Between 1895 and 1920 technological, economic, demographic, and cultural changes transformed American rural life. This article argues that historians should not take agricultural newspapers as is and assume that they expressed the farmer’s point of view. Because most of the publishers and editors of farm newspapers lived in cities and were influenced by progressive reformers, farm newspapers often reflected urban reform ideas. At the same time, farm newspapers provided space for opposing viewpoints by publishing letters to the editor. The coverage of agricultural education and rural school consolidation in four midwestern farm newspapers provides an illustrative case study of this interaction. While publishers and editors promoted reformers’ recommendations, many farmers did not agree with or follow their advice. As a result, farm newspapers are better seen not as expressing the ideas of farmers, but providing a forum for reformers and farmers to debate proposed changes to country life.

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