Over the last 25 years, TAUNY folklorists have documented musicians, woodsmen, river guides, boat builders, maple sugar producers, and many more traditional arts and occupations of our region. This year, we are turning to dairy farming. Given the vital importance of dairy farming to the North Country’s culture and identity and to its economy, we feel that farmers’ stories are underrepresented in our archival collection and in our public programming.
For this reason, we applied for and received a prestigious grant from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress to document the working lives and stories of North Country dairy farmers. The grant program is part of the LOC’s ongoing effort to document the many work cultures of the United States. All the materials produced from our research will be archived at the Library of Congress and at The TAUNY Center. In addition, we will create a new website unit geared to educating the general public about the cultural significance of dairy farming to our region.
Dairy Farm Workers in Northern New York will document—in recorded interviews and photographs—the working lives of North Country dairy farmers and farm workers, focusing on St. Lawrence, Lewis, Franklin, and Jefferson Counties. We intend to focus on 10 to 15 farms of varying size, and hope to interview multiple workers on each of these farms. In particular, we are interested in the changing nature of farm work with ongoing changes in technology and economic pressures, including the changing workforce, changing roles of farm workers, and women’s roles. We hope to speak with farmers who employ immigrant labor about those relationships and the decisions and challenges involved in employing immigrant workers. We also hope to speak with Hispanic workers to ensure that their stories are included in this documentation. The project coordinator, TAUNY program director Hannah Harvester, is a Spanish speaker.
Our methods are grounded in the discipline of folklore, and our research will be carried out by the three folklorists on TAUNY’s staff, Harvester, executive director Jill Breit, and founder/special projects director Varick Chittenden. Recorded interviews will be conducted one-on-one and with multiple family members or farm workers. The folklorists will take farm tours when possible, and photo documentation will be carried out by documentary photographer Martha. All aspects of the project are voluntary; for example, if you would like to be interviewed but not photographed, we would still love to talk with you. We may also host recorded group discussions throughout our region, which would be open to the public.
Using the materials we collect, along with additional research, we will create a website unit about North Country dairy farming. This unit will be designed to educate the public on the work of dairy farming, farmers’ stories, what it takes to be a successful farmer, and life on the farm.
We are asking for anyone who is interested in our project—farmers, farm workers, those who grew up on farms or retired farmers—to contact us with your feedback or to let us know you’d like us to visit your farm. With your help, we will be able to document our region’s farms and farmers in all its diversity, and present the public with a rich, attractive, and informative website that tells your stories. You may contact us at (315) 386-4289 or by emailing Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
~~~Funding from the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center is granted through and Archie Green Fellowship. Learn more here - www.loc.gov/folklife/grants.html.
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