My Farm Roots: Lessons From The Farm Crisis

Jun 6, 2013

The fifth-generation to run his family farm, Mark Kenney says the '80s farm crisis taught him lessons for today.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

My Farm Roots,  a series from WUIS and Harvest Public Media, tells Americans’ stories and memories of rural life.  Because when you hail from farm country, roots run deep.
Times are good on the farm right now, but that hasn’t always been true. Many of today’s young farmers grew up in the shadow of the farm crisis on the 1980's and watched as rural areas were ripped apart by debt and foreclosures.
Those hard times will always stay with them.  Today, an Iowa farmer tells his story:

My name is Mark Kenney and we’re on our family farm. We’ve been in Story County, in northeast Story County in Iowa for, I’m the fifth-generation.
I’m one of the fortunate ones who grew up in the farm crisis in 1980s. That was a tough time in agriculture all over the place. Commodity prices were depressed, land values were falling and there just wasn’t much reason to be optimistic. This is just a generation ago, 20-25 years ago, we went through this situation and for many years break even, trying to carry on was kind of the goal.

It was hard to see difficult times in our communities, it was hard to see that. - Farmer Mark Kenney

Looking back on it now I’m even more thankful for my grandparents, my parents, my uncle because of the hard work they put in on those times and the opportunity they gave us to make my livelihood on the farm as well. That’s why I say I’m fortunate to have grown up then because at the time it didn’t seem a whole lot of fun, but they also taught us a lot of lessons.
It’s emotional for me because farming is in our blood and we want to make sure everyone’s successful doing it. And when you see someone who loves to farm and isn’t able to do it anymore, it’s hard to see. I grew up through that and saw the farm sales and the stressful times of the 1980s but I’m thankful for it because I kind of know, don’t forget those times could come again.

Harvest Public Media is a collaboration of WUIS and other public media stations across the Midwest. Share your own story with Harvest and hear others.