Capturing the Farm: How a Conservation Project Protects Family Histories

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Capturing the Farm: How a Conservation Project Protects Family Histories

Farm stories are at risk that once flowed across dinner tables and porches at sunset. As the hunger for the past grows in the US, there is a growing recognition of the loss over time of blood, kin and clan. Despite the erosion, America’s farms are flavored with every fiber and weakness known to mankind—and every story needs protection.

Enter Vance Crow and a unique conservation project.

“Farm families are particularly unique in having an oral history,” he argues. “The only way they’re still on the farm is if they define themselves as a family through the generations — no one farms alone or else the chain ends.” When so many others gave up and went to the city, these farm families stayed. These experiences and the wisdom and heritage within them must be saved.”

The past is the present

Prone to relative solitude because of the nature of rural life and the physical boundaries of rows and trees, agricultural culture is often isolated – inside looking out. Farms and family stories are an inseparable combination of triumph, loss, faith, passion, pain, zeal, and absurdity, viz. the basic elements of rich drama.

“Even in agriculture, specific knowledge of family history usually goes no further than the 1920s, and those memories often include only a vague sense of why their ancestors came to America or Canada,” insists Crowe, a former director of Millennial Engagement at Monsanto. “But the actual details of most of these families have already become hazy in the show. It’s almost as if they are recounting a dream that someone else told them.

In October 2021, Crowe launched Legacy interviews — a vehicle for setting personal, family and farm-related stories in stone. Professionally filmed and recorded at Crowe’s St. Louis-based private recording studio, the in-depth interviews conducted by Crowe capture the heart of farm life.

“Most of the farmers I interview don’t realize the remarkable things they’ve overcome in their lives and aren’t aware of the valuable stories they have,” says Crowe. (Photo courtesy of Legacy Interviews)

“At least 60% of our customers are farmers – individuals and couples,” says Crowe. “We go for half and full days and delve into family history, childhood, marriage, parenting, farm career success and failure, acquired wisdom and much more. Most people have never had someone really listen to their story. They do not yet understand the power of their own experience in agriculture.

“When someone has a chance to explain the things they’ve done in their life, there’s a release of emotion that they’ve never felt,” he adds. “Most of the farmers I interview don’t realize the remarkable things they’ve overcome in their lives and aren’t aware of the valuable stories they have.” Interviews aren’t like jumping out of a plane, but they’re just as exciting for many people. Stories come out for the first time in many cases and people leave feeling euphoric and punctuated.”

Once completed, the video interviews are presented to the guests, with some choosing to have the interviews transcribed in book format – an autobiography written in one day. “We give the finished package to the family at 1000 years of life M-disk that doesn’t degrade like a DVD for 25 years or a USB for 20 years and isn’t subject to any crashes or corruption in the cloud or Google,” explains Crowe. “We also use one of the last Bible binding companies in the US to print the interviews on archival grade paper and bind them as a leather book. The M-disk is stored in a hidden compartment cut from pages taped together at the back of the book.

Crowe notes a recurring pattern with customers: Grown children raised in farm households want to connect grandparents with grandchildren through Legacy interviews. “Adult children want to honor and give a gift to their mother and father by preserving family history before it is lost. But in many ways the gift is for the grandchildren because they will use the stories in their own lives.

The direct link between health and human history is undeniable, says Crowe, in both scientific fact and anecdote. “So many studies show that children who know their family history and heritage are dramatically less likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and drug addiction. It’s not complicated: much better than their peers, these children know who they are and where they came from. In the case of so many farm kids, they know their family history and they know the sacrifices their grandparents made to stay on the land.”

Capturing history

Seven shades of gray color a piece of wood and seven floors line every farmer’s front pocket. Sometimes stories die with a whimper – unnoticed until a lifetime has passed. The losses are unnecessary and avoidable, Crowe insists.

Vance Crow at the farm
“Farm families are particularly unique in having an oral history … These experiences and the wisdom and heritage within them must be saved,” says Crowe. (Photo courtesy of Legacy Interviews)

“Once we spent so much time together in large families at dinner, church, in the fields, traveling together to the city and in the home in general. We couldn’t escape the stories and absorbed them. But modern society has broken up the extended family into the nuclear family, and sometimes into smaller units,” Crowe describes. “For most extended families, ‘together’ means a few hours at a holiday meal—at most. This is part of the reason why farm stories escape, get lost, or are forgotten, but they don’t have to be. way. Legacy Interviews is an opportunity for future generations to learn their history.”

As cities continuemonochromatic march, Crowe believes that the value of agricultural culture will grow along with the importance of agricultural history. “Farm stories contain the most important values ​​for society,” he concludes. “When we record these stories, we preserve ideas from the past that we will need in the future.”

For more from Chris Bennett ( 662-592-1106) see:

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