Rural America

A Cautionary Note from Sand County

“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 […]

Read More

Our Garden’s Last Stand

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 […]

Read More

The People’s Department–For the Time Being

An early hallmark of the Trump Administration’s management of American farm policy is its uncanny ability to pick fights that are as costly to win as they are to lose.
For example, even if the President’s import tariff plans succeed, how many ag exports will American farmers lose before the White House declares victory and moves […]

Read More

America’s Farming Soul

Sometimes it’s even hard for me to believe what I read in the newspaper. The latest “someone-really-said-that?” moment arrived courtesy of The Milkweed, the sharp-penned, monthly dairy newspaper owned and edited by Peter Hardin in Brooklyn, WI.
In its July 2018 edition, Milkweed writer Jan Shepel highlighted the controversy fueled by Marin Bozic, a dairy foods […]

Read More

It’s Hard to Tell: Is it 2018 or 2012 or Worse?

Every July, Congress begins to pack its collective bag to escape the scorching heat and suffocating humidity of Capitol Hill. And that’s just inside the Senate and House; outside it’s even worse.
Trapped in this year’s pressure cooker is the 2018 Farm Bill. While the Senate and House each passed their versions earlier this summer, neither […]

Read More

Summer’s Sweet Bridge

On the southern Illinois dairy farm of my youth, July was a slow, sweet bridge between spring’s hard hustle and fall’s quickening step.
The unofficial usher of July’s slowdown was my grandfather, a bond broker known more for his giddy-up than reining in. Most Thursdays and every Saturday year-around, Grandpa visited clients throughout southern Illinois. Every […]

Read More

Twenty-Five Years

June has always been a big month for me. I was born in June, graduated from high school in June, was readmitted to the Big U in June (it’s a long story) and, starting in June 1993, this weekly effort began quietly in the Galesburg (IL) Register-Mail.
Over the past 25 years, newspapering and the column, […]

Read More

What’s The Matter with Kansas?

For over 100 years, some Kansans have either built or added to their journalism reputation by asking this simple question: What’s the matter with Kansas? The answer, however, is far from simple.
      The first to ask was William Allen White, the publisher and editor of the Emporia Gazette. White, a mainstream Republican, posed the question as the […]

Read More

Rest in Peace

By default, obituary writers get the last official word on everyone. They tell the deceased person’s story through births, marriages, and deaths; add to it with names of parents, siblings, and children; and round it out with an anecdote or two about hobbies and professional achievements.
Maybe that’s why my father had a hand in writing […]

Read More

Seventy Crops

Shortly after he turns 86 on April 10, Eugene Glock will begin planting his 70th corn crop on the Butler County, NE farm he operates with his son. “He runs the place,” explains Gene by telephone, “and I’m the hired hand. I plant all the corn, though.”
And, the Lord willing, he adds, he will harvest […]

Read More