Posted on June 20, 2019
Most American farmers spent the last week of May and the first week of June either driving through mud or stuck in it. Their two farming partners, Mother Nature and Uncle Sam, were little help; one brought threats of more rain and mud, the other threats of more tariffs and bailouts.
Farmers in my […]
Posted on June 5, 2019
It’s a truism in American agriculture that food-growing technology undergoes an industry-shaking metamorphosis every generation.
When Grandpa (both yours and mine) farmed, hybrid seed corn came in and oat-eating horsepower went out. His sons, our fathers, were early adopters of anhydrous ammonia, 2,4-D, and, whoa, combines.
Twenty-five years later, our generational farm-changing moment arrived with […]
Posted on April 17, 2019
On an April Sunday afternoon a year ago, the last ancestral connection to the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth was severed when my mother died quietly and peacefully.
Her passing, quickly followed by her sister’s death, means that this Easter will be the first Easter in the last 64 that I will not be […]
Posted on April 10, 2019
Of all the places you’d expect to see a fight between the cold, hard face of ag economics and the warm, tender heart of rural America, that place would not be the corner of West 41st St. and Eighth Avenue in New York City, the home of the New York Times.
And yet there it was in […]
Posted on February 15, 2019
There was no “shutdown”—not in the U.S. government sense, anyway—on the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth.
Come to think of it, there was never a showdown, hoedown, lockdown, or shakedown either. There were, however, machinery breakdowns, endless sundowns and, every now and then, a letdown.
But shutdowns? Not one, not even a “partial” one.
In fact, if anyone […]
Posted on January 3, 2019
The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered the farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby wood stove. Yellowed Christmas cards, saved over the years and perched like doves in the untrimmed branches, served as ornaments.
“I believe this […]
Posted on November 14, 2018
Humanity depends on three critical threes: Without oxygen, most humans will die within three minutes; without water, life expectancy is three days; without food, we’ve got three weeks.
Few Americans give three seconds of thought to any of these life-ensuring elements because, here, food is safe and plentiful, air quality laws are in place and enforced, […]
Posted on October 31, 2018
“February” is one of the finest essays in Sand County Almanac, the 1949 book of superlative essays on nature and mankind’s role in it, by forester and conservationist Aldo Leopold. In it, Leopold, the father of wildlife ecology, tells the history of his Wisconsin “sand farm” and its natural “community” as he and a friend […]
Posted on October 25, 2018
In the unseasonable heat of mid-September, the yard’s many black walnut trees began shedding their heavy fruit. Now, a month on, the stately trees are bare of nuts and most of their leaves weeks earlier than any year I can remember. Does that suggest an early winter? A long one?
Time will tell. All I […]
Posted on August 30, 2018
Cool, foggy August mornings like today inevitably carry the 50-year-old sounds of the milking parlor where my father and herdsman Howard spent tens of thousands of hours together over nearly four decades.
The pair—one a college near-graduate, the other an eighth-grade graduate of the schoolhouse you could see from the dairy barn—rarely spoke. They fulfilled their […]