Update Required To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version.
Minnesota Farm Advocate Oral History Project: Interview with Dave Hesse
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Dave and Pat Hesse both grew up in the area in which their farm is located in Brown County - and attended the same church. They bought the farm in 1973 (from Pat's great aunt) just after he was discharged from the Navy. They have 3 children, aged 18, 14 and 10. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: They had a series of personal and financial misfortunes in the late 70s and early 80s, including a nervous breakdown (Pat), water damage to their old house (resulting in a new house and an $80,000 loan), the loss of 93 head of pigs and 3-4 crop failures in a row. At that time, Dave was immersed in his own problems and was not concerned with, or even aware of, the problems of other farmers. He attempted to obtain a loan from FmHA (Farmers' Home Administration) but was turned down by the County Supervisor. He appealed to the County Committee of FmHA but the local office would not tell him when the next meeting of the Committee (when loan appeals would be heard). Lou Anne Kling, who was the Farm Advocate working on his case, had told him to type up a letter explaining his own situation, and he did so. Paul Sobocinski of Groundswell called to tell him that he must be in Lamberton on a particular day because his appeal hearing (his last chance to appeal) would be taken up that day by the County Committee. The Supervisor was required to give him prior notice of the hearing, but he had received no such notice. He arrived early and he and Harold Hutchinson (another farmer having trouble with FmHA) were interviewed by WCCO TV, as had been arranged by Paul Sobocinski. They then all marched into the meeting of the County Committee, where he gave a copy of his explanatory letter to each member. The Supervisor claimed to have sent him notice of the meeting, but he had never informed the Committee of the facts of his case. His case was reviewed and the Supervisor's rejection of his loan request was overturned. Dave first became active in farm causes in January 1985 after his loan request had been turned down by the Supervisor. He took part in motorcades and demonstrations, joined the NFO (National Farmers Organization) and became a county co-chair of Groundswell. Lou Anne started him thinking along lines which resulted in his doubling his hog herd and produced additional income from the farm. Pat recovered from her illness and began working as a dental assistant. As a result of his recent activity in farm causes and also due to counselling sessions he attended (in connection with Pat's illness) Dave had become much more concerned with the problems of other farmers. In 1986, their finances stabilized, he began working as a Farm Advocate. He identifies some of the causes of farmers' difficulties during the late 1970s and the 1980s: Interest rates more than doubled (from 1973), commodity prices were extremely low (hogs sold for 38 cents/ pound in 1973) and land prices were dropping (on his own farm, from $2,200/ acre in 1977-78 to $793/ acre in 1986). These factors tended to put farmers in debt and make it impossible to "cash flow" their operations. He has focused on the Advocates' approach of helping individual farmers (rather than on demonstrations and lobbying). He feels empowered as a result of learning the rules and regulations, networking with other Advocates and dealing with professionals (lawyers, etc). People he has helped sometimes later help others.
1.5 hours sound cassette
36 pages transcript
Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
Interviewee: Hesse, Dave
Interviewer: Hunter, Dianna
Made in [vicinity]: Comfrey, Brown County, Minnesota, United States
|Holding Type||Oral History - Interview|
OH 37 (Library Call Number)
AV1991.158.15 (Accession Number)
MHS Library Catalog
Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Minnesota Farm Advocate Oral History Project'