Lessons From Little House on the Prairie

While spring cleaning the other day, I came across the collection of Little House on the Prairie books in my daughter’s bedroom.

Joanna is grown and married now, but those books were a special part of our relationship when she was—what we called—wee little. Our nightly bedtime ritual involved reading  the tales of Laura Ingalls’ Wilder’ family as they moved from the northern woods of Wisconsin and Minnesota through the Southern Plains to Oklahoma Territory and finally to South Dakota.

Pa Ingalls was one of my favorite characters; a man who would skin a hog, hunt game, and clear fields during the day, and then entertaining his family with fiddle-playing around the evening fire.

And Pa loved to stand on the doorstep of the family cabin, shouting at the top of his lungs: “I’m free and independent.”

Free certainly. But independent?

Pa settled on 160 acres in South Dakota that were provided through the Homestead Act, a government program that gave settlers free land if they could farm it successfully for five years. When a cruel blizzard gripped the little town of DeSmet, where the Wilders eventually settled, townspeople rallied together to send a party out to find food they knew was stockpiled at a nearby farm. When Pa fell seriously a few years earlier in Oklahoma, it was a fellow settler—a doctor—who stumbled across the family homestead and save his life.

The settlers who survived 150 years ago did so because they developed relationships and communities all rooted in common interests and values.

Today, it seems that farmers and their customers live in separate worlds. In reality, our lives are interwoven in many ways, not the least in a common devotion to feeding our families healthy food. Let’s get to know each other as best we can.

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