Larry Schwarm

Kansas Farmers

Kate Meyer

In the landscape of the American imagination the Kansas farmer looms large, an icon of midwestern diligence and bounty. But just as the state’s seemingly flat horizon denotes earthly riches, the Kansas farmer contains multitudes. The photographs by Larry Schwarm capture this world in all its depth and diversity, conveying in breadth and detail the grit and mystery, the art and science, of farming in Kansas. The outgrowth of a collaborative study of crop production, farming practices, and land use in Kansas, this volume looks into the larger questions the study raised: why farmers choose to farm and what that life entails.

Larry Schwarm, distinguished professor of photography in the School of Art, Design, and Creative Industries at Wichita State University, hails from a farming family with a century-long relationship to the land, and his photographs reflect a keen sense of both the beauty and hardship of the farmer’s life. Taken in the midst of a record-long drought, they picture the age-old industry caught up in the drama of the changing climate—Kansas farmers and ranchers tending crops and animals while working the earth in an ever-shifting balance with nature. As documentary and fine art, these exquisite photographs and accompanying commentary speak to the ageless nature of farming and the pressing questions confronting the present-day farmer in Kansas.

“The beautiful photography of Larry Schwarm: Kansas Farmers illustrates the importance of balance in the use of our Earth. Kansas farmers and ranchers are keenly aware of the seasons—when to reap and when to sow. The weekly weather forecast becomes the bellwether of our lives. Farmers and ranchers have come back from devastation, dust storms, and depression. The backbone of Kansas farming and ranching is our communities [and] these communities still represent our heritage and are important in discussions to the challenges we face today.”

—Nancy Kassebaum Baker, Former United States Senator

About the Author

Kate Meyer is a curator of works on paper at the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence.

Nancy Kassebaum Baker represented Kansas in the US Senate from 1978 to 1997. She is the daughter of onetime governor of Kansas Alf Landon.