Modern-Day Farmers Rewrite Children’s Storybooks

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We soon will travel “over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house.” And we will sing the song in our 266-horsepower minivan. It’s a fun little perk of life near a small river.

The coming holiday season preps our farm family for multiple gatherings around farmhouse and small-town kitchen tables. We exchange stories, laughter and delicious potluck-style meals sometimes made with home-preserved foods. We still find plenty to talk about, even though we share some of these dinners with the people we work alongside daily.

You feel grand when a snapshot of life seems it could adorn an idyllic holiday card. Like any sentimental being, we cherish those moments. They feel nested in tradition – warm and full of love.

It seems too often that the vision of a farm stays wrapped in a similar package, too. I hear on occasion how people believe farming and farm life replicates the classic children’s storybooks. But we take a minivan, not a horse, to Grandma’s. And we use satellites, not a soil marker, to plant our crops straight.

Farming’s evolution correlates with that of today’s households. Our methods of transportation and communication have changed. We have greater access to education and technology. Our viewpoints on parenting have adapted with the times. Same with the farm. In reality, only small parts about the farm visually match the storybook description.

Sure, traffic is slow. Sunsets are gorgeous. We can see stars at night. The landscape radiates calm and peace. And we love raising our kids on the farm. Yet our family runs a business out here that is larger, higher-tech and more managed than Great-Grandpa could have imagined.

We produce more than twice the corn per acre than we did 50 years ago. Our family’s combine, a machine used for harvest, picks 16 rows of corn at once. Most of the men have commercial driver’s licenses and haul our corn and soybeans with semis. Site-specific soil tests drive decisions for fertilizer application. Long, tall metal-sided buildings store our equipment. We buy seed in bulk containers rather than 50-pound bags. And the biotech seed in those containers produces plants that require fewer crop protection products.

The only livestock within our family farm provide kid projects or hobby businesses. Smartphones offer instant access to weather forecasts and market information. Women share managerial roles in the farm. Some of us earned bachelor’s degrees in addition to the knowledge passed onto us from farming fathers and mothers.

And we don’t plow our fields. That practice ended about 30 years ago to conserve our soil.

But we’re the same passionate people with farming at least five generations deep. We choose to be part of this profession. We maintain a commitment to family, a love for the land and faith in the future.

We still find farm life fit for a warm and fuzzy storybook. The narrative just needs anecdotes of modern-day marvels to make it accurate.

About the Author

Joanie Stiers, a wife and mother of two, writes and works on the farm in West-Central Illinois. At least five generations of her family have made farming a livelihood.

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