Minnesota Farm Advocate Oral History Project: Interview with Mryl Fairbrother
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Description BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Mryl Fairbrother retired from the Marine Corps when he was 38, went into farming and is now 56. He and his wife Enid and their 2 (grown) children, Stephen and Caroline, have lived on their farm for about 11 years. They have 400 acres (200 tillable). SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: The Fairbrothers contract with the Jack Frost Company to raise 220,000 chickens each year in a barn built on the farm by Jack Frost. Their son and daughter, in their early 30s, do most of the work on the farm. Mryl's (Marine Corps) retirement income, his income from Farm Advocates and (primarily) the income from Jack Frost allow them to handle the large debt on the farm and remain there. Mryl worked with COACT for 6 years and Anne Kanten asked him to join the Farm Advocate Program when it began. He sees no future in farming for his children; they remain because they enjoy it. They, along with the other people of their generation, are not active or involved in farm causes. The farm economy is not turning around - low commodity prices are killing farmers. Farms are getting larger, due to economies of scale, but larger farmers will also fail in time. Agribusinesses that sell to farmers, such as irrigators and implement dealers, are also disappearing. Corporations that are completely vertically integrated (which grow the commodity and are involved in every step in converting it into a food product and selling it to the consumer) are doing well - as are other businesses which buy cheap commodities from farmers and assist in converting them into food products. The corporations contribute nothing of a social nature to farm communities, which are dying as farmers leave. As an Advocate, Fairbrother tries to help small farmers survive, but more often he can only help ease them out of agriculture. If a client's farm won't cash flow, he tries to get them to face reality (e.g. into bankruptcy or out of farming) as soon as possible - before they have lost their equity. He himself was several years into farming before he realized that he was selling into a controlled market and was completely at its mercy (farm prices are at 50% of parity). He believes that the Reagan Administration doesn't know what is happening in agriculture (the revolutions in Nicaragua, Cuba and the Phillippines were agricultural revolutions in which the U.S. supported the big companies against the small farmers. Farm Credit Services (set up as a co-op to save farmers) has operated arrogantly and unsympathetically, seemingly toward the goal of getting farmers off their farms. COACT, Groundswell, Farm Advocates and the DFL have helped in Minnesota; he characterizes COACT as demanding things (and often making legislators mad), Groundswell as also aggressive and Farm Advocates as dealing with individuals and creating respect. However, he feels that the Advocate Program is insufficiently staffed. There should be an Advocate in every county in a resource center where farmers could go for help on a variety of subjects. He feels that the difficulty with resource centers in the past has been a lack of proper supervision by the state board. As to the training of Advocates, people skills, selling and mediation skills and roll playing should be emphasized.
Quantity 1.5 hours sound cassette
42 pages transcript
Format Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
Creation Interviewee: Fairbrother, Myrl
Interviewer: Hunter, Dianna
Interviewer: Meter, Ken
Made in [vicinity] Royalton, Morrison County, Minnesota, United States
Subjects Made in [vicinity] Royalton, Morrison County, Minnesota, United States
Dates Creation: 05/04/1988
Holding Type Oral History - Interview
Identifiers OH 37
Accession Number AV1991.158.9
More Info MHS Library Catalog
Related Collections Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Minnesota Farm Advocate Oral History Project'

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