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Days on the Family Farm

From the Golden Age through the Great Depression

2007
Author:

Carrie A. Meyer

Days on the Family Farm

A story both intimate and epic that paints a vivid picture of Midwestern farm life

From the beginning of the twentieth century to World War II, farm wife May Lyford Davis kept a daily chronicle that today offers a window into a way of life that has all but disappeared. Through May and her husband Elmo’s story, Days on the Family Farm, showcases the evolution of agriculture from horses to automobiles and tractors, a surprisingly vibrant family and community life, and the business of commercial farming.

Days on the Family Farm is an engaging and articulate read and a highly recommended addition to any personal or community library collection. An entertaining and informative ‘window into time’ through which is revealed an American yesteryear.

Midwest Book Review

From the beginning of the twentieth century to World War II, farm wife May Lyford Davis kept a daily chronicle that today offers a window into a way of life that has all but disappeared. May and her husband Elmo lived through two decades of prosperity, the Great Depression, and two World Wars in their Midwestern farming community. Like many women of her time, Davis kept diaries that captured the everyday events of the family farm; she also kept meticulous farming accounts. In doing so, she left an extraordinary record that reflects not only her own experiences but also the history of early twentieth-century American agriculture.

May and Elmo’s story, engagingly told by Carrie A. Meyer, showcases the large-scale evolution of agriculture from horses to automobiles and tractors, a surprisingly vibrant family and community life, and the business of commercial farming. Details such as what items were bought and sold, what was planted and harvested, the temperature and rainfall, births and deaths, and the direction of the wind are gathered to reveal a rich picture of a world shared by many small farmers.

With sustainable and small-scale farming again on the rise in the United States, Days on the Family Farm resonates with both the profound and mundane aspects of rural life—past and present—in the Midwest.

Days on the Family Farm

Carrie A. Meyer grew up on a farm in Illinois and served as a Peace Corps volunteer before completing her Ph.D. in economics at the University of Illinois. She has published two previous books, The Economics and Politics of NGOs in Latin America and Land Reform in Latin America: The Dominican Case. She teaches economics at George Mason University.

Days on the Family Farm

Days on the Family Farm is an engaging and articulate read and a highly recommended addition to any personal or community library collection. An entertaining and informative ‘window into time’ through which is revealed an American yesteryear.

Midwest Book Review

Days on the Family Farm is a remarkable window into the Middle America of the first half of the twentieth century. The book should be useful for teaching undergraduate courses in Illinois or midwestern history, as well as special topic courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels on social or agricultural and rural history. Students, scholars, and general readers will connect with the struggles, joys, and sorrows of this farm couple.

Journal of Illinois History

Carrie A. Meyer offers a window into turn-of-the-century farm life as described by Midwestern farm wife May Lyford Davis. May’s meticulous accounts of farming and records of everyday events can give you insight into your own farm ancestors’ experiences.

Family Tree Magazine

An intensely personal tale, highlighting the importance of family within the phrase family farming.

Annals of Iowa

With sustainable and small-scale farming again on the rise in the United States, Days on the Family Farm resonates with both the profound and the mundane aspects of rural life—past and present—in the Midwest.

Belvidere Daily Republican

Days on the Family Farm

UMP blog: Farmers markets, Food, Inc., and truths about the history of farming

5/21/2010
One of the joys of writing Days on the Family Farm was the opportunity to see close-up, through the diaries and farm records of May Davis, how a real Midwestern farm family lived and ate during the golden age of agriculture (1901-1914). May and her husband, Elmo, butchered pigs on the farm in the wintertime, rendered the lard, salted the pork, and made sausage. They raised chickens, had their own eggs, and milked at least one cow. They put some 50 bushels of potatoes in the cellar to last through the winter and into the spring. They canned strawberries, cherries, raspberries, and blackberries; they made pickles and canned tomatoes and catsup. They made cider and put bushels of apples in the cellar for the winter. Elmo foraged for honey in the “bee tree” of a farmer friend and neighbors shared garden produce with each other.