A Midwestern Farmer’s Dilemma

The Keystone XL Pipeline remains an incredibly divisive project, and usually those divisions fall along party lines in predictable patterns. This is why the subject of Ted Genoways’ new book, “This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Farm Family,” is so interesting. Rick Hammond’s Nebraska farm is on the pipeline’s pathway, and he’s not happy about it.

You’d think this would put him square in the camp with organic, sustainable and cruelty-free farming, but Hammond also uses satellite guided machinery, chemicals, and GMO seeds to grow his products and raise his cattle. In other words, he’s not the type of Midwest farmer you’d think would complain about having an oil pipeline bring jobs into his neighborhood.

Hammond rebels against this characterization and the idea that his position on the pipeline should be reflected in his farming. “The people in the food movement have a lot of ideas about how farming should be reformed, and I think a lot of them are correct,” Genoways says, “but they’re not grounded in very much knowledge of the pressures farmers face and the reasons they aren’t reforming.”

In other words, Hammond lives in the real world, where ideals aren’t always practical in the present. This reflects how many in the current political and economic climate feel in America. They have lofty convictions that they’d like to live by, but that they don’t have the luxury of following through on currently. The world is changing, but for many in middle America, it isn’t changing fast enough.