Rural America

The Auctioneer’s Song

For someone who rarely attended auctions, my father somehow managed to host or co-host four different auctions in the last 20 or so years of his long life. Is that a record of some kind?
The first, held in the mid-1990s, was a dispersal sale for the 100 or so Holstein cows, heifers, and calves that […]

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March Madness

If only Julius Caesar had listened to the soothsayer who, in plain Latin, warned him, “Beware of the Ides of March.” Instead, the powerful, arrogant Roman tweeted, er, complained, “He is a Dreamer, let us leave him.”
And leave Caesar did—forever—on the Ides of March 44 B.C.
Someone should have given American farmers, ranchers, and rural residents […]

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Big Salaries, Big Loans, Big Questions

If you want to get the attention of the $240-billion Farm Credit System (FCS), just mention the $725-million loan CoBank, a System lender, made to Verizon in 2013 to help finance Verizon’s $130-billion buyout of Vodafone, a European telecommunications giant.
The far-from-the-farm loan incensed commercial bankers, the System’s largest competitors, who howled to Congress about CoBank’s […]

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By the Numbers

Before spring arrives and our attention turns to blue sky, dancing daffodils, and why the corn planter’s GPS isn’t working, let’s take a few minutes to lock in key numbers that will dominate the still-young farm and ranch year.
For example, as of Wednesday, March 8, Congress has 66 legislative days remaining until its lengthy August […]

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Obamacare Repeal, Rural Health, and You

After years of angry opposition, fiery speeches, and showy, going-nowhere votes, Congressional Republicans finally clenched their angry, shaking hands on the throat of the Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—as the Senate, then the House, voted to repeal the 2010 law one week before Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president.
Well, that’s the alternative reality of what […]

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Winter’s Workings

January started gray, stayed gray, and ended gray. Worse, it wasn’t a shining silver gray or an inviting blue gray. It was the flat, disengaging gray of used dishwater that seemed to whisper, “Don’t bother.”
The one-colored weather wasn’t cold weather, though. Early in the month, a few days of Arctic temperatures did thicken the lake […]

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An Allegory and A True Story

The allegory:
Not long ago, a man named Jim was in business with his brother Bob. Jim was the hardworking, money-making side of the firm; Bob was the always smiling, money-spending side.
And, sure, Jim knew the arrangement was lopsided but he loved and trusted Bob and Bob was Jim’s greatest admirer and biggest promoter.
The business did […]

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Elections Come and Go; We Stay

The cold, gray drizzle of November finally found central Illinois on Election Day. No one complained, however, because the warm, dry harvest season had ended weeks before.
Fifty or more years ago, that was never the case on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth. In fact, if we were half-done with harvest on Election […]

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In Search of “Community”

Recently, a baker’s dozen of old farm and food friends got together with a group of young farm and food friends to discuss everything from yesterday’s disappointments to tomorrow’s hopes.
The differences in our age (mid-20s to early 80s), vocation (farmers to poets), education (undergraduates to Ph.Ds.), and experience (beekeeper to university dean) fueled warm—and, sometimes, […]

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Life in the Slow Lane

September arrived on a bright, beautiful sunbeam after one of the soggiest Augusts central Illinois ever muddled through.
The wet month was a quiet month, though. Not even the ever-cheerful wrens could find anything to sing about during the monsoon. One bird-based benefit, however, was that our lake’s always honked-off Canada geese moved on to, I […]

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