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The Haymakers

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  • By: Steven R. Hoffbeck
  • Format: 223 pp., 50 illustrations, notes, index
  • Publisher: MHS Press
  • Usually ships in: 1-3 business days
  • ISBN 0-87351-395-9
A Chronicle of Five Farm Families
Winner of the Minnesota Book Award and the Red River Heritage Award!
Making hay has always been hard work, just about the hardest work on a farm. Spanning 150 years, Steven R. Hoffbeck’s The Haymakers tells a story of the labor and heartbreak suffered by five families in five different eras struggling to make the hay that fed their livestock, a story not just about grass, alfalfa and clover, but also about sweat and fears, toil and loss.

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The Haymakers is an epic—the history of man’s struggle with nature as well as man’s struggle against machines. It relates the story of farmers and their obligations to their families, to the animals they fed, and to the land they tended. But The Haymakers is also an elegy—to a way of life fast disappearing from our landscape. In the most heartfelt essays, Hoffbeck chronicles his own family’s struggle to hold onto their family farm and his personal struggle in deciding to leave farming for another way of life.

Hoffbeck also seeks to document and preserve the commonplace methods of haymaking, information about haying that might otherwise be lost to posterity. He describes the tools and the methods of haymaking as well as the relentless demands of the farm. Using diaries, agricultural guidebooks and personal interviews, the folkways of cutting, raking, and harvesting hay have been recorded in these chapters. In the end, this book is not so much about agricultural history as it is about family history, personal history—how farm families survive, even persevere.

STEVEN R. HOFFBECK is an assistant professor of history at Minnesota State University, Moorhead, with a specialization in agricultural history. His articles and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including North Dakota Horizons, Vermont History, and Minnesota History, where he is a frequent contributor and winner of the Solon J. Buck Award for the year’s best essay.


Praise for The Haymakers:

"A quiet and powerful book. . . . Anyone interested in the ways work was accomplished in the past will find The Haymakers fascinating." -- Kent Meyers, Minnesota History

"Rich with anecdotes and individual voices. . . . Hoffbeck's book will sustain all who love the smell of hay." -- (Minneapolis) Star Tribune

"Part memoir and partly an elegy for ways of life fading in America. . . . Hoffbeck is telling the story of how the family farm is disappearing, plowed under by agribusiness and enormous factory farms, and with it a way of life and experience of the earth itself." -- St. Paul Pioneer Press

"My heart ached when I finished this book. Let's say it's about more than haying, more than farm equipment, more than the survival of five farm families. It is all of these, but what makes The Haymakers extraordinary is Hoffbeck's compassion for the people he writes about combined with his storyteller's ability to make the stuff of history come alive on the page." -- Jim Heynen, author of The One-Room Schoolhouse

"Hoffbeck's hay, like Whitman's grass, surprises the reader by turning out to be a large metaphor for our history and its effect on American interior life. While hay itself remains a wonder--a miracle even--the machinery we use to harvest and profit from it grows into a monster that harvests us, both economically and literally. From the elegant introductory essay on the nature and lore of hay to the sad family history of the afterword, Hoffbeck has made a sound and intelligent read for his audience--which should include all of us." -- Bill Holm, author of Eccentric Islands and Coming Home Crazy


More information about this book:

View the Table of Contents to The Haymakers.
View the Prologue to The Haymakers.

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The Haymakers