Saturday, September 6, 2008

Same Land, Fewer Farmers

Monica Davey writes in the New York Times about Iowa's disappearing barns and what they represent.

What had in the 1930s been an ordinary farm here — 80 or 160 acres and a few cows and sheep and chickens — is today far bigger and more specialized to pay for air-conditioned, G.P.S.-equipped combines and tractors, so much fuel and the now-skyrocketing price of farmland.

The result.....

When the W.P.A.’s writers came through, they wrote that Iowa had 221,986 separate farms on land totaling more than 34 million acres. Today, on only a little less land (31.5 million acres), Iowa has just 88,400 farms. More than half the farmland is owned by people 65 years old or older, an Iowa State University farm economist says, and about half of that is owned by those 75 or older.

It's not that there aren't young people who would like to farm.

Brice Hundling, 27, returned to Breda, Iowa, not long after he graduated from Iowa State University, hoping to build up a farm. He and his wife, Melanie, 26, have struggled to find cropland they can afford to buy or rent.

“You go to the auction and there’s always someone that farms like 10,000 acres and so they can pay $7,000 an acre,” said Ms. Hundling......

“They sit and complain there’s nobody in the small towns anymore, there’s nobody in our schools,” Mr. Hundling said. “And then they go and rent it to the guy that’s already farming 10,000 acres and lives 30 miles away, 40 miles away, 100 miles away.”

Those distant farmers, Mr. Hundling said, are unlikely to pack the local restaurant. Nor will they likely fill the school bus near Mrs. Fort’s house. Or slow the disappearance of Mr. Scott’s prized barns.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My mom, Suzanne Hundling, was the daughter of Herman Hundling from the Breda, Iowa area. I wonder if we could be related.