they placed on rural communities, and specifically farm families, made it increasingly hard for family farms to remain competitive and survive. For decades, fewer and fewer children have chosen to follow their parents into farming; still, through generations of dramatic economic and social change, some families have maintained their connections to farming, their land, and the rural communities in which they live and work. Why do some families tenaciously cling to this way of life while a score of other families leave? What are the institutions they can rely on? What are the strategies they can employ?

Farm Life asks these and many other questions while offering visitors a view into life on a working farm. This exhibition, rather than focusing on the technology of farming, examines what it means for a family to live and work on the land. Through artifacts, photographs, graphic text panels, and interactives, audiences learn about the social, economic, and cultural framework of farms and their surrounding communities. Though the starting place is a Chippewa Valley, Wisconsin, farmstead around 1950, universal themes of family and community are addressed, touching on issues that resonate with farming and non-farming viewers alike.

Farm Life is divided into four sections: the farmhouse, fields, barn, and gathering places in the larger community. In each section, objects and labels tell the story of life on a farm. In the United States, most people are at least two generations removed from farming; focusing on family life and the social structure of the rural neighborhood, Farm Life encourages visitors to make connections to their own families and communities.

Farm Life was made possible in part through Hotel Tax Revenue funded from the City of College Station through the Arts Council of Brazos Valley, and by NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It has been adapted and is being toured by Mid-America Arts Alliance. The exhibit was organized by The Chippewa Valley Museum, Eau Claire, WI and is based on a larger exhibit permanently stationed in their galleries.

 

Painting: Grant Wood, Spring in the Country, 1941. Oil on Masonite, 24 x 24 in. Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Museum purchase. 93.12