Bringing Together Agriculture, Race, and Community
The Wisconsin Farms Oral History Project is a UW system-wide project working to collect and preserve the oral histories of farmers, food producers and community members from Wisconsin. Since 2012, students and faculty from four campuses (UW-Eau Claire, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Oshkosh, and project headquarters, UW-Whitewater) have collected over 300 interviews.
Cultural, racial and ethnic identity is at the heart of our project. We seek to explore how culture, race and ethnicity have played roles in farming, food production, and land use in Wisconsin. Our recorded storytellers and oral history narrators have ranged from farmers who immigrated to Wisconsin to farmers who employ immigrant and migrant workers, from farm workers to those involved in farm-to-table and other food production industries.
The interviews will be transcribed and processed for archival preservation in both UW libraries and community-based organizations.
But our project has more than a scholarly value. Students in the program will learn to practice history professionally outside the classroom in such venues as museums, historical societies, documentary filmmaking companies and institutions that work on ethnographies and collect folklore and oral history.
Ultimately, we hope that a statewide project which focuses on agriculture and is community-based in its method will in some way – whether through cross-regional bridge-building or opportunities for public exhibits and storytelling – help to empower farmers and farming communities in their work toward sustainability, cross-cultural understanding, and building a better world.