Interview Outline- Agriculture in Illinois

Interview Themes: Interviewers are encouraged to select one or several of the themes or subjects listed below for your interview, incorporating these into interview outline.  We’ve also provided an interview shell for your use, below.  The outline is meant to serve as a guide only. Add and delete to this outline as appropriate.  Interviewers are cautioned against rigidly following a specific set of questions during the interview itself.

1) Land

From family farms to corporate farms

Land management practices: low till, no till, drainage management, etc.

Land prices & purchasing land

Farm buildings & their evolution;  Farm layout

Organic Farming

Drainage (especially early years) and tiling

Weather (especially severe weather, draughts, hail, flooding, etc)

Annual cycle of plowing, planting, cultivating & harvesting

2) Plants

Crop rotation


Fertilizers and Herbicides

3) Animals

Feeding, housing & disease control

Impact of Genetics

From diversity to specialization


4) People

Farm culture

Relationship to the land (Ownership, Tenant, renter, migrant labor)


Gender and farm roles

Impact of rural depopulation

Relationship between town and country

School consolidation

Fairs, 4-H, etc

Country Churches

5) Technology

Rural Electrification


Communications revolution

Impact of drainage & irrigation


GPS technology

Computer technology & the internet

6) Institutions

State & federal legislation and impact on farming   

Farm subsidies

Agricultural Industries

Markets &  Marketing

Impact of rural cooperatives on farming

Role of education in Agriculture

Chicago Board of Trade

Chicago Mercantile Exchange


Introductory Information: State at the beginning of the interview:

  • Your name as interviewer
  • Date and place of the interview
  • Name of the person being interviewed
  • “This interview is being conducted as part of the …
    • Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library’s Agriculture in Illinois Oral History project”      OR
    • Illinois State Museum’s Oral History of Illinois Agriculture project”

1. Background: When and where you were born?

a. Parent’s background?

1. Father

2. Mother

2. How family came to settle in Illinois?

3. Other siblings & immediate family?

4. Growing up on the farm:

a. Chores, etc?

b. School(s)?

c. Religious activities?

d. Holidays?

e. Career aspirations?

f. Interests / activities / hobbies?

g. Extracurricular activities?

5. Life beyond high school.

a. Finding a career or choosing a college?

b. Why did you decide to go into (farming/agriculture/teaching …)?

6. How you met your spouse.

7. Your early years in (farming/agriculture/industry, etc)?

At this point, the interview outline should be tailored specifically to meet the particular circumstances of your interview subject.  Refer to the list of topics provided at the front of this outline for suggested topics to pursue.


XX. Family gatherings.

XX Final thoughts:

a. What do you think is the most significant and transformative change in agriculture during your career?

b. How do you feel about changes in farming and farm life?

c. What do you see as the future for farming?

d. What advice would you give to someone thinking of pursuing a career in agriculture today?

e. What advice or wisdom would you give to future generations?

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