Farmer’s daughter’s dilemma

I’m listening to The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, mostly as I walk around Cambridge and Boston, and when I’m weeding in the garden. (The latter being what I’ve taken to doing every morning.)

I’ve made it through the maize, past McDonalds, and into the beef industry. Having grown up on an Iowa beef (and corn and soy) farm, I have personal experience with Pollan’s topics. It seems that the farmers he interviews and what he chooses to include in the book does not always reflect my family’s farm, but that is to be expected. It does ring true though, from what I know. The problem is, I don’t actually know that much about how my father farms.

My reaction as I’m listening has mostly been mute awe at the industrialization and commodification of food – and all the ills and boons that come with it.

The last time I was home to visit my family, I got up the courage to ask my dad why he didn’t farm something other than corn and soy. He said there was no other crop (or crops) that would allow him to be as successful, as a one-man operation.

Field south of the house

I took this to heart – letting go of the fantasy of starting an organic vegetable farm with my brother, which would service the local population (a mere 30 miles away).

This morning, as I was listening to the audiobook and pulling crab grass, I learned about farmers who have eschewed industrial farming AND organic farming, electing instead to find a sustainable balance instead (neither industrial or mass-farming organically are doing this). Pollan describes a farm in Virginia that rotates cattle, chickens, and various other animals over grassland, in such a way that benefits each animal species as well as the grass (and dirt).

Granted, I get excited about things easily (look! a sign that reads ‘puppy sale’!), but I really feel that there is some answer for how to use the land my family already has, once the only farmer working it is retired. Sure, we could rent it to someone else — we could even sell it. I prefer to scheme ways to keep it going with Greens (my dad is the fifth generation).

Now I just have to stop loving living in Boston, and convince Jason to move to Iowa. Though he doesn’t like to talk about it, I think my dad would like to retire eventually, and I think taking over a farm and successfully keeping it running isn’t outside the realm of possibility. It makes my heart ache to think about it.

How an Iowan farmer looks

These photos were taken during the floods in June. The first is the field across from the house, and the second is my father, during one of the last days of rising water.

Tags: , , , , ,

6 Responses to “Farmer’s daughter’s dilemma”

  1. A says:

    My heart aches when I think of the farm where my mother and grandfather both grew up, and where I spent the best parts of my childhood, and which was sold and demolished before I really understood that I could have saved it. And I think of it a lot.

    So I have this gaping hole in my heart, and Chris wants to live in the country because that’s the only environment where I’ll allow him to have a gun, and so I’m thinking there might be some room for Wadsgreen-Maycock collaboration here. We could even call it… Wadscock.

  2. sunday says:

    First, that’s the best name collaboration ever.

    Secondly, if we called it Wadscock farms, we could have the slogan be “PUT IT IN YOUR MOUTH!”

    Thirdly, we shouldn’t actually call it that, but if you’d move out to Iowa with us, that would be what it would take to tip the balances to actually going.

    Chris can be in charge of guns, the farm will continue to be wifi, and we’ll fight censorship and the oppression of patrons everywhere.

  3. kasia says:

    This is a lovely post. It made me think of the documentary “The Real Dirt on Farmer John”, have you seen it? I’m still working on Omnivore’s Dilemma myself.

  4. Ryan says:

    I’m going to guess other ‘things’ that keeps us midwesterners in corn and beans and not much else are: climate, soil type, storage/processing facilities, and market. IMO, the places that mass produce the ‘fresh’ fruits and vegetables are all kinda sorta located close by a company that caters to those very fragile and specific food types.

    On another note….Yes, do all you can to keep your farm. Whether you actually do some or any of the work, the Green farm should always be that. I hope my great great great great grand kids go by the stretch of land WE call “Grandma’s” (from 2 generations ago) and THEY call it “Grandma’s” too.

  5. Sonya says:

    Ry, you should definitely read Omnivore’s Dilemma. I’d like to know what you think of it.

    I think you’re making the assumption that the fresh food that would be grown on a farm would then be processed and shipped out across the country. The Quad Cities are full of people, and close enough that both processing and shipping would be minimized.

    On goes the master plan …

  6. Miss E says:

    Can SB and I join Wadscock Industries? I’m not sure if you can tack either of our names onto there, but I think we’re ok with being silent partners. Or members. As the case may be.

Leave a Reply