Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Farmer in Northwest Iowa

He’s one of three million Americans.

This particular one lives and works in northwest Iowa. He does what his father did before him – he farms the land, to grow food, provide for the family, and be a vital part of the community where he grew up. Farming is what he knows and what he believes in.

He fights the weather, as much as anyone can fight it. He certainly talks about it a lot, because the weather matters. A lot. A wet spring means he’s planting late. Not enough rain in the summer threatens his crop. A wet fall means he’s harvesting late, and he hopes it’s not too late because the rain could turn to snow. If it’s been as wet a fall as this year has seen, when most Americans are sitting down with family and friends for Thanksgiving, there’s a good chance he’s going to be in that combine, trying to finish the harvest. And giving thanks he has some dry days to do it.

So people like the rest of us can eat.

Some harvest nights, he’s got the headlights on the combine, and he’s out there, working. No one except his wife knows, because he can’t quite slip into bed quietly enough not to wake her at 3 a.m. to get a couple of hours of desperately needed sleep. She hears him; she knows what he does for their family. She doesn’t say anything; she puts her hand on his shoulder so he’ll know. And he does.

He doesn’t talk about it, either. He just does it.

He’s heard what some say. You don’t take care of the land. You’re industrial agriculture. Flyover country. All the demeaning and patronizing words that come when people learn farming from whomever the latest college guru happens to be.

He shrugs. He has work to do.

He’s a businessman because he has to be. He has to track commodity prices. Seed and fuel prices. Fertilizer. Utilities. Loan rates, assuming credit’s available. Land values. And he’s learned how to use technology. GPS. The net. Mobile computing. Because some things he has to find out like now, while he's on the tractor or in the combine or he's stopped at the feed supply and he hears something he has to check on.

He’s smart, because farming takes brains, and an intellect, and common sense, and experience, and ongoing education from the state university and the extension agent and the seed dealer and anyone else who has knowledge to impart. He listens and ponders. That’s on top of his degree in agriculture or business or marketing. And, yes, he reads the farm publications but that’s the Wall Street Journal and Business Week that he’s reading at breakfast. And he's reading them online.

He worries, too, about a lot of things. If the children will farm after him. If commodity prices will stay high enough to turn a profit. About the cost of his inputs. About whether he should make an offer on that land that became available across the road. And the weather.

He’s a man of faith. He has to have faith to be in farming. Faith in God. Faith in something besides himself. Because he knows it takes more than himself to be successful. Like when his father-in-law spends a week with him to help with the harvest. When his brothers share equipment. And when he does the same thing for them.

So this Thanksgiving, give thanks for him. And the three million men and women just like him.


Maureen said...

This is a beautifully written homage to this farmer and all farmers and their families, Glynn. You remind us of what we too often take for granted: the food on our tables did not just magically appear on store shelves.

Thank you.

P.S. This would be a wonderful piece for an op-ed or readers' contributions page.

~*Michelle*~ said...

This was awesome...so many of us take for granted to hard lives that farmers live day to day, season to season.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Marcus Goodyear said...

My grandfather was a professor at Mississippi State--and much of his research had to do with helping farmers just like the ones you describe.

As much as I enjoy the convenience of grocery stores (like HEB in Texas...!) I worry sometimes about how it separates us from the land and from the real cost of food.

When we forget what and who creates our meals, it is hard to be thankful.

Thank YOU, Glynn, for the beautiful post. You have reminded us about the real people behind the complicated issue.

Anonymous said...

i can tell that this came from the heart.

and what you have said i know to be true.

we should be thankful to God for those that farm the land to grow our food.

Anne Lang Bundy said...

I hear here echoes of Jennifer, a farmer's wife from Iowa. If she doesn't already know you, I'll be sure she hears about your post.

Lyla Willingham Lindquist said...

Thanks for this, Glynn. In my part fo the country, we work, and worship, and go to school with these families. Their faith gets me out of bed in the morning.

You've honored them well.

Jennifer @ JenniferDukesLee.com said...

I am in tears, just grateful for this, Glynn. I can't even put into words how I'm feeling.

Just ...


Thank you. *Thank you.*

Sande said...

What great perspective over a culturally 'unglamorous' career.

Anonymous said...

Here, here.

Peter P said...


Is he you?

Deb Brown said...

I'm now sitting here in tears. Your farmer is my farmer: he's my dad, my brother, my friend, my neighbor.

Thank you for putting into words what needed to be said.

Thank you for reminding us how important the Flyover States are.


Unknown said...

What a heartfelt tribute. We don't always think of the ones who sacrificed so we can sit down to a table of bounty.

Thankful for those who do today, because of this reminder.