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The Film and More
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The American Experience
The Film & More

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Program Transcript

DAVID McCULLOUGH: Good evening and welcome to The American Experience. I'm David McCullough.

There was a time in America when the words home and farm were synonymous... when most all Americans lived on the farm... when the family farm was the American way of life, and whole generations were raised on the old Jeffersonian faith that those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God.

The small towns that dotted the land were market towns. Turnpikes, canals, railroads were built to benefit farmers. Schools were out through the whole long summer not for vacations, but because children were needed to help on the farm.

In 1862, when the U.S.Department of Agriculture was first established,the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, called it "the people's department" and for the very good reason that a full 90 percent of the people were farmers.

It's different now of course. The change has been swift and stunning and with consequences greater than we know. Now just two percent of us are farmers. Sixty years ago there were nearly 7,000,000 farms, now there are only 2,000,000, and of those only half are small farms.

But statistics really don't serve with a subject so fundamental to who we are, or with change involving such deep ties as Americans have felt for their land. Our story tonight is about just one farm that has been in the same family since the 1860's. It's a story about change and difficulties of a kind that seldom make headlines but that are part of our time. It's also about family love and family resilience, strengths long-standing in the story of American farm life.

Five years went into making the film, which was nominated for an Academy Award. The producers are Steven Ascher and Jeannie Jordan, who is herself part of the story.

Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern

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