Along the 1200 Road in Windsor, Mo., there is plenty of gravel and farmland. But one thing it is short of is people.
Miles of green fields separate the farms that occupy this area of Windsor, a rural town of 3,000, making area farms easy targets in a series of metal thefts that robbed farmers of the tools they needed to do their jobs.
Mike Obermann was among the victims. He owns a farm of row crops and cattle northwest of Windsor with his wife. In the theft, he lost $500-600 worth of fencing material and an aluminum boat.
It’s hard not to use the phrase “quintessential small town” when you describe Pittsfield, Ill.
The western Illinois community of 4,500 people has a picturesque downtown square with an historic courthouse sitting in the center. The small city is the county seat of Pike County and for many years has called itself the Pork Capital of the World in homage to an important sector of farming in this region. Every year the town holds a two day festival known as “Pig Days,” which, true to its name, features pig tail and hog calling contests.
It’s not just lifelong farmers who feel the pull of the land as they get older. For some Americans, retirement is an opportunity to begin the farming dream.
“I wanted to be able to be active and have a pastime that ensured physical activity,” said beginning farmer Tom Thomas, who at 65 still has the physical fitness to wrestle and brand steers at his son’s ranch in Oklahoma.
Thomas retired two years ago after teaching exercise physiology for 35 years and he knew what he wanted to do next.
Amy Konishi says when her obituary is written it’ll read, “All she knew was work.”
It’ll be a fitting tribute given the 87-year-old’s work ethic. As a young girl she toiled in her family’s onion and cantaloupe and dry bean fields outside Rocky Ford, Colo. Then she moved to selling produce at her husband’s roadside shed along the highway. In the 1950s she opened her own hair salon and she’s been putting in hours ever since.
Driving out of the western Iowa town of Panora, the winding roads offer broad vistas of rolling hills. Many of the mailboxes along Redwood Road show the name Arganbright. Jim Arganbright grew up in this area, one of 10 children. He and his wife, Beverly, have eight kids.
Though Jim Arganbright farmed here his whole life, three years ago at the age of 80 he started renting his cropland to his son Tom, the only one of his children who farms full-time. Now, all Jim Arganbright has to worry about is the livestock — and he doesn’t have too much of that.
Working beyond retirement is a fairly common refrain these days. In 2012, 5 percent of the U.S. workforce was beyond retirement age. But farmers seem to work longer than most. In the last Agriculture Census 25 percent of all farm operators were over 65 years old.
Why do farmers keep working? For one thing, modern machinery makes it easier to work longer.
“It’s more you use your mind rather than your back, so you can go longer,” said Mike Duffy, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University.
Many farmers say they would like to grow genetically engineered wheat to help them feed a hungry world, but it’s not what everyone’s hungry for. And now, with the mysterious appearance of Roundup Ready wheat in a farmer’s field in Oregon a few weeks ago, consumer resistance may grow even stronger.
Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are genetically modified, but GMO wheat has never been approved for farming.
Trent Johnson didn’t grow up on a farm, but he was always enamored with the cowboy lifestyle.
He sure looks the part now. I visited him in his custom cowboy hat shop in Greeley, Colo. In a sleek black cowboy hat and blue western shirt, Johnson delivers the modern cowboy aesthetic.
During college he hung out with the urban cowboy crowd, which included concerts for country idols like Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw. The city kid, who’d spent part of his childhood on a ski team, decided he needed a change.
Within the local food movement, the community supported agriculture model is praised. CSAs, as they’re commonly known, are often considered one of the best ways to restore a connection to the foods we eat.
The model is simple: Consumers buy a share of a farmer’s produce up front as a shareholder and then reap the rewards at harvest time. But running a CSA can bring with it some tricky business decisions.
Last year one of the country’s largest Community Supported Agriculture share providers went bankrupt. Grant Family Farms in Northern Colorado launched an organic CSA back in 2007 with 127 members and peaked with more than 5,000 in 2012.
The story behind why Grant Family Farms went bankrupt is complicated. But it also sheds light on whether a CSA can become too big.
Popular food writer Mark Bittman took the pulpit at the Unity Temple in Kansas City Thursday night, preaching his gospel of progressive food policy and offering denunciations of what he calls “Big Food.”
Jackie Dougan Jackson keeps a pretty thorough log of her life. The 85-year-old retired college professor lives in Springfield, Ill., and has lived there for more than 40 years. However, she has devoted a lot of time to her first 22 years, when she lived on a family farm near Beloit, Wisc.
If you’ve experienced sticker shock shopping for ground beef or steak recently, be prepared for an entire summer of high beef prices.
Multi-year droughts in states that produce most of the country’s beef cattle have driven up costs to historic highs. Last year, ranchers culled deep into their herds – some even liquidated all their cattle – which pushed the U.S. cattle herd to its lowest point since the 1950s.
Monica Johnson, 36, watered edible yellow kale flowers on a recent sunny morning at a rooftop garden in Greenpoint in Brooklyn, N.Y. Standing in front of the Manhattan skyline in her sleeveless top, shades and blond ponytail pulled back in a trucker cap, she looked part-farm girl and part-hipster.
The U.S. Senate approved a new comprehensive farm bill Monday, its plan for everything from food and nutrition assistance to disaster aid for livestock producers to crop insurance for farmers. But before you go popping champagne corks and celebrating the creation of five-years of agricultural policy, know this: The U.S. House has yet to weigh in.
April Segura is a regular at the Old Cheney Road Farmers Market in Lincoln, Neb. On a warm, May afternoon, the single, stay-at-home mother of three greeted friends and acquaintances while strolling past tables of lettuce and herbs. She hoped to find more asparagus for sale.
“I love asparagus season and it’s probably about to be over,” said Segura, holding two grocery bags with one arm and her one-year-old son, Jeriel, with the other.
Crops and cattle, soil and sweat. American agriculture has a proud history to share, a story to tell. But getting the attention of a tech-savvy nation that has mostly moved away from its farm roots has been difficult. Today, though, there is a glimmer of hope for farm fans. The plow, truth be told, looks a little lonely.
As lawmakers debate the Farm Bill in Washington, millions of dollars are at stake for small businesses across the country. Rural development grants go out to everything from home loans to water projects to small co-ops.
With budget cuts likely, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is adjusting how these funds are used, and proposing changes to the word “rural.” But there’s concern that a tighter belt at the federal level means farmers and ranchers in small towns will be left behind.
In the small town of Staunton, Ill., the new $9 million water plant is a welcome addition. After all, when the 80-year-old facility it replaces seized up last year, the community’s 5,000 residents were without water for five days.
But for Staunton’s part-time mayor Craig Neuhaus, the plant represents more than water security. He expects the water system upgrade to help bring business to this town about 40 miles north of St. Louis.
How does a new craft brewer stand apart from the pack? A few have hitched their brewery onto the local food bandwagon, sourcing the ingredients that form beer’s DNA straight from the fields around them.
The volunteer crew members pulled on their life jackets and climbed into a flat-bottomed aluminum boat at a ramp near Nebraska City, Neb. They came out early on a cold, gray April morning hoping to catch an endangered pallid sturgeon.
Kendra Short (center) works with students on a dance number at her studio in Belleville, Kan. Short and her husband Shannon have applied for the Rural Opportunity Zone program in Republic County, and are building a house.
When the Homestead Act of 1862 made land in the Great Plains virtually free, people rushed in to settle rural Kansas. But 150 years later, the dust has truly settled. Between 2000 and 2010, more than half of Kansas counties declined in population — many by 10 percent or more.