As a child, I was born in rural isolation. My parent’s ranch home of green shag carpeting and laminate, replica wood paneled walls, was surrounded by farmland. All around me, cows nibbled on pastures of swaying grass, while the fields of corn were tilled by the pious Amish and Mennonite clans. In the summer, tractors splattered the fields with manure, the breeze pungent and dank with this all natural, organic fecal fertilizer.
In my senior year of high school, my parent’s moved away from that luminous white moon of the pitch-black-rural-night-sky to the flickering bulbs of city streetlights.
Recently, prior to my wife and I moving, I traveled back to that childhood landscape, my heart and mind yearning for some sort of sentimental closure.
Driving those roads of my VHS memories, I was surprised at how all that farmland remained intact, tangled with nature and all those generational crops. Where were all the developments of indistinguishable, half-million dollar homes? Why wasn’t that meadow vanquished for an atrocious complex of townhouses and upscale, lifestyle shoppes for all the Yoga Moms?
How had all these farmers survived?
I mean, if I discounted the Amish and Mennonites with their gigantic, ever replicating broods of future stewards of the land, how the hell where the Farmer Brown’s of this world able to endure?
There, beyond an expanse of gravel and a long, dirt furrow filled with PVC remnants and discarded cans of cheap, late night teenage beer drinking, was my father’s childhood farm.
The place my Grandfather had sold-off forever ago, where my father had spent his youth ambling through fields with his beloved dog, was now crumbling into a heap of sad disrepair.
And, as I researched this episode of The Weekly Cynic Podcast, the Ol’ Homestead—as was it was sarcastically referred to in my family—seemed to symbolize The American Farmer.
I was intrigued by The Farm Boy Mindset, this romantic notion of American Ingenuity, Hard Work And Stoic Individualism; values, some would say, that were disappearing.
But, it seemed, it wasn’t some combination of characteristics that were disappearing, but the farmer, itself.
The American Heartland, that bastion of Trumpian ethnocentrism—as deemed by our esteemed Intellectual Class and their social media sycophants—was experiencing a surge in farmer suicides, a rate not seen since the 1980s Farm Crisis.
Oh, there was a farm crisis, Jake?
Yes. And, a big ol’ concert called Farm Aid.
I was just a wee lad in 1985, the year of the inaugural Farm Aid concert. But, I remember the iconic news footage of the tractor processionals in Washington DC and the crucifixes affixed with suicide notes, hammered into the lawns of Government buildings.
I wanted to investigate the circumstances, the causes, the parallels between 2018 and those of the 1980s. As I delved into my research, I was fascinated by the cyclical effects of our Institutions, specifically those of Politics and Economics, how their policies of yesteryear were continually, stubbornly (or was it purposefully) repeated in our modern times… i.e. The Housing Bubble culminating in The Financial Crisis Of 2008.
But, does anyone care about the plight of The American Farmer? Yes, our urban, woke, creative class Millennials Instagram their Saturday morning farmer’s market purchases, but do they really understand the process, the connection between Farmer and food? Or is it all just some massed produced, Industrial-Factory-Farm commodity?
Jake, my farmer has a beard and tattoos just like me, he’s not some dirty, uneducated hick! My friend left Goldman Sachs a few months ago to buy a goat farm in upstate New York! Now, he makes organic, artisanal cheeses! He was profiled in Modern Farmer!
Yes, we venerate The Hipster Farmer, but what about that generational Man or Woman Of The Land? It was once considered a career of higher order, but has our cult of Higher Education dissuaded the young from pursuing such Blue Collar work? Is farming just some archaic vestige of our primitive, agrarian past? Something best suited for the specialists of Big Corporate Agriculture?
Oh… and before I forget, Who really owns our farmland?
For me, this episode was just another example of how our lives and our planet, are incrementally being stolen from us.
I mean, were you looking for something hopeful? This is called The Weekly Cynic Podcast, after all.
As always, thank you for listening and reading.