Family Farms




These interviews are with individuals who own and/or operate family-owned farms in the counties of Clinton, Estill, Jackson, Laurel, and Madison.
Narrators discuss farming history from the 1830s to the 1980s, and the changes to farming that followed with the passage of time. Cattle and dairy farms are most prominent, though timber and other farm enterprises are mentioned. Family history is also discussed, including family and farm origins.

Narrators discuss farming history from the 1830s to the 1980s, including farming before electricity, during the Great Depression, and during the drought of the early 1930s. Other topics are farm equipment and tools, labor, labor unions, insurance, the effects of urbanization, farm management, farming and women, sharecropping, farming innovations, farming methods, and the role of the government in farming, including subsidization, soil bank programs, grain embargoes, the Payment-in-Kind program, and local politics. Farmers talk about raising tobacco and other crops, insects, plant diseases, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep, hogs, horses, animal diseases, and veterinary services. Dairy-farming topics include milk separation, the pipeline milk system, artificial insemination, and embryo transplants.

Several interviewees discuss farm life, rural life, life in coal camps, country stores, rural mail service, canning and preserving, county and state fairs, the Future Farmers of America, and 4-H clubs. There are interviews with black and women farmers.


The Family Farms Project was funded by the Kentucky Oral History Commission.


Family Farms

Project Interviews

Herb Andrews discusses growing up as one of the few African American farmers in Clinton County. Andrews comments extensively on the farm he inherited from his father, tenant farming, and the major changes in farming practices that he has witnessed since his youth.

Willie Ryan discusses farmlife and his farming experiences. The interview includes an extended comparison of farming between the 1920s and 1980s, as well as discussions about the crops he's grown, differences in cattle breeds, Wolf Creek Dam, and the farm lands that Lake Cumberland covered when it was flooded.

Elbert Arvin discusses his farming experiences, as well as his role as an Estill County country store, saw mill and slaughterhouse owner. Arvin comments extensively on the acreage he owns, the work that goes into maintaining his farms and livestock, Kentucky politics, and his Great Depression memories.
View all 12 interviews