Journalist Ted Genoways followed the life of one Nebraskan farm family for a year and shares his observations in his latest book, “This Blessed Earth.”
Beginning in October, 2014, Genoways shadowed Rick Hammond, soybean, corn, and cattle producer, through changing seasons, fluctuating crop prices and efforts to pass his farm on to his daughter Meghan and, future son-in-law, Kyle.
In the opening pages, the author places the Hammonds’ situation in an historical context. He traces Nebraska history from the tumultuous years of the Civil War and the enactment of the first Homestead Act which opened the prairies to countless settlers. He continues through the technological revolution in farming that took place after World War II, and Secretary of Agriculture George Butz’s 1970s challenge to farmers to “Get big or get out.”
Genoways’ history of farming demonstrates firsthand knowledge and careful research. He shows how major changes have impacted farm families, the land and the water under the land. When he moves to the present day, the author describes how the Hammonds’ lifestyle has been altered due to climate change, the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer, the construction of the Keystone Pipeline and the foreign policies of the Bush and Obama administrations.
“Farmers today are keenly aware of what is happening in global commodities markets and what is happening with trade policies,” Genoways, purports. Sanctions to punish foreign nations frequently include limiting grain sales to them, which in turn diminishes the price of grain and the income of American farmers.
“I think in many ways farmers are more directly impacted by global issues today than almost any other single profession,” he writes.
“This Blessed Earth” is a concise look at the history of the American farm and a heartfelt portrait of one family’s struggle to maintain their way of life.
Ted Genoways was born in Lubbock, Texas, moved to Nebraska when he was 14-years-old and resides there today. His closeness to his subject adds authority to the facts and genuine emotions, which he depicts in this book.
W.W. Norton and Company is the publisher of this timely 225-page book.