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Iowa Time Machine: Farm Activist Dixon Terry - May 28, 1989

Iowa Time Machine ⏰: On May 28, 1989, Iowa dairy farmer and activist Dixon Terry passed away after getting struck by lightning. A critical component of Iowa farmers’ response to the 1980s Farm Crisis, Terry left a legacy of fighting for the family farm.

Terry started the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition with other like-minded people as the Farm Crisis deepened in Iowa across the 1980s. The organization dissolved during the mid-1980s only to reemerge as Prairie Fire. A delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1984, Terry worked tirelessly to try to forge a broad-based political movement focused on saving small and medium-sized independent family farms. 

Both the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition sought out a return to farm policy similar to the New Deal undone by the Nixon and Reagan administrations. The groups focused on production controls, strong price supports, the reestablishment of a sizable national grain reserve, and a moratorium on farm foreclosures. Dixon Terry provided a voice for family farmers struggling across the state.

On May 28, Terry rode atop a hay wagon while working alongside his father and thirteen-year old son. Over a 1,000 mourners from near and far attended Terry’s funeral including the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. “The death of Dixon Terry, dairy farmer and head of the PrairieFire board, took the wind out of the sails of Iowa’s farm activists,” wrote historian Pamela Riney-Kehrberg in her 2023 book “When a Dream Dies: Agriculture, Iowa, and the Farm Crisis of the 1980s.” #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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