Farm Life


norma ehlers“My land and my home means so much to me. It isn’t just a house and it isn’t just some dirt out there that we put some seeds in. …It’s living; it’s a part of me. My grandparents blood, sweat, and tears went into that [land] and my dad’s and now my husband’s and son’s and grandson’s…We’ve stepped on every bit of this land and have put the seed into it on faith that it will grow. And to see it from spring to fall, the crop mature and be harvested and to be used as food or to be put back in the ground as seed to grow again and to feed us all…I just like to be part of that. It just fills my heart…it’s so exciting.”

Norma Ehlers

farm life

Children were an important part of many farms.

Family life on a farm in York County was very different from life in town in the 1920s. On the farm, there was no electricity or indoor plumbing. Farming was hard work, with long days and little money. Work and play revolved around the seasons. Every member of the family had chores — milking cows, harnessing horses, gathering eggs, cleaning the outhouse, washing clothes, and more. Children usually walked to school, rain or shine, and spent summers helping in the fields. Farm families looked forward to the fun of school programs, trips to town, church gatherings, and other social events. With help from neighbors, 1920s farm families brought in the harvest, battled fires, coped with accidents and illness, and weathered natural disasters such as tornadoes and drought. Spring, summer, fall, and winter brought different chores and social activities for farm families.

How was life on the farm different from life in cities?

“The character and quality of life changed dramatically in Nebraska during the 1920s….The effects of technological change were most obvious in the cities. By the 1920s most small cities had paved streets, municipal electricity and water systems, telephone systems, streetlights, and sewage systems… The homes of most urban Nebraskans had running water and indoor plumbing…Electricity appeared in homes on a grand scale during the 1920s, at first for illumination but by the end of the decade for washing or sewing machines, irons, toasters, mixers, and vacuum cleaners…Refrigerators began to replace iceboxes for short-term food preservation, and electric fans began to cool hot summer days.

“Change came more slowly for country people, who would wait another decade or two for electric appliances. Their lives were more profoundly transformed by the gasoline-powered automobile and truck, where effects were especially acute in sparsely populated agricultural states such as Nebraska.” From Nebraska: An Illustrated History, by Frederick Luebke, University of Nebraska, 1995, Lincoln, London.

Written by Claudia Reinhardt.

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