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Minnesota Farm Advocate Oral History Project: Interview with Anne Kanten
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Anne Kanten was born Anne Knutson of immigrant parents and she grew up on a small farm in Iowa. The family moved to a larger farm in Minnesota in 1941 and Anne attended St. Olaf College. She had no feeling for the land or farming until she met Chuck Kanten - who had strong feelings of family history, intergenerational connectedness and belonging to a place. Anne and Chuck were married in 1952 and they have 3 children (Becky, Erik and Kent). Chuck took over his family's farm and they remained there 30 years (until Governor Perpich called her to St. Paul in 1982) and their son Kent farms it now. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: When Anne became a farmer, she began thinking of the stewardship of the land and producing food for the world - and of the people who live and struggle on the land. This led her to politics - the arena in which farm policy is made. At a meeting in Willmar in about 1977 (to which farmers were invited), the 3 farm organizations (Farmers' Union, Farm Bureau and NFO) defended their own philosophies - but didn't offer much to farmers. Someone at the meeting said there should be an organization having as its sole purpose keeping families on their farms. Anne and 5 other women met in Appleton, MN to discuss this idea - and a new organization, the American Agricultural Movement (AAM), resulted. AAM was dedicated to keeping families on their farms and to achieving parity for agricultural commodities. Anne and Chuck spent much time during 1978, 1979 and 1980 working, speaking and lobbying for AAM. This included a national tractorcade to Washington, D.C. in 1978 (son Kent, accompanied by Chuck drove the family tractor to Washington). Anne also worked in the AAM state office in Appleton, where Elmer Benson (Governor of Minnesota in the 1930s) spent weeks educating her about agricultural history. The farmers of the tractorcade remained for months in Washington testifying and lobbying for a bill which they finally lost by one vote in the House of Representatives. They had come up against the policy of corporations and international traders which favors cheap food and raw materials and greater exports at the expense of people and the community. Today, she believes, international considerations (e.g. the GATT negotiations) are even taking farm policy out of the control of Washington. As an activist in AAM, Anne decided she belonged in the Democratic Party, which appeared to show greater concern for people. She came to the attention of Rudy Perpich during his 1982 gubernatorial campaign, and he appointed her the state Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture. Anne Kanten and Lou Anne Kling met after the 1978 tractorcade and had been in frequent communication before 1982. Both had been concerned about the future of the family farm and Lou Anne had been helping individual farm neighbors with their book work, e.g. relative to FmHA loans. Lou Anne told Anne after her appointment as the Deputy Commissioner of Agriculture that the U.S. Farm Bill of 1981 had made things very difficult for farmers (i.e. farmers needed help with paper work and access to information on rules and regulations). They decided that farmers needed counselling from other farmers with common sense and compassion (such as Lou Anne had been providing). Anne discussed this with Jim Nichols, the Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture, and $50,000 of Department of Agriculture funds were found for a 6 week trial of such a program. It was to be called the Farm Advocate Program. Farmers recruited were given a 2 day training session and they went to work. There was prompt wide acceptance of the new program among farmers and the Department went to the state legislature for broader and more long-term funding. Anne feels that the overall farm crisis may never be resolved. The corporate and international perspective has taken over and farmers themselves remain split philosophically and politically. She refers to a trip she and Chuck took in 1975 as observers of the farm scene in Africa. The farm problems are, she believes, the same there (and in Europe, Latin America, Japan and elsewhere) as in this country and are being made worse by money interests. Thus, the Chicago Board of Trade pits Brazilian against North American farmers, urging each group to cut prices further to better compete with the other - a trend that ultimately threatens the destruction of the land and the existance of us all. Farm women are, she indicates, the greatest victims of this trend and must assume greater leadership in opposing it.
3 hours sound cassette
39 pages transcript
Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
Interviewee: Kanten, Anne
Interviewer: Hunter, Dianna
Made in [vicinity]: Hawick, Kandiyohi County, Minnesota, United States
|Holding Type||Oral History - Interview|
OH 37 (Library Call Number)
AV1991.158.20 (Accession Number)
MNHS Library Catalog
Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Minnesota Farm Advocate Oral History Project'