That story is a kind of welcome mat for the official kickoff of “My Farm Roots,” a project that explores Midwesterners’ connection to the land, in their own words.
You’ve heard of StoryCorps, right? That’s the cool ongoing project that records, shares and preserves many American voices with, as its statement of principles says, “the utmost respect, care, and dignity.” Many of the pieces are aired on NPR.
“My Farm Roots” is much like StoryCorps. But we more specialized, capturing stories that are fading from memories as each generation becomes further removed from farm and ranch life. As the average age of farmers grows older and small farms dwindle, we want to preserve – in audio form – that way of life that’s connected to the land.
When our project was still just an idea, I caught a break. I was out in far southwestern Kansas in January, doing a story on a new effort to recruit doctors to rural areas. I was telling a doc about the plan and he told me that I had to talk to one of the Gardiners, a legendary ranch family who championed the Angus breed.
I made a harried emergency call to Nan Gardiner, the family’s matriarch, late one evening and she graciously met me the next morning at the Ashland Health Center’s long-term care facility. She told me a great story of how the family started an artificial insemination business that has since grown into an internationally-known breeding company. But the beginnings were humble.
“At that time, they mixed the semen right in my kitchen with egg yolk and what not and then they went out and did it fresh,” she said. “It was pretty nasty.”
Since then, we’ve found many more stories. Tales of proud fifth-generation farmers, a new New York refugee who came back home to Kansas, a girl who was her dad’s “son” since he didn’t have any boys to work on the farm. We can’t wait to tell you these wonderful stories.
We are broadcasting these pieces on our partner stations as part of our eight-week series. They will air on Wednesdays on KCUR in Kansas City, Iowa Public Radio, Kansas Public Radio (Lawrence, Kansas) and High Plains Radio (Garden City, Kansas). They will air on Fridays on KBIA (Columbia, Mo.) and on Saturday on NET (Nebraska).
What’s your farm roots story? We’d love to hear it. Click here and tell us how your life is connected to the land.