This cooperative farm on the slopes of Cumberland Mountain was around for 10 years.

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Skyline Farms 1936
Credit: Carl Mydans/Library of Congress

Back in the 1930s, Skyline Farms was a 181-farm cooperative that sat on 13,000 acres of rugged northern Alabama countryside.

The farming community was set up by the Farm Security Administration in 1937 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. The idea was to help keep farmers employed during the Great Depression. The government gave impoverished farmers homes, land, and the farming equipment necessary to make it fruitful, according to Mashable who unearthed the story of the Jackson County project.

Skyline Farms 1937
Credit: Ben Shahn/Library of Congress

The program was not a hand out, as farmers had to clear their land, help build their homes, and then plant their crops to earn their so-called 40 acres and a mule. Of course, farmers aren't just solitary workhorses and the government made sure their families were well taken care of, too. The Skyline Farms were home to a thriving community of families with a co-op store, community centers, schools, and subsidized health care. It was a fascinating socio-economic experiment on the slopes of Cumberland Mountain.

Skyline Farms 1937
Credit: Arthur Rothstein/Library of Congress

Like most projects that took place in the Jim Crow South, Skyline Farms was for white families only. A similar —and far more famous—program was set up for black families down the road at Gee's Bend farms in Wilcox County. The quilts created by the creative women of Gee's Bend are still highly prized today.

Skyline Farms 1937
Credit: Ben Shahn/Library of Congress

While the farm families worked hard, they also knew how to kick back with square dances and socials with the resident Skyline Farms Band providing the perfect soundtrack. Farm Security Administration photographer Ben Shahn headed to the sprawling farm in 1937 with his camera in hand and documented one of the farm's dances. The photos are a gentle reminder of a different time when fiddle playing would keep the kids entertained and everyone would turn out for a night dancing under the stars.

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Skyline Farms was only open for about 10 years, closing at the end of WW II, perhaps because so many farmers had left to serve their country.

For more information on the Skyline Farms, or to plan a visit to the Skyline Farms Heritage Museum, visit the Skyline Farms Heritage Association Facebook group.