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Throughout the twentieth century, farmers in Iowa and the Midwest struggled to make a living off their land and hard work. Post-war price busts and the Great Depression only exacerbated the general erosion in farm parity as increasing costs of production were not matched by an increase in farm commodity prices. In response, farmers organized in an effort to move from being victims of the economic and social situation to self-determined shapers of action. In this exhibit, we take a closer look at mobilization of farmers to confront and obstruct tuberculosis testing of cattle during the Iowa Cow Wars of the early 1930s and the commodity holding actions of the National Farmers Organization (NFO) in the 1960s. The exhibit will cover the actions and methods used by the farmers as well as how they leveraged the media to affect change. Finally, we look at the parallel struggles of migrant farm workers to improve wages and working conditions, examining the efforts both to pass legislation in Iowa in support of migrant farm workers and to support the Delano Grape Strike in California and the related international boycott.

Publication Date:



Agricultural and Resource Economics | Archival Science


Special Acknowledgments: Janet Weaver Iowa Women’s Archives, University of Iowa Libraries

Exhibition Curators: Amy Bishop, Olivia Garrison, Kimberly Anderson

Exhibition Coordinator: Rachel Seale

Exhibition Catalog: Harrison W. Inefuku

Digital Exhibit: Lori Bousson

Digital Exhibit can be found at:

Activist Agriculture: Farm protest in Iowa, 1929-1969