The settler ‘holiday’ from capitalism’s contradictions: Lucas Heitkamp, The South Dakota Farmers’ Holiday Association: A Study of Agrarian Activism in the Rushmore State, MA dissertation, University of South Dakota, 2021


Abstract: The establishment of the South Dakota Farmers’ Holiday Association challenges many assumptions about the state. The commodity strike and foreclosure protests of the Farm Holiday movement captivated much of the state as the condition of agriculture worsened. Disgruntled agrarians demanded the federal government raise farm prices, place a moratorium on foreclosures, and address rural poverty. Most importantly, Farm Holiday leaders called for a guaranteed “cost of production.” This price setting plan would set commodity prices to a level where farmers were guaranteed to at least come out even on their yields. At South Dakota, the cost of production platform appealed to impoverished farmers. The few publications dedicated entirely to the Farm Holiday neglect the South Dakota movement. In fact, leading Farm Holiday historians maintain the South Dakota organization was ineffective. This study attempts to provide an in-depth look into South Dakota agrarianism. More specifically, this thesis makes the case the Farm Holiday had a greater impact on the state than previously understood. Regions of the state once believed to be outside of the parameter of agrarian protest held active Farm Holiday units. Although national newspapers did not extensively cover farm protest in South Dakota, weekly rural publications tell a much different story. Even as this research uncovers a number of unknown militant episodes in the state, it is clear the South Dakota movement encompassed a number of interests. A thorough examination of 1930s farm protest reveals much about the social, economic, and political history of South Dakota.

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