Farming the Dust Bowl

A First-Hand Account from Kansas

Lawrence Svobida

This is a powerful original account of one man's efforts to raise wheat on his farm in Meade County, Kansas, during the 1930s. Lawrence Svobida tells of farmers "fighting in the front-line trenches, putting in crop after crop, year after year, only to see each crop in turn destroyed by the elements." Although not a writer by trade, Svobida undertook to record what he saw and experienced "to help the reader to understand what is taking place in the Great Plains region, and how serious it is." He wrote of the need for better farming methods—the only way, he felt, the destruction could be halted or confined. Well before the principles of an ecological movement were widely embraced, Svobida urged a public acceptance of the "sovereign rights of the states and the nation to regulate the use of land by owners . . .so that it may be conserved as a national resource."

This graphic account of farm life in the Dust Bowl—perhaps the only autobiographical record of Dust Bowl agriculture in existence—was first published in 1941. This new edition contains an introduction by the historian R. Douglas Hurt that not only objectively sets the scene during and after the Dust bowl, but also places the book properly in the growing body of contemporary literature on agriculture and land use. The volume is an important contribution to American agricultural history in general, and the the history of the Depression and of the Great Plains in particular.

“Although factual and calm in style, this book is as moving as John Steinbeck’s novels.”

The New Republic

“Easily one of the most important books that has dealt with the dust bowl and its problems. Nowhere else can be found such penetrating and dispassionate comments, free from political bias, on the actual workings of governmental agencies in the attempt to deal with cumulative disaster to one-sixth of our national area. And what is said has bearing on problems far beyond the limits of the Great Plains.”

The Saturday Review of Literature
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