Work for Food

Each day, KHC features the hot topics and great speakers in the Speakers Bureau catalog. Today’s featured presentation is “The Work Culture of Food in Early Kansas” by M. J. Morgan.

tomato canning

Tomato canning in Wabaunsee County, 1913.
Image via, Kansas Historical Society, copy and reuse restrictions apply.

Looking at Flint Hills communities founded before 1900, M. J. Morgan discusses early food production, preservation, and preparation in her Speakers Bureau presentation. Food culture was shaped by familial roles, the influences of Old World traditions brought by immigrant settlers, and food labor practices that were adapted to a new environment. Surviving ice houses, spring houses, common pastures, community slaughterhouses, and whole-community canning events illustrate the rich food culture of early Kansas.

“A lot of attention was paid to recipes,” said Morgan. “Cookbooks emphasize a distinct food culture of the prairies and the homesteading frontier. I am intrigued by the kind of work people did to produce and preserve food, and not just agriculture. Rural Kansans were filled with ingenuity, Old World practices, and communal approaches. The Traveling Distillers of the Northern Tier make up just one fascinating story!”

MJ Morgan

M. J. Morgan

M. J. Morgan is the director of research at the Chapman Center for Rural Studies at Kansas State University. Her specialty is the reconstruction of lost landscapes and environments as well as research into cultures and peoples whose voices do not often appear in standard histories.

Bring M. J. Morgan’s “The Work Culture of Food in Early Kansas” or one of the other presentations in the Speakers Bureau catalog to your community for FREE with a Resource Center Support Grant. It’s quick and easy! Visit the Speakers Bureau page to get started or contact Leslie Von Holten, KHC program officer, at leslie(at) for more information.