Farmers & Families

This is the second installment of 6 blogs as we discover the many Partner Sites of the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area and the themes explored by each.

Family may be defined differently among people. For me, families may consist of related individuals or it may not. A family faces life’s celebrations, hardships, and everyday moments together. On a farm, family is one core value that has not changed over generations. That might be one of the reasons farm life or country living is favored and sought. People look to feel connected to the land and each other.

Amana Heritage Society MuseumsThis connectedness may stem from the early days when survival on the harsh plains required everyone working together and pulling their weight. Survival or success was not determined by one, but by many. Perhaps this is where the phrases, “many hands make light work” or “a team is only as strong as its weakest link”, come from.

A Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area Partner Site that demonstrates this connectedness is the Amana Heritage Society Museums, also known as the Amana Colonies in southeast Iowa. Composed of seven villages, the Amana Colonies were settled by a German religious group in the 1850s. They established a communal village-based agricultural system where property and household resources were sAmana Oehlhared. Housing, medical care, meals, schooling and all household necessities were provided. As I visited, what had a lasting impression on me were the communal kitchens run by the women of the village and learning that money wasn’t needed. The villages were self-sufficient, whatever was needed was made in the village. I encourage you to stroll the sidewalks observing the historic brick and stone houses and step into the many stores and museums to learn more about this unique culture and Iowa family.

Speaking of families, have you met the Hansen’s? In my opinion, the Hansen’s have the begirl-feeding-calfHansenTourCenter3st tasting cheese curds and ice cream anywhere! This family owned and operated dairy has been in the family for a 150 years. Hansen’s Dairy in Hudson provides tours so people can learn the process milk goes through from farm to table. Contact Jeanne and set up a tour so you can ride a trolley around the farm, see the calves, milking parlor and creamery.

With all the advancement and technology used on Hansen’s Dairy, it makes me wonder what the first reactions were when electricity and telephones came to the farm. These two advances changed life on the farm dramatically. These questions can be aHarriman-Nielsenanswered with a trip to Franklin County. Here, one can learn about and observe the very first REA plant west of the Mississippi River to generate electricity for rural areas from 1938 to 1950. The Franklin County Historical Society Museum shows some of the first telephones and how the switchboard was operated. Did you know, each farm had their own ring? Kind of like today, if you take time to select a specific ringtone for someone. Another stop in Franklin County is the Harriman-Nielsen Farm. At this site, Iowa’s Danish heritage comes to life. The house is restored and contains many antiques left by the Nielsen family. Over 2,000 letters were preserved telling the Nielsen’s immigration from Denmark, what life was like in Denmark and what life was like in Hampton, Iowa over a span of 100 years. A large festival is held every fall, I encourage you to participate.

Farmers and families are reflected differently at each of these sites and there are several more for you to discover. I encourage you to visit

Until next time, Laura

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