I did not grow up in a rural community. I have no memories of working the land or milking the cows or driving the tractor. I did spend one of my childhood summers in Boston trying to coax a corn stalk into production in the little patch of bare ground next to our house. (I failed.)
Indeed, my personal connection to agriculture really did not sprout until after college, when I got a job reporting on the fruit and vegetable industry. My first “field trip” was to an immense cauliflower operation outside Weslaco, Texas, where I got to ask questions about an alien world (to me). From that trip and the many ag excursions that followed, I learned something very important: People with a connection to the land and farming are often defined by that connection. And those of us without that connection are just as beholden to this heritage. Our country has thrived because of these deep farm roots.
But now, as fewer Americans have ties to ag production, these roots are in danger of being trampled … and forgotten.
As Harvest Public Media has evolved over the last couple years, we’ve been meeting a wide range of people across the Midwest and listening to their stories. We realized – particularly this spring as we were exploring concerns about The Farmer of the Future – that we were uncovering these wonderful, important memories of rural life, memories that were illustrative of our changing world. And so we’ve decided to collect and share these stories.
In mid-July, we will launch “My Farm Roots,” a project devoted to showcasing Americans’ stories and memories of rural life — in their own words. Our collection will be available on our web site, plus we’ll be airing features weekly throughout the summer at our partner stations here in the Midwest. To be honest, though, we can’t imagine this project ever ending. There are just too many rural memories that need to be shared as we move further away from the farm.