Finally, it’s here. Spring. Warmer weather. This past week,
I spent mostly on the road, traveling to five different farms in northern and
We have a new feature where we turn in photos for a feature
page made up of photos. A picture is worth 1,000 words, and that’s really true.
You can tell a story with one great photo that it would take a million words to
There were worse places to be than driving the back roads of
northern and north-central Illinois in 80-plus degree weather on two beautiful
sunny spring days.
All of the farmers I photographed I already talk to on
Twitter and even as stressful as this time of year is for them, they all agreed
to spare me a few precious minutes to take some pictures of them doing what they
do best — raising grain for food, feed and fuel.
Technology is a wonderful thing, and you can talk all you
want about all the newfangled modern conveniences that today’s tractors have.
Nobody would argue with that. It’s made farming faster (mostly) and (also
But it still is remarkably hard, hot, dusty work — without a
guaranteed paycheck at the end of it all. Yes, there’s crop insurance — if a
farmer chooses to take it and comply with the regulations and paperwork
Both of my photo days ended long after the sun had set. As I
drove back home, lights from tractor running deep into the night twinkled across
fields from nearly at the northern border of Illinois down La Salle County.
It’s a week or two full of these unbelievably long days. In
the fall, another few days or weeks of equally long nights with harvest.
I would be willing to bet that none of the detractors of
those farmers and the products they plant, the products being
genetically-modified corn and soybeans, were up at 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. as farmers
across the Midwest were working to get their crops in the ground and start the
all-in gamble that is a growing season.
Maybe they were up, out having a pint and a burger at their
local brewpub with some friends or at a child’s ballgame or home with their
These farmers weren’t. Many of them are parents and parents
of young children. That’s another sacrifice they make, and they make it for
their families that many of them may only talk to via cell phone during the
early mornings and late nights of planting.
I may be naïve, but I absolutely believe that if those
people who are free and easy with their criticisms, with hitting the “share”
button on Facebook to share the latest fit/healthy/organic mommy health blogger
anti-food post or rumor or panic or spreading that fear and panic at the local
grocery store would spend one day, or even sit a couple of rounds in those
tractors with actual farmers during actual planting, their thoughts might be
We talk about technology in farming, and we should. But we
should also talk — and show — how hard farming still is.
You can have all the screens and bells and whistles and
drones and satellites in the world, but it still comes down to the man or woman
in the tractor. This is a hard, dirty, dangerous job still, even with the
We shouldn’t shirk from reminding people of that, of how
hard it still is to coax a crop from the ground, no matter what that crop is or
of the amazing people who do the coaxing.