HOMEGROWN Life: A Love Letter to the Heartland

| 8/15/2013 10:57:00 AM

water sceneI’m certain all of us have gotten questions about our homesteading way of life—usually starting with, “Why”? Most of us have had a gradual evolution into the people we are and, if you’re anything like me, you’ve picked up a few causes along the way. One cause that’s near and dear to me, and the one that landed me here at HOMEGROWN, is preserving the way of the American farmer.

This interest sprouted from two very important areas of my life: concern over where my products come from and travel. Several years ago, I became an RV traveler. I’ve always been a road tripper and if I could, I’d live on the road, collecting people’s stories. Real life has interceded with that fantasy, so instead I travel for several months out of the year and have a home base in the hills of eastern Pennsylvania. Years ago, I began to travel west. This had been a lifelong dream of mine, and indeed it was as life changing as I thought it would be. I returned west the following year and every year since. The destination is different each year, but they all lie considerably west of the Mississippi by at least a couple of days.

For some people, the grassy, wide-open states are just passing scenery until you get to where you’re going. This isn’t the case for me. These middle states offer history lessons and a love affair with our heartland rolled into one. They are, quite literally, the heart and the center of our country and an ongoing picture of how we’re losing the vital contributions of our farmers.

Every year, I take one of two travel routes. I’ve seen the same farms, the same homes, and the same fields again and again. I don’t sleep on our trip. I stare out the window and watch the corn fly by and the canola fields brighten the horizon. I’m deeply in love with the heavy machinery I see methodically crisscrossing the tall fields and the farmhands I see when we stop for our meals and fuel. I observe the beautiful farmhouses and the silos and the quilted fields surrounding them, and I imagine generations of family working this land for their living every day, sunup til sundown. They’re busting their backs to supply the American people with clothing, food, and products.fence at sundown

Somewhere around my third trip out, I began to notice fewer farms and less open land. I saw houses and warehouses under construction on property that had been operating farmland a short year or two earlier.

I don’t pretend to know the most accurate numbers, but I’ve heard that after a 70-year decline in farms, the number had finally begun to rise sometime around 2010. I’d also heard that, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farms in the United States has fallen from about 6.8 million in 1935 to only about 2 million today. My larger concern, however, is what I see versus what the stats tell me—although I don’t love that news either.

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