Abondoned Farmsteads Tell the Story of Dreams that Didn’t Come True.

Some folks are so clever at choosing an email address that it’s easy to tell exactly who they are, or what their persona is. It is unfortunate that when I was looking for an email for my freelancing account, all the obvious names were already taken. Farmwriter, agrinews, the obvious monikers. After some creative word crafting, I eventually settled on ‘agripen’. Imagine my laughter when I thought it looked like I was ‘a-griping’. Truth comes out eventually doesn’t it?

But that did seem to be my mood of the day. Perhaps it was that spring snowstorm that caused so much damage to trees, or perhaps it was that April 15 deadline of paying taxes, with no relief in sight. Or perhaps it is was the hundreds of onion plants that arrived the day it began to ice over outside. Those hundreds of onion plant are now waiting in the basement for a warmer day.

Maybe it was the ride through the countryside to pick up seed potatoes. Mud and farms are never a good combination, add to that the trees with fallen limbs, in some places, complete groves will need to be replanted. Those are all temporary situations.

Rather there are too many abandoned farmsteads that tell the story of  dreams that didn’t come true. Homes where a farmer and his bride, poured their hearts and lives into.

Barns that once stood so proud and straight where life on the farm centered from milking cows, feeding baby calves, starting baby chicks and pigs, just looking tired, like life had been sucked right out. Today, no livestock is seen anywhere.

There are many reasons why farms are almost ready to be placed on the extinction list. Yet, it is the farmer who had much to do with building America.

Farmers were the ones who began the first railroad lines in the then little unknown burg of Chicago, where civilization once was thought to end. They bought shares to build a rail line to the city. The Farmer’s Railroad was a success and continued to grow.

When farmers got together, things began to happen. Surely we can figure out what needs to best revive our farming communities without outside help. For almost a century now there have been programs implemented to stop this farm loss, and we don’t need any more.

It’s as simple as one individual deciding to help another individual, one to one, over a cup of coffee and and a piece of pie. Talking, listening and then working together.

When there is a need in the neighborhood, our farm neighbors are the first to be at the door asking, "What can I do to help?" Storms hit our small rural towns, tractors with snow blowers come to help clear streets, or with tree clean up as evidenced recently.

But what about responsibility to help the next generation succeed? There are many different worthwhile missions to donate time and money to. Maybe for you who are considering lessening the work load, working towards retiring,  your legacy could be the young farmer who is looking for his opportunity to farm. Perhaps there is that good young man you see in church each Sunday; he wants to farm, and you just might be the answer to his prayers.

There is something intrinsically good about seeing a young family setting out on their life’s dream. How splendid it would be to hear the laughter of children playing on these forlorn farmsteads again.

This afternoon promises to be warmer. We will continue the cleanup here, ours is mild compared to others – our electricity remained on. A tall green ash is gone, and the windbreak is a mess. An apricot tree that had just reached the size to produce a good harvest might have sustained too much damage to recover. Again, that harvest eludes me after years of trying.

Physical work is always the best medicine for any mood. We’ll clean up the mess, start over again, that is what we farmers do, right?


Essays from My Farm House Kitchen | Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa.

To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected]