Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, November 24, 2017

Farm Protests in 1930s Sherburne County

Front Page Headline from Sherburne County Star News, October 1933
Farm prices and foreclosures in 1932 generated a radical reaction by farmers in Sherburne and Anoka Counties that revealed a unique effort at organizing the Minnesota farm industry into a unified organization.  After nearly a decade of falling produce prices and rising foreclosures, nationally, farmers organized what became known as the National Farmers Holiday Association.  More commonly known as the Holiday Movement, the group advocated for sympathetic refinancing on farm debt and it suggested the federal government guarantee farmers a minimum income to cover production costs.

The Holiday Movement, originally organized in Iowa, made itself known in Sherburne county in October 1932.  Farmers and sympathizers tried negotiating with the state legislature for relief in the midst of the Economic Depression with no results.  In the second week of October farmers set out pickets to prevent truckers from delivering produce to the markets in the Twin cities.  The pickets attempted blocking the roads leading from Elk River to Minneapolis. 

The pickets received an unusual signal of sympathy from local police.  Police had organized the truckers into caravans, forcing the trucks through picket lines with minimal difficulty.  Blockades along Highway 10 the police escort halted the caravans and gave the picketers 10 minutes to appeal to the truckers to stop their deliveries.  After ten minutes the caravan proceeded into Anoka County and to their delivery points. 

State Highway Commissioner Charles Babcock broke the protest a week later.  After investigating the issue, Babcock used the authority of the Highway Patrol to prevent any halting of traffic on state highways.  The picketers reacted to the law enforcement by placing nail studded boards and rubber belts in the roadway.   After a few days of this angry reaction the picket lines disappeared.  The protest was broken. 

Although the farm protest lost this battle, they won the war.  In February 1933, newly elected Governor Floyd B. Olson issued an executive order halting farm foreclosures in Minnesota.  Nationally, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Farm Credit Association and the Agriculture Adjustment Act providing further aid to farmers. 

Briefly, because of plummeting farm prices and increasing foreclosures, the United States experienced a radical farm movement unusual to the industry.  Farmers in Sherburne and Anoka County played significant roles in expressing dissatisfaction to the state and national leadership.

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