Author Kristina Boucher didn't set out to write a book about the agricultural history of the St. Croix River Valley between approximately 1850 and 1970, but there are many people in the area who are glad she did.
"A few years ago I had gotten into photography. There was something particularly beautiful about old abandoned barns and farmhouses and I began driving down back country roads taking pictures of these farms," Boucher said. "I started to wonder why these farms were abandoned - what happened to the families? So I started researching and speaking to local farmers to learn more."
Boucher will be at the Friday Memorial Library to talk about her book "Lost Farms of the St. Croix Valley," at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15. The book features nearly 200 vintage and modern photographs of farms throughout the valley, as well as interviews with local farmers.
"'Lost Farms'" looks at the history of farming in the region and why traditional family farms have begun to disappear," Boucher said. "My aunt and uncle operate a dairy farm in East Farmington. I have many fond childhood memories running through the barn and playing in the fields. It really amazes me how tight-knit farming families are - the Boucher Farm had become a gathering place, somewhere where everyone was welcome.
"As I met with other farming families, this strong family bond was evident with every farmer I spoke with."
While doing her research, Boucher found that, although some farming family bonds are still strong, others have begun to loosen.
"Agriculture was at one point deeply rooted in communities in the St. Croix River Valley - and while there are still some communities where agriculture is still the center-point, I have noticed those bonds are beginning to loosen," Boucher said. "It just became a priority to me to gather these stories and preserve these memories before they were gone."
"Lost Farms" was the first book Boucher had ever published and she was thrilled, as well as a little nervous, to find out that Arcadia Publishing was willing to work with her to publish the book.
"There was an immense weight on my shoulders because I felt so honored to share these stories but being new to the world of publishing it was sometimes difficult to know where to begin," Boucher said. "I rewrote my entire book and reorganized all 200 of my images at least five times before I sent it to my editor for revision. I'm incredibly happy with the way 'Lost Farms' turned out and I'm still open to seeing more photographs and hearing more stories!"
Not only has "Lost Farms" been a success as a book, but many people have also taken the time to come to author visits to tell her what the book has meant to them.
"I never realized how interested the general public would be. Many people have told me that it has rekindled memories of the 'good ole days' that they had long forgotten," Boucher said. "I have spoken with people who had retired from farming long ago and I watched as their eyes lit up when they saw an old picture that reminded them of being on their farm. Being able to share my book has really been a humbling experience."
Although her research into the abandoned farms across the St. Croix River Valley got her into writing, photography is still something Boucher enjoys, especially collecting vintage photos.
"I do like to share some additional photographs that didn't quite make the book when I do author visits," Boucher said. "I welcome people to bring their photographs and stories if they would like to share."
For more information about Kristina Boucher or "Lost Farms of the St. Croix Valley," visit kristinaboucherblog.wordpress.com.