The Crops Look Good
News from a Midwestern Family Farm
Author Sara DeLuca
Minnesota Historical Society Press (March 1, 2015)
Affectionate without being overly sentimental, this intimate biography of a Wisconsin farm family eloquently chronicles a past way of life, one which, though arguably simpler, was not necessarily easier.
When Margaret Williamson left her family’s rural Wisconsin farm to work in Minneapolis in 1923, her mother, Olava, wrote regularly with updates about daily activities: laundry, bread baking, plowing, planting, and harvesting the crops. Sometimes she enclosed a note from seven- year- old Helen, who reported on school and shenanigans and how she longed to see Margaret again.
So begins decades of stories about a family at once singular—with personal joys and challenges—and broadly representative of the countless small farms that dotted the midwestern landscape in the early twentieth century. As Margaret’s niece Sara DeLuca weaves together family tales gleaned from letters and conversations, we learn of births and deaths, of innovations like the automobile, radio, and telephone that drew rural communities together, and of national and international events that brought home stone- hard truths. Depression- era farmers struggled to keep their land and feed their livestock; many failed. During wartime, this family made do just like everyone else.
The tale that emerges is one of fierce devotion to family and work, of a changing landscape as smaller farms became part of conglomerates, and of the comforting daily rhythms of life shared with those who know us best.
Poet and writer Sara DeLuca grew up on a dairy and sheep farm near the Williamson “homeplace” in Polk County, Wisconsin. She is the author of the memoir Dancing the Cows Home and the poetry collection Shearing Time.
Reviews and news
“With tenderness and wonder, Sara DeLuca observes her letter-writing mother from the spunky age of seven to a still energetic thirty-nine. Through letters of Helen Williamson and her big, noisy farm family, written to the eldest daughter out on her own, come the voices of our own agrarian families in the decades before telephones and television. Observant reporters of crops, communities, and their own hearts, the Williamsons are willing and able to put it all into words. DeLuca’s captivating account is an inspiration. It just may cause you to write a letter in ink to someone you love and mail it with a stamp.”
Gayla Marty, author of Memory of Trees: A Daughter’s Story of a Family Farm
“Sara DeLuca creatively stitches together a story of farm life in northwestern Wisconsin from the 1920s to the 1950s. It’s a book of history, but so much more as we learn about her family’s triumphs and catastrophes, their achievements and disappointments.”
Jerry Apps, author of Old Farm: A History
In the media:
Volume One Feature
WPR: The Larry Meiller Show
KUMD MN Reads interview
Country Messenger interview
Isanti County News
The County Line
Reading group guide
Reading and Discussion Group Guide (PDF)
- This title is also available at your favorite e-book vendor.
- 264 pages
- 12 B&W PHOTOS
- 5.5 x 8.5 inches
- ISBN: 9780873519755