Farm Aid Supporter Mona Lee Brock passes

by: Matt Schudel

In 1985, Mona Lee Brock and her husband lost their farm in Oklahoma. A combination of factors — low prices for cattle and grain, high interest rates on loans, falling land values — led to the most serious financial crisis in rural America since the Great Depression.

At one point in the 1980s, the country was losing more than 2,000 family farms a week, from California to Minnesota to the Carolinas. Loans that kept farmers afloat were foreclosed, costing them their land, their livelihood and their way of life.

In many cases, farmers were uprooted from land that generations of their forefathers had tilled. They looked on as their livestock and farm equipment were auctioned off.

Mrs. Brock and her husband, F.M. Brock, held meetings of farmers, bankers and business leaders at their farm in Lincoln County, Okla., for mutual support. In the end, however, the Brocks were not able to hold on to their land, where they had raised cattle and grown wheat, soybeans and cotton. Within a year, F.M. Brock died of a heart attack.

And, where they had raised cattle and grown wheat, soybeans and cotton. Within a year, F.M. Brock died of a heart attack.

One unforeseen consequence of what became known as the “farm crisis” was that farmers began to take their own lives at a shocking rate. Mrs. Brock began to volunteer for the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, which operated a hotline for emergency counseling and suicide prevention. (It was later managed by other organizations.)

A longtime teacher and school principal, Mrs. Brock offered a sympathetic ear and a soothing, understanding presence to people who raised food to feed the world but could not afford to feed their own families. In some of the calls, she could hear despondent farmers putting shells into shotguns as they talked.

Mona Lee Brock is credited with keeping hundreds of farms from being liquidated and with saving an untold number of lives. (Farm Aid Inc.)

During her three decades as an advocate on behalf of farmers, Mrs. Brock spoke to tens of thousands of farmers, taking calls day and night. She was credited with keeping hundreds of farms from being liquidated and with saving an untold number of lives.

Singer Willie Nelson — a founder of Farm Aid, which provides assistance to struggling small farmers — called her “the angel on the other end of the line.”

Mrs. Brock was 87 when she died March 19 at her home in Durant, Okla. She had congestive heart failure, said her son Ron Brock.

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