Family Letters Reveal Story Of Farm Life In Wisconsin Over 20th Century

By Erika Janik | January 27, 2016


Listen Online

In the mid-1990s, Sara DeLuca received gift of letters from her aunt Margaret. The letters, written by the women in her mother’s family, told of their life from the 1920s through the 1990s. Many of the letters were from DeLuca’s mother, Helen, writing to her eldest sister Margaret beginning when she was seven and continuing through middle age. 

DeLuca’s aunt Margaret left her family’s rural Wisconsin farm to work in Minneapolis in 1923. Margaret’s mother wrote regularly with updates about daily activities on the farm, from laundry, plowing, and planting, to harvesting the crops. Sometimes she enclosed a note from seven- year- old Helen, who reported on school and how she longed to see her big sister again.

Twenty years after she received the letters, DeLuca began weaving them together into a story of both her family and of farm life in the region. The result is a book, “The Crops Look Good: News From A Midwestern Family Farm.” Together, the letters tell a chronological tale, through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, World War II, and the eventual decline of the family farm. DeLuca even found letters from her mother describing being pregnant with DeLuca and her twin sister and descriptions of herself as a young girl. 

The way of life chronicled and remembered by DeLuca and her family has all but disappeared but the basic human emotions and life experiences remain constant.


Sara DeLuca is a poet, writer, and the author of The Crops Look Good: News From A Midwestern Family Farm.

Erika Janik

Erika Janik

Erika Janik is the co-creator and former executive director of Wisconsin Life. She is the author of six books, including Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction, Apple: A Global History, and  Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine. She’s currently the executive...
2018-01-19T17:52:49-06:00Tags: , , , , , , |

Sign Up Form

Sign Up for Our Bi-Weekly Newsletter

Get your favorite Wisconsin Life stories, meet the crew, and go behind the scenes.

Our Favorite Collections

Storyteller Rodney Lambright II's comic series about the rich relationship between a single father, his young daughter and his retirement-age parents.
For the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we discover how Wisconsinites experienced the war both at home and on the battlefield.
Ice, cold and winter are an integral part of what it means to live in Wisconsin. "Ice Week" explores the many ways that ice defines us.
Food plays a central part in many holiday traditions. This series honors the foods and meals that make the day.
Escape winter with a look at some of Wisconsin's favorite sports and games.
"Living the Wisconsin Life" is an online series exploring the little things that make living in Wisconsin fun, interesting and meaningful.