Tuesday, February 24, 2009

ABC Wednesday: The Ties that Bind

This week's letter for ABC Wednesday is the letter F, which stands for . . .

. . .Fields lying in wait for the warmth of spring. Just as we gardeners are looking for any sign of spring in our gardens--the bloom of a snowdrop or even the tiniest hint of a green shoot thrusting through the soil--farmers are also anticipating spring. In the heart of soybean and corn country, where I live, it is much too early to begin working in the fields, but preparations are being made for a new growing season. Seeds were ordered long ago, and now is the time to check over machinery to ensure it is in good repair and to finish any other necessary preparations so that once the weather is suitable, planting can begin without interruption.

By late March farmers will be getting restless, checking the temperature and moisture of the soil, hoping that they can soon begin working up the ground so that planting begins on time. Like gardeners, farmers are at the whim of the weather gods. Last year heavy rains at the end of May postponed much of the planting, causing a great deal of concern for farmers who feared that a late harvest would mean lower yields or none at all. Fortunately, though, the warm, dry fall we had offset many of the problems caused by the late start.

Unlike gardeners, though, who usually work in the garden for the sheer enjoyment of it, farmers are focused on trying to earn a livelihood. Due to many factors, farming has become more of a business, in many cases a big business. In the last 50 years in the state of Illinois the number of farms has been cut in half, while the size of the average farm--the number of acres--has doubled. What is particularly sad to me is the demise of the small family farm. While the majority of Illinois farms are still family-owned and operated, there are fewer of them.

For example, while my husband and I live on land farmed by several generations of his family, my husband no longer does the actual farming. After quite a few years of working his "day" job and then doing the farmwork on weekends and evenings, he decided it just wasn't worth it anymore. It is more cost-productive to rent out the land. Sadly, my own family's farm is in much the same situation. When my father finally decided to retire as he approached his 80th birthday, there was no one in our immediate family to take over. Virgin prairie land purchased by my great-great-grandfather and farmed by four generations of the same family is now worked by someone else, albeit a distant relative.

Larger and more expensive equipment and a narrow profit margin have forced farmers to either increase the size of their farms or to give up farming altogether. Some find the higher prices of real estate development more enticing than the constant struggle to stay solvent. I don't think there's any kind of conspiracy afoot against small farmers; it's simply economic reality. The small family farms are going the way of "mom and pop" retail businesses.

F is also for Family, which is a very important part of my life. Those of you who read my last post know that two of my grandchildren stayed with us for the better part of last week while their parents took a short vacation trip. We had a wonderful time: Granddaughter asked if she could stay 10 days instead of 5 (!), and little Grandson was perfectly content the whole time, but was absolutely thrilled to see Mom and Dad on their return! You wonder what must have been going through his mind since he was too little to understand the concept of a vacation.

The day after they went home, my father was rushed to the hospital after suffering a mild stroke. He seems to be doing well and hopefully will be coming home tonight. But he is 83, and we don't know yet what the near future will bring. I have been spending as much time as possible at the hospital the past few days in between working almost full-time this week. And so, dear blogging Friends, I think you will understand if I haven't had much time to read or post lately; Family is my first priority right now.


  1. I love the picture of the nice flat fields. When we were driving home from OK through Missouri, it felt so good to cross the Mississippi back into the flat lands, where you can finally see for miles!

    It so true that there is no "conspiracy" to eliminate the family farm. Sometimes I hear that from people (ususally city dwellers, and not from the Midwest). Things are just changing, and some of it is good, some of it is bad. There is a way of life that is going away, that's for sure, but it's been a long time since farm families could get by ONLY farming, with no other income. A lot of people don't realize that.

  2. I enjoyed your thoughtful take on the letter F Rose. There are lots of changes in farming everwhere. I hope that your father is soon back home and that he makes a good recovery.

  3. Love your photos and your words! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Dear Rose,

    Joy, celebration, love, sadness, change, loss, growth, generations, the passage of time...so many words that all add up to family and farming. A very thoughtful post. I hope your dad's recovery continues..it must have been very worrisome for all of you


  5. Family *should* be your first priority, Rose -- we'll wait for you. :) It does my heart good to see all that green in your photos -- green trees, John Deere green, etc. Cannot wait! I hope your father continues to improve.

  6. Oh dear Rose, I am so sorry about your dad. I do hope he is feeling better and here's good thoughts coming your way for the best. hugs.

  7. So many farmers here too, but as an island lot of support to buy local. Best to you and yours at this time.

  8. Best wishes for your father from here, Rose.

  9. Dear Rose, you are so right on about family coming first! I hope your dad is home soon and can begin healing. I will hold him and your family in my heart.

    I read with interest your information on farming. Sadly, it's true. The small farmer and mom and pop businesses are vanishing.

    My hubby read me some statistics from the newspaper the other day which were quite disturbing. I don't remember the numbers, but it's something like only a fraction of people are farming these days. If this is so, then how are we going to eat in the future? You can't build shopping centers and highways on all the farm land. It saddens me to think that people are choosing not to nurture Mother Earth.
    Hugs to you and Dad

  10. Rose-I've passed an award on to you over on my blog. Hope your dad is doing better.

  11. Hi Rose, you post really personalizes the plight of farming today. I'm also sorry to hear about your dad, and hope he's doing better. By the way, what are you working on? I thought you were retired...

  12. I love the pictures of the fields. They will soon be very different when planted up and then they will burst into new growth.
    I do come from farming stock, going back a long way....!

    The pictures of family are really great. Love the matching teeshirts!
    Really sorry to hear that your father suffered a stroke and I do hope that he recovers really well from it.

  13. I do hope that things are going better with your father. I appreciate it very much that you had time to come to my blog. I read your post about farming and the problems farmers have nowadays. The Dutch and all European farmers have to deal with a lot of regulations all dictated by Bruxelles, the seat of the European Parliament. Well take care and all the best for your father.

  14. Hi Prairie Rose, another excellent F post. I wish I could live in the F world it has all the good things.


    xoxo Tyra

  15. Nice pictures. I can tell your family and farming heritage is very important to you. I have relative who are peach farmers and after years of struggling they have finally rented out their land and orchards.

    Your post reminded me of Little House days... how did they do it?

  16. What a lovely post. I hope your father will be well soon. I wish him 'beterschap'!

  17. This was my favorite post of the week. How beautiful. Very, very beautiful. My Daddy loves farming. I have seen what you are talking about happen over and over again in my lifetime. It is so aad because farming is a wonderful thing. I am glad that you had a lovely time with your grandchildren. I will be praying for your Dad today. What a scary thing. God bless you! Much love.

  18. Just wanted to leave good wishes for you, and your dad's health...

  19. Rose .. I'm so sorry for the stressful situation right now. I hope your father stays much better now. I know at that age it can be a fragile balance. That was wonderful to have the grandkids and enjoy your time with them so much.
    Take CARE of yourself Rose .. stress can eat away at us without knowing it is happening .. so REST ! Joy : )

  20. Rose I hope your father continues to do well. I'll keep him in my prayers.

    I really admire farmers! They certainly work so hard. I can imagine when an offer comes along to buy their land they have a hard choice to make.

  21. Joyce, So true--most farmers I know have a second job to make ends meet. Thank you for the well wishes for my Dad, and thanks for the award--I'll check it out soon.

    Anna, Thank you. Farming is changing just like so many other aspects of the economy.

    Sylvia, Thank you.

    Gail, so eloquently put! Life changes, doesn't it? Thank you for your concern--Dad seems to be recovering well.

    Nancy, Thank you--Dad is doing better. I'm anxious to see lots of green soon, too:)

    Tina, Thanks so much. The prognosis is more hopeful than we first expected, so I'm feeling more relieved right now.

    Babooshka, Farmers here grow crops that are made into other products--corn and soybeans--so they don't sell directly to the consumer. But we've seen some smaller "truck farms" spring up lately, which seem to be doing well.

    Flydragon, Thank you so much; he seems to be doing much better.

  22. Wendy, Dad was supposed to come home yesterday, but had to wait another day for some test results. I know he's tired of the hospital.

    I've seen so much good farmland turned into shopping centers and new subdivisions...that bothers me as much as anything, especially when perfectly good buildings in the center of town are left vacant.

    Monica, Thank you for your good wishes. I am retired, but I substitute teach occasionally. It's the perfect job--I can work when I want to (sort of) and no papers to grade:) This week I've been at school much more than usual. Several hours it's little more than glorified babysitting, which is when I've had time to blog.

    Maggie May, Thank you for the concern. Dad loves his great-grandkids; the little ones always bring a smile to his face.

    Reader Wil, Thank you for the good wishes. As I said, I've been in a classroom with lots of time on my hands the last two days, which is the only time I've had to read blogs:) There are more and more government regulations for farmers here as well, but the small profit margins are what is really causing their decline.

    Tyra, I know--as I started thinking about words beginning with F, I realized how many happy words there are!

    Becky, They are both very important to me. As for the older days, I think people were more self-sufficient and didn't "need" as much "stuff." The early pioneers had it rough, though.

    Mara, Thank you for your kind words and well wishes!

    Life with Kaishon, Thank you for all your kind words! I loved your post about friendship as well. My father seems to be doing much better, thank you.

    Mo, Thank you so much. So far he doesn't seem to have suffered any serious after-effects.

  23. Joy, Dad is doing much better, but at his age something like this is always a worry. Thanks for your concern--I certainly know about stress! I've been trying to nap whenever possible.

    Susie, Thank you--I think God has been looking out for Dad:) You're absolutely right about selling the land--it's a hard choice to make and very tempting.

  24. Rose, I'm sorry about your Dad. I now how you must feel. Mine is 86 and so fragile.

    I hate to see our farm land developed. Whether it remains in family farms or big agribusinesses we are nearing the tipping point where we will not be able to produce enough food for the American people. We should all be very afraid of that.

  25. Gosh, you have had a very busy time. I'm sorry about your fathers health, it must be a very worrying time for you. I bet you are feeling a bit 'frazzled'. Hugs to you.


  26. So sorry to hear of your father, best wishes for a speedy and full recovery.

    I loved this post about Farming. Being a farmer myself I can relate to what you say, money is tight but most farmers know nothing else and so just "plough" on regardless. It is a wonderful occupation though, right up there on the list of rewarding jobs.

    We also have John Deere machinery, loved your photos.

    CJ xx

  27. Wishing your father a quick recovery! Surely farming has changed much in the last decades. And one wonders what's in store... Great photos and narrative.

  28. Fine frosty field foto (I had to push that last one.) That is sad about letting a family farm go, but you have to do what works for you. Have fun with your family!

  29. Oops - somehow I missed the last paragraph. All the best wishes to your father for a speedy recovery.

  30. And you are totally right - family should come first! I do hope that your father makes a full recovery. A great 'F' posting - it is sad to see small family businesses (in any field) disappearing. But it does seem to be the nature of the modern world.

  31. Roswe have seen a lot of changes around this area just since we were in school haven't we. And I can imagine it is this way in all the farming areas. Your pictures are great-I guess I am a country girl at heart because I always enjoy seeing the fields being worked.

    So glad your Dad is home and seems to be doing okay. It's hard to think of them being at that frail stage of life.

  32. I hope things go well for your dad, Rose- those adorable children may act like a carrot to keep him moving toward regaining health and strength.

    Your post is great and special because it's not just about farmers from the outside but from the heart. Thank you for taking the time to write it at a time of stress. That might be another "F"... fortitude.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  33. Dear Rose,
    I have never have regretted the hours I spent with my parents as they aged. I do understand, family comes first.
    Blessings to you and your Dad.

  34. This post was full of all types of emotions for me. A wonderful posting as Family is the the most imporant thing on earth. Sadly, some must be reminded at times. A speedy recovery for your dad...

  35. What a wopnderful photo the first one is, and how marvellous to live on old family land like that.

    Thta's a lovely family photo too. I like the matching t-shirts! I wish your father well and, of course, we understand your priorities. They say if a stroke victim survives the first 48 hours he has a good chance, don't they? Thinking of you. xx

  36. Marnie, Thank you; at their age, we have to appreciate the time we have with them. As to the farms, I so agree. It makes me sad every time I see farmland bought and turned into some other use.

    Suburbia, "Frazzled" pretty well describes the way I've felt lately. I'm hoping things slow down soon.

    Crystal, Thank you. I enjoyed seeing your John Deeres as well:) So right about farmers plowing on...

    Tumblewords, Thank you so much. I hope that the future doesn't mean lots of huge agribusinesses. We'll all be paying much more for food then.

    Sarah, Thank you; so many family farms have gone by the wayside in recent years.

    Celeste, Thank you for your good wishes. Everything in business today seems to be getting bigger and bigger, but not necessarily better.

    Beckie, I never thought I'd romanticize farming so much, but I think I'm getting nostalgic as I see things change so much. It's hard to see our parents grow older and frailer.

    Annie, Thank you for those kind words! Blogging has become my stress reliever:) Dad is doing much better; you're right--the little ones keep him young at heart.

    Sherry, Thank you so much. More and more I realize how precious time is and that time spent with loved ones is never wasted.

    Skeeter, Thank you. Sometimes we forget what's most important; I have to stop and re-center myself sometimes.

    Liz, Thank you for those kind words. I do have a rich family heritage--not monetarily:) Dad is lucky he didn't have serious side effects; he seems to be doing better.

  37. Dear Rose, of course family comes first! That is a given. We do hope your father makes a full recovery and is able to enjoy time at home soon. That is a scary thing. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. I did appreciate hearing about the farming genes of both you and your husband. A love of the soil is genetic as well as learned.

  38. Rose, I enjoyed your post about farming and how things have changed and are changing in this area. It's interesting to learn a little of your family's history re: farming. It sounds like a treat to spend a few days with your little grandchildren. I'm sorry to hear about your dad but at this point it seems he is doing well. Life is never easy or predictable ...esp. in the eighth decade of life:)

  39. Ah, beautiful post Rose. Family farms are such an important part of our history, culture, and values. The eternal optimist in me can't help hoping the growing environmental and locavore movements will lead to the resurgence of this declining way of life.

    I'm sorry to hear of your dad's illness, and relieved he's doing so well. May he enjoy many more happy years as patriarch of his loving family.

  40. I hope your father will heal and recover quickly! Sending good thoughts in your direction!


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