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illegalfilms - Tractorcade: the Spirit of '79


In the winter of 1979 6000 family farmers drove their tractors to Washington D.C. to protest American farm policy.  Convoys of tractors from as far away as Colorado and the Dakotas rolled eastward, picking up support and gaining numbers as they went.  Traveling at a mere 14 mph, the farmers on this unprecedented tractorcade left their individual farmsteads intent on telling their tale of economic woe to the people, the press and the D.C. policy-makers.

The tractor caravans, members of the newly-formed American Agriculture Movement, demanded that congress and the USDA provide them with 100% of parity by raising the prices that they received for their crops to match the costs of production.  Considering that in 1979 family farm operations were closing at a rate of 2500 a week, these farmers were fighting for their livelihoods.

Arriving in Washington D.C. on the morning of February 5th, 1979, the farmers-turned-activists made their presence known by blocking off intersections and parading thousands of tractors in front of the Capitol.  D.C. police, with help from NYPD riot forces, corralled the farmers and their farm vehicles onto the National Mall near the Washington Monument.  For the next seven weeks this location on the Mall became the base of operations of the farmers lobbying and demonstration efforts.  Each day thousands of farmers inundated the offices of Senators and Representatives.  They handed out thousands of economic pamphlets in the streets and demonstrated vocally before the Capitol, the USDA and the White House.

Tractorcade: the Spirit of 79, a documentary film, tells the story of one of the most inspiring and improbable acts of civil disobediance in the nations history.  Using contemporary interviews and archival video footage, newsclippings and photographs, Tractorcade: the Spirit of 79 chronicles the factors and policies that led up to the tractorcade and examines the state of the American family farmer since 1979. 

What led 6000 fiercely independent farmers with disparate political beliefs to charge into the heart of an unsympathetic bureaucracy demanding justice?  What did it get them?