Life on the Farm

A Spring With Little Bounce

Hints of spring arrived early this year but the season itself seemed to be in the slow lane because rare was the week when back-to-back sunny days warmed the tired winter soul.
The daffodils and jonquils did arrive in mid-March and then waved away for almost a month before a quick burst of late April heat […]

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They Never Stopped Making It

Forty-five years ago, anyone hoping to be someone in American agriculture was offered the same, free advice: “Buy land; they’re not making it anymore.”
But “they” were making it. In fact, lots and lots of it.
According to data reported by the United Nations, the world’s farmable land base grew by about 240 million acres between 1971 […]

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My Best Friend

On a sparkling blue Friday afternoon in October 1965, I stepped off a noisy school bus with my best friend, Marvin, to walk the long lane to his family’s farm. It was my first, non-family trip anywhere and I was so excited to go to Marvin’s house for the weekend that I doubt my feet […]

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The Quiet Month

January was a quiet month on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth. Maybe it was quiet because we were quiet, drained after December’s month-long buildup to Christmas and New Year’s. Maybe it was quiet because most of our farm machines, like all of our fields, were quiet.
Whatever the reason, January still brought 100 […]

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On the Road: New York City

Chelsea Market, a block-long, block-wide brick building in New York’s lower west side, was built 120 years ago on the edge of the city’s then-bustling meatpacking district to house a rising food powerhouse, the National Biscuit Company.
It was no accident that the-state-of-the-art food factory was located near the city’s slaughterhouses; the neighborhood was knee-deep in […]

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Thanksgiving Choices

The gray dullness of November finally made it to Illinois a couple of weeks late.
The morning of its arrival began like almost every morning since Labor Day, warm and with a breeze. By noon, however, a sharp wind was blowing from the east and the low groan of thunder promised both a rain and a […]

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Tweet, Tweet

The tweeting heard by U.S. farmers and ranchers this fall isn’t that loquacious social media birdie Twitter. Instead, it’s canaries—coal mine canaries, to be exact—and their song is neither short nor sweet.
In fact, it’s downright dour. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, this year’s 36 percent fall in net farm income is the biggest […]

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Mind the Gap

A lashing, late afternoon thunderstorm roared through Chicago Friday, Sept. 18 to power wash Northerly Island, a tongue of land jutting into Lake Michigan just east of the city’s Loop and site of the 2015 Farm Aid concert. By noon Saturday, however, a bright sun danced with puffy clouds and the Windy City’s sweeping skyline […]

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Diversity and Resilience versus Corn and Soybeans

By car, Quebec City, Quebec, is 1,840 miles from Bismarck, ND. I know because in the last two months I have seen every mile of highway between North Dakota’s state capital on the Missouri to Quebec’s provincial capital on the St. Lawrence.
Interestingly, as you drive west to east across arguably some of the New World’s […]

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The Summer of Honey

Faithful readers of this weekly effort may recall my darling, but dangerous Uncle Honey. He was my hometown’s quiet, easy-going milkman who retired to the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth to break, bend or beat up any plant, animal or machine unlucky enough to be nearby when Honey “helped” my father.
It wasn’t intentional; […]

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