Farm anxiety season has started – bizwest

Our farm had a name.

I was recently exploring – in my head – my farming heritage, and I was struck by the fact that our farm had a name.

It might seem like a strange thing to notice, but farms with names were a rarity in the part of the Midwest where we made our home. This is not the case in the West, where ranches often have names or bear the imprint of their brands.

Ken amundson

Ours had big white letters on the big red barn screaming “Primrose Farm”.

This name meant very little to me, the fourth generation of my family to grow up in this place. The fifth generation of our family is currently working the land.

To me, the name meant little more than a target for my solitary game of wrestling. The big “O” in the name became the centerpiece of my game. With an old bald tennis ball, I could hit that “O” eight out of 10 throws halfway across the court, catch the bounce and throw it back. .

I remember another farm named, Spruce Farm, with big black letters on a large white barn. And the yard spruces gave it meaning.

But I never really knew where the name Primrose Farm came from. I don’t remember any primroses. Wild roses, yes, but no primroses.

My 88-year-old mother doesn’t know that either. The name was there when she was little. She assumes that her grandfather, the founder of the farm after emigrating from Denmark, put her there. He built the barn, so that hypothesis is not far off.

Primroses are common in Denmark, which may have been the background to the name.

Most of the farms in this part of the Midwest during my upbringing were small farms. Family farms, as they were called. Most farmers worked at least a quarter section of land, i.e. 160 acres in an area where 640 acre sections were bounded by mostly straight township roads and mostly aligned with cardinal points. Operating an entire section was considered a large farm, unlike the many thousands of acres that farmers in that same area work today.

Because there were so many farms and farming families, they supported many small towns of 1,000 or 2,000 people. The towns were six miles apart, as determined by the railroad as it crossed the prairie.

Our town had four grocery stores at a time. There’s one there now, and he’s probably struggling. But when there were a lot of farms, even small stores like Ernie & Hannah’s could survive. At Ernie & Hannah, customers handed their lists to Ernie, who began to write the order by hand. Hannah looked over her shoulder and started running around the store to fill the order. If Hannah didn’t have it, she would sneak out the back door, run across the street, and buy it in the biggest store there. My uncle ran this bigger store, which then closed because of an even bigger store across the street that was able to survive the changing farming economy of the 60s and 70s.

The 1950s, 1960s and 1970s were years of the Green Revolution, when University of Minnesota-trained agronomist Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Prize in 1970, is credited with saving billions of lives around the world through his research on increasing crop yields.

When my dad was a farmer he tried hard to get corn at 80 bushels per acre, and a bumper crop was considered 100 bushels per acre. The nationwide average corn yield last year was around 175 bushels per acre, meaning farms in southern Minnesota and Iowa were achieving yields of 200 or more.

The USDA predicts that 14.8 billion bushels of corn will be harvested this year; that’s 92.7 million acres of cropland planted with corn, up 2% from a year ago. Soybean area is also up 5%, and 4.34 billion bushels of soybeans are expected to be harvested.

Corn prices have been on the rise for a year, which, if held up, will mean a good year for farmers across the country.

As summer turns into autumn, anticipation in agricultural countries is at a high level, as is anxiety. Will time hold out? Will late sown crops have enough growing season to mature? Will politics blow up export markets?

And these concerns are exactly the same as when the great-grandfather painted Primrose Farm on that large barn.

Ken Amundson is editor-in-chief of BizWest. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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