Life on the Farm

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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No Immigrants, No Food

To hear most of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates tell it, the nation’s biggest problem is illegal immigration.
That’s right; it’s not the incendiary Middle East, the ever-on-edge global financial markets, ballooning overpopulation, rapid climate change, or terrorism either here or abroad. It’s illegal immigration.
It’s so bad, shouts poll-climbing billionaire Donald Trump, that the only solution […]

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Out to Pasture

No July passes without baseball’s All-Star game and no All-Star game passes without most middle-aged farmboys recalling childhood dreams of playing professional baseball. That’s what we did two generations ago: we played baseball in daylight, we listened to baseball in twilight, we dreamt baseball at night.
My baseball dreams reflected my southern Illinois roots. I was […]

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“What Makes You an Expert?”

“I just read your column,” noted an Illinois critic of an early May piece that outlined a proposed, multi-billion dollar merger between the key players in the prepared foods sector.
“I have just one question,” the emailer went on, “what makes you an expert in the Sysco attempt to buy US Foods?”
Ah, blessed readers; they are […]

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Nature’s Calling; Anyone Listening?

Question: What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Answer: Neither; both arrived after a qualified veterinarian declared their farm disease-free following a complete depopulation because of an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI.
It’s no joke.
On June 1, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced that 192 “detections” of […]

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