By On the Road to FARMLANDIA | September 03, 2011 at 11:02 PM EDT | No Comments
It's already September and 3500 miles on the road with, according to Google Maps, almost an equal number of miles to travel before I get back to Brooklyn. My original estimate of 5,000 miles is obviously an underestimate. It's a big country, and I've only flown over it before--there's much to be learned on the ground, and it's more than how long it takes to get from the corn of Iowa to the cotton of Texas.
Today, I got to the banks of the Missouri River, well actually, the banks of what once was the Oswald farm in NW Missouri. It has been under water for 2 1/2 months and the water is still in the process of receding. In June, where one of the best crops in years was growing, there are whorls and rivulets of brown water covering completely any hint of corn or beans. The only sound is the sound of water flowing fast. Richard Oswald took me out on his tractor, through water and muck to a small island where we could see his homeplace, still under water, roads and fences, still under water, and carp jumping where his soy beans used to be. Reminiscent of Katrina, this was part nature, but mostly man-made in the form of the Corp of Engineers force-flooding and inundating the farmland of families who have been on this land for generations. These folks are expendable, it seems, and without the leverage or power to to save their farms, even though they are major contributors to our food supply. Richard and his family have moved to high ground, and there they wait until the water pulls back and they can start cleaning up their home, a home they will most like never return to. An agronomist says the soil will most likely survive if they can get some soil refurbishing grasses planted, which looks pretty tough considering it's September and the water is still there. Who knows. I'm the only one who weeps; they do what they have to and push on. I admire them so.