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The image of the family farm as storehouse of the traditional values that built this nation—self-reliance, resourcefulness, civic pride, family strength, concern for neighbors and community, honesty, and friendliness—persists, as many recent surveys show. But the reality of this rich tradition is rapidly changing, eroding the security once represented by these nostalgic images of rural America.

Although the United States is still by far the world's leading overall producer of agricultural products, the number of American families making their livelihood through farming is much diminished, and if our demographers are correct, the number of family-operated farms is destined to fall still further in the coming decades as consolidation, cycles of boom and bust, and corporate invasions redefine who will farm the land.

Harvest of Hope is a story of farm family life through the words of those who live it. The saga of the generations who have lived and worked on Basin Spring farm in western Kentucky is the thread that binds together the stories of eighty other farm families. They talk about their family businesses, their way of life, and the forces reshaping their lives.

The challenges of making a living in farming either strengthen families or break them. Technology, government programs, and community changes that are supposed to be the hope for their future often come with unexpected drawbacks. The stories in this book—tales of growing up in farming, working in a multifamily business, juggling jobs on and off the farm, and struggling to maintain financial security and comfortable working relationships—reveal what American farming families know about hope and survival in a changing world.

The authors offer a multifaceted view of the present situation, as well as suggestions for ways of enhancing the positive elements that have enriched and inspired Americans in the past. It is an analysis that highlights the myths and realities of a business and way of life that has a powerful hold on the American imagination. The reader comes away from this work with a clear idea of the tribulations farming families endure and the delicate balance between the spiritual and other rewards of farm life.

Lorraine Garkovich is professor of sociology at the University of Kentucky.

Janet L. Bokemeier is professor of sociology at Michigan State University.

Barbara Foote is a writer who lives and works on Basin Spring Farm in western Kentucky.

"Anyone who cares about the future of farm families could benefit from reading this book."—Rural Development Perspectives

"The collaboration of two sociologists and a journalist has produced this unique and compelling picture of contemporary family farms."—Choice

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Rural families, Family farms, Kentucky


Family, Life Course, and Society

Harvest of Hope: Family Farming/Farming Families
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