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The Farmer is the Man

Traditional and Contemporary Folk Songs of the Farm

Farming has always been the backbone of rural America and that heritage has been preserved in an extensive body of traditional and contemporary folk songs that tell the stories of the hardworking people who have struggled to live this way of life for generations. From traditional songs like “The Farmer is the Man,” to the dust bowl ballads of Woody Guthrie, to the works of contemporary songwriters like Stan Rogers and farmer Chuck Sukay, the subject of farm life has long been fertile ground for folk musicians.

Contemporary folk songwriter Chris Vallillo has spent the last 35 years living and working in the small communities of rural Illinois documenting its music and chronicling its past and ever changing future in the process. He performs a hand picked selection of the most poignant of these songs as way to look at the past and the future of the family farm.

The changes in technology, introduction of modern machinery, corporate farms and vast changes in world markets have, for years, made farming a constantly shifting playing field. Understanding how farming and agriculture are changing is critical to understanding and directing the future of Illinois and it’s citizens, both rural and urban.

As Williams Jennings Bryant said in his “Cross of Gold” speech, “The great cities rest upon our broad and fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms and your cities will spring up again as if by magic, but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.”

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