Saving the Voices of South Dakota Farmers Union
Saving the Voices of South Dakota Farmers Union digitization project was undertaken by South Dakota State University Archives and Special Collections. Through this project, the large amount of heritage audio and video materials within the South Dakota Farmers Union Records was successfully digitized and is now available online.
The South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) records were donated to the SDSU Archives and Special Collections in 1997. Since then, there have been several additions made to the collection. The records consist of administrative documents, publications, scrapbooks and photographs, oral history interviews, audiovisual materials, and the records of local unions. The collection spans 25 linear feet, and includes the Cooperative Legacy Project oral history interviews. The finding aid for the full South Dakota Farmers Union Records is located here. For more information on the South Dakota Farmers Union Collection, please contact the SDSU Archives.
The audiovisual materials, are comprised of audio cassettes, open reel audio recordings, wire recordings, and 16mm films. The films depict state camp activities, tours, picnics, and parades. The audio recordings include both state and national conventions, speeches, radio programs, and advertisements. There are also recordings promoting legislation, discussions with politicians in South Dakota, and featuring speeches by national figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, George McGovern, and Hubert Humphrey who was a native South Dakotan.
Due to the fragility of tape based recordings, these materials were facing deterioration and would soon become unusable. The audiovisual materials were digitized and preserved in part by support from a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Brief History of SDFU
The national Farmers Union began as the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union at Point, Texas in 1902, and became a national organization in 1905. The South Dakota Farmer's Union officially formed in 1917, making it one of the oldest existing farmer organizations in South Dakota. Its members include farmers, ranchers, and others in rural communities. SDFU promotes education, cooperation, and legislation at local, state, and national levels. It advocates for agricultural issues and programs affecting South Dakota agricultural producers and their families. SDFU is a strong proponent behind the cooperative movement, which united farmers and ranchers to sell their commodities and purchase supplies at fair prices, and helped provide utilities to remote areas, including electricity, water, and telephone. The organization is still active today.
The items within the South Dakota Farmers Union Records cannot account for all viewpoints relative to Farmers Union members in South Dakota or the Northern Plains. Other regional collections, such as the National Farmers Union and National Council of Farmers Cooperatives Collection at Iowa State University, can help provide a broader depiction. For a comprehensive history of the SDFU, please see The Family Farmer's Advocate: South Dakota Farmers Union, 1914-2000 by Lynwood Oyos (call number: HD6515.A292 S68 2000).
Historical Recordings of SDFU Online
Related Collections in the SDSU Archives and Special Collections
South Dakota Farmers Alliance Records
The Farmers Alliance was an organized agrarian economic movement amongst U.S. farmers that flourished in the 1880s. Despite its failure, it is regarded as the precursor to the United States Populist Party, which grew out of the ashes of the Alliance in 1892. This collection is composed of an address and proceeding from December 1887 convention of the South Dakota Farmers Alliance.
South Dakota Farm Bureau Records
South Dakota Farm Bureau is an agriculture organization that serves its members by working to improve the personal, social, economic and political interests of South Dakota’s farm and ranch families. The collection is composed of records of the South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation and associated groups. Records include minutes, publications, reports, and other materials.