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Sarah Christianson


© Sarah Christianson, Christianson farm with new saplings, 2007

Homeplace, 2005-2013

"The search for homeplace is the mythical search for the axis mundi, for a center, for some place to stand, for something to hang on to."
—Lucy Lippard, from The Lure of the Local

For me, home is a 1200-acre farm in the Red River Valley of North Dakota. Its original 160 acres were homesteaded in 1884 by my great-great grandfather, who emigrated from Norway. My parents are the fourth, and last, consecutive generation to work our land, as my siblings and I have all moved away to pursue other careers. These circumstances, and the realization that I was part of a larger rural exodus, provided me with the impetus to document our farm at this critical junction. I combine my images with materials from my family's archive to create a rich, multi-layered narrative about family tradition, agriculture, emigration, and the passage of time. Homeplace is my contribution to the farm's palimpsest, and it is a document that will provide evidence of its story to future generations.

@ Sarah Christianson, My parents, Dale & Rose, 2008

© Sarah Christianson, Entryway, 2008

Although I grew up on the farm, I was never really involved in its operation. I don’t know if this was a conscious decision my parents made, but I do know that they both grew up working on farms from a young age.  Perhaps they wanted something different for us. 

Mom was never going to marry a farmer, much less be one, even though she had been “well trained for it.”  However, her fate was sealed when she met my father on a blind date.  She would always help him out in the field, even when she was working as a nurse in town.  Then, when Grandpa Everett died in 2003, she became Dad’s sole “hired hand”—his words, not mine.

© Sarah Christianson, Mom storing soybeans at home, 2008

© Sarah Christianson, Dad, spring planting, 2007

Twelve hundred acres is just enough for the two of them to manage alone.  They work symbiotically.  While Dad plants in the spring, Mom prepares the next field by cultivating it.  While Dad combines in the fall, Mom hauls the crops.  She either takes them home to be stored in grain bins or brings them to local elevators, Buxton, Shelley, or Alton, to fulfill contracts.  Over the winter, they sell everything that is stored at home—when the prices are right—and haul it to the elevator.  From there, the crops can go anywhere.  One year, our soybeans were part of a shipment to Norway, where they were dumped in the fjords to feed the fish.  Talk about things coming full circle!

Homeplace was published by Daylight Books in 2013, with an introduction from Arnold R. Alanen.

© Sarah Christianson, Wheat harvest at the homestead, 2007

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